Since the beginning of the pandemic, viewership for reality TV dating shows has soared. But as a queer women, these kind of shows never really appealed to me unless they featured LGBTQ stories. But much like MTV made a queer version of Are You The One?, the new virtual reality dating series LoveCast will debut its Pride episode on June 18 with members of the LGBTQ community.
LoveCast is an interactive virtual series where viewers watch as strangers meet for the first time over video chat. The series was created by Naza Shelley, the founder and CEO of CarpeDM, which is a video-first dating app that requires users to video chat for five to ten minutes before deciding whether to remain matched. The idea for LoveCast came to Shelley before the pandemic, when the team was brainstorming concepts for in-person events and considered organizing a live dating show. “But when COVID hit,” Shelley explained, “we thought people still need the connection. The video chat in our app was being used more than ever, and so we just thought, why don’t we make it all virtual?”
Since its inception, LoveCast, in partnership with District IRL, has aired three episodes, some of which have included queer contestants. But in celebration of Pride Month, the next episode will feature only members of the LGBTQ community.
The eight-member cast was announced last week, and features a diverse line-up, with contestants applying for various reasons. For instance, contestant Soleil Joun says they applied because “representation is important. I am a genderfluid, mixed race, polyamorous [and] pansexual…and being vocal and visible with those identities is how I combat a white cisheteropatriarchal focused society. I want to show that there are different ways of navigating relationships, whether it’s platonic, romantic, queer, poly, etc.”
While Shelley is extremely proud of the diversity she has been able to showcase through the series, she’s also proud of how much the show has been able to directly involve its audience. Though the CarpeDM team goes through the initial set of video applications to choose cast members, it’s the audience that selects which people they want to see paired up during the episode. However, for the Pride episode, Shelley explained that they “have a special twist planned…that necessitated us removing the voting this time.” But since the video dates are pre-recorded, when the episode airs live on YouTube, the audience always has a chance to chat with the cast as the host asks questions.
So far, the reception to LoveCast has been positive. While the viewers definitely have their “fan favorites,” some of the cast members have enjoyed themselves so much that they even have asked to be on the show again, either to “take another shot at love” or to report back about their “love connections.” The show hasn’t aired any second or third dates yet, but given the series’ success, Shelley plans to film a reunion episode with the couples that last.
The special Pride episode of LoveCast, hosted by Monte Durham from Say Yes to the Dress, airs on June 18 on the LoveCast YouTube channel at 8 p.m. EST. In addition, the Pride episode is raising money for the Capital Pride Alliance and is being sponsored by a DC-based flower company called Your Poppy Flowers, which is currently offering a discount on their special pride-themed DIY flower cloud kit with the coupon code LOVECASTPRIDE. Poppy is also donating 25% of the profits to the Okra Project in support of Black Trans people.