With everyone peak horny and unable to go on… dates… due to the current pandemic, people have started to get creative. Two New Yorkers recently knocked their heads together to try and solve the issue of being single and untouchable. Thi Lam, who runs a content studio called Garnish Studios, and Rance Nix, an actor and real estate agent, came up with the idea of Love is Quarantine – an Instagram-based series connecting single people all over America for virtual dates during lockdown.
Based on the premise of the popular Netflix dating show, Love Is Blind (“Bring on the lawsuit, Netflix!” the duo says), participants that have volunteered for the experiment are paired up in virtual “pods”. They trade mobile numbers and set up FaceTime meets or text chats. They’re asked to film themselves before, during and after the date. The results are posted to the @loveisquarantine Instagram account, which has become a flurry of activity in isolation and the only interesting thing to watch besides porn. Already, one couple has seemingly found love. Let’s get into it. To the pods!
How did this all get started?
Thi Lam: [Rance and I] met through church three years ago and we’ve been buddies ever since. We’ve been roommates for around three years. And as roommates, we started watching Love Is Blind pre-pandemic. We love that show. We have a lot of hot opinions on all of the cast members. And then the pandemic happened, and we were told to stay inside and self-isolate.
We’re both extroverts, and being self-isolating during a pandemic, we are going a little stir crazy. And I have a little bit of ADHD, I’m bouncing off the walls a little bit. I just had a crazy idea of, what if we made Love Is Blind, but quarantine edition? Because when you’re in your apartment during quarantine, it’s like you’re in your own little pod, like the show, which is really funny.
What is each of your roles in putting this together, and how does it exactly work?
Lam: Right now, funny enough, I’m running social. I am the PR team, customer service, and I’m also running the website and designing a T‑shirt.
Rance Nix: I’m reaching back out to the contestants to organise some of their content, see how they’re feeling after episode one. And also just to thank them for what they’ve been able to participate in so far. Also setting up the contestants for [the following] episodes, compiling all the content that we have.
Lam: Rance is the puppeteer. He is kind of navigating the show, he’s producing the show as we go.
Nix: The logistics of love.
Where are you?
Lam: We are in Brooklyn, New York.
How did you get all these contestants?
Lam: So basically I started the Google Sheets, I made a personal Instagram post like, “Hey, if anyone wants to go on a blind date tonight, join me at Love Is Quarantine, in the Google Sheets.” It started off with six guys. And we were very concerned about only guys participating. Then literally, all of a sudden we had our friends post and re-share and the Google Sheet started to populate like crazy. Right now, there might be more females than males in this thing.
Is it cut off yet? Or are you still looking for people?
Nix: Oh, we’re just collecting names. I’m gonna guess by the end of the day, we’ll have over a thousand names.
Lam: We’re gonna start the vetting process now. We’re trying to find the best people.
Nix: At the end of the day, we kind of started it for content and just to share a fun experiment. And yes, it’s working out so far and all along the way we’ve been kind of sorting out the details here and there. But what’s cool about it, we’re discovering, is that people just enjoy the raw sincerity of it all. It’s not fancy, it’s not a production.
Lam: It’s un-produced.
Nix: It’s two guys at home in their apartment messing around and literally running the whole show.
How do you vet the players?
Nix: So initially we just went down the list. We have 12 pods and I would reach out to the person individually, say, “Hey, you want to be on this experience?” And they would say yes. As soon as they say yes, we pop them in a pod, find a match for them, not knowing what the other person looks like at all. The discoveries and what happens in the pods are novel and new to us as well. So once we pair them up, I send them another text saying, “Have at it.”
We send them a couple of prompt questions, “Where are you from? How did you find out about this? Describe your roommates. Describe your best friend. What are you doing, and where do you want to go once we get out of quarantine?” And we just let them take it from there, have fun. We, of course, encourage respectfulness and just joy. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to spread joy.
And before the interviews, we try to get some content just showing how people are nervous. Some people are literally at their home. Some people send us pictures of their pods. Then after the interviews as well, we encourage the people that went on the dates to send us screen grabs that they texted, let us know how the experience went, and, you know, if they want to go on another date. Some of the contestants went on multiple dates.
So they go on a date. Are they filming themselves?
Lam: We ask them to film themselves, pre-date, during the date, and post-date getting their reaction. We tell them, “Play it out, and just be honest and vulnerable, and we’re gonna share it with our fans in real time.”
How does one tune in?
Lam: Well, you can you can hop on the Google Sheet. There is a fan gossip tab in the Google Sheet where you can make remarks about who’s your favourite, and you go on our Instagram page. We’re gonna post videos to our feed as we’re going. It’s chaotic in a sense, but in a way, people who are following us, they are very Internet-savvy and they’re really good at digging and making connections through sporadic videos. So people are making the connections as we go.
That’s so fun. Are you guys looking for love as well, or are you just orchestrating the whole thing?
Lam: Right now we’re single straight dudes looking for love. But as of right now, we’re not going to participate in the show because that would be unethical.
Nix: A conflict of interest, as they say.
What would happen if Netflix reached out and tried to shut you down? Are you worried at all about that?
Lam: No, we say: “Bring it.”
Nix: Yeah. At the end of the day, we’re just trying to have some fun. We did speak to some associates on the legal ramifications if things come to a head. But at the end of the day, we’re just trying to spread some joy, have some fun. And also, we’re doing this for Mark [Cuevas]. We’re fans of Love Is Blind. And while Mark was not very smart, we’re a fan of his and we would love to see him participate in Love is Quarantine.
Lam: He gets a second chance.
Tell me each of your favourite contestants on the original Love Is Blind.
Lam: It’s so easy to find ones that we hate, but favourite… that’s tough. I would say Mark [Cuevas], even though he is a blind fool; he is so out there, he is on a different planet. Like, he is not in reality. But I love his blind optimism.
How about you, Rance?
Nix: I think, just like everyone else, Lauren and Cameron. They both are on the same page as far as relationships, as far as what they want. They’re both levelheaded and focused on their goals and the things that they’re working on. So, yeah, they’re just my favourite, they’re just super sweet, super nice. And I love how, you know, over the past year some have changed since they filmed. They just got this sauce, this extra swag, this energy, you know?
Lam: They’re killing it.
Nix: They’re killing it on the press tour.
What do you expect to happen from your experiment? Do you think people will actually find love?
Lam: We’ve already found that people have truly connected through this experiment. One of our contestants, Red and Brooke. They talked for over an hour on the phone.
Nix: Another couple of contestants had a really cool vibe. They texted the majority of the time, but they said once, you know, everything clears out and the dust settles with the pandemic, of course, they’d love to potentially meet up, which is pretty dope.
Lam: I got to say, when the first couple hit us back and said, “That was actually pretty cool. We are interested in each other and have a lot of common interests,” we were both pretty ecstatic.
How are you guys doing, personally? Are you staying safe?
Lam: Honestly, we’re staying safe. We’re staying self-isolated but honestly Rance and I, we’re both pretty privileged in the fact that we’re okay during this time, unlike a lot of other people. Another thing that we want to add, if you could throw this in there, we’re going to make shirts. We’re outsourcing designs right now through our audience, and we’re gonna sell merch and we’re gonna donate 100 percent of the proceeds to Feeding America.
Oh, wow. What does that organisation do?
Lam: Food pantries and support during this time.