Danielle Drouin is up for anything. Throughout the years she’s worked about every gig you can think of from Fashion Week runway model and barista, to baker and yoga instructor. She’s done a bit of everything, and that includes Reality TV dating. The first time Danielle participated in a show was three years ago with a series called Love Connection.
“Love Connection was cool. It’s probably what most reality dating is like, but I felt like it wasn’t even real. I mean, the guy was really nice, but people weren’t really trying to make connections. We didn’t have enough time to get to know each other.”
When Danielle received a DM from the casting directors of Love is Blind, the now immensely popular Netflix reality dating show, she blew it off. It wasn’t until they contacted her sister, who has been involved with another related show, that Danielle began to take it seriously.
Almost a year and a half ago Danielle began her journey with this completely new and experimental approach to love. Her skepticism quickly wore off as she began to fall for two different men, Matt and Rory, and ultimately became engaged to one of them.
After a socially-distant photoshoot, Elizabeth and Victoria talked with Danielle over Zoom for all the inside info on falling in love with someone you’ve never seen before, pod dynamics, love triangles, and all the drama-filled scenes that were never revealed on Love is Blind.
Elizabeth: We’re really stoked to talk to you! I love Love is Blind. I binge-watched everything. When Victoria told me she had a friend who was on it, I had already read a million random interviews that you had done and stalked everybody in the periphery of the show on Instagram.
Danielle: So crazy. It’s weird, right? A lot of people who don’t follow it like you do, they wouldn’t even know that I was on it. Like if you’re just a casual person watching, you’d see me a few times randomly in the back, and I was doing yoga for a second. We honestly didn’t know that they were going to cut as much as they did until we watched it.
Elizabeth: Yeah, I was wondering about that. How much did you all know about the final product of the show before it aired?
Danielle: Well, they kept us all on the same boat, telling us when it was going to come out, giving us some promotional stuff if we wanted to promote it. But nobody knew what it was going to turn into. We just all got together as a group and watched it. And we were just like, what? We got engaged, where is our story?
As the contestants, the 30 of us who went through this experiment, we thought the show was going to focus on the “pod dating”, because that’s what was so unique. The aftermath is just the aftermath. That’s so similar to what people have already seen in Reality TV. Kind of like The Bachelor or Married at First Sight. The stuff that’s truly like nothing that’s out there at all, they didn’t show any of it.
You get a glimpse, that’s it. And that’s where all the magic really happened. They showed snippets of maybe a couple of important things that helped Lauren and Cameron bond, or something to help you understand Barnett and the whole story with Jessica and Mark. But I mean, people literally break down in there. So much happened, and you see one percent maybe.
Elizabeth: That’s interesting. I’m also a very avid Bachelor watcher, and I found it really similar in the way that it was edited, to where you’re seeing these bonds form. It’s conversations so par for the course for The Bachelor, like, “Oh wow, this is amazing. Oh my gosh, we both like ice cream.” Stuff that’s so benign. But surely they are talking about other things and not showing us! It’s interesting that Love is Blind also chose to show us that really shallow level of conversation.
Danielle: Yeah. I mean that’s another thing that we all laugh about, us who have gone through it. We’re all like “why did they choose to show that?” Mark and Jessica really had a true connection that went way past just both being from Chicago and liking the Cubs. Maybe they just edit it that way to make it easier for the viewers to relate. But we were spending hours together!
I know you see one scene with Amber, and she kind of breaks down as she talks about her abortion. There were moments like that happening throughout the whole experiment with everybody. And those are the real moments that we connected. That’s how we were really falling in love.
Victoria: Obviously so much of your conversation in the pods wasn’t shown. And I know you had a positive experience overall with the show, but did you feel kind of cheated by them for not showing any of your story?
Danielle: I mean the whole time I thought they were going to. Literally up until it aired I was preparing myself for how the world was going to portray me. I also had a love triangle. You saw the whole thing with Barnett and Amber and Jessica, like, we were going through our own serious love triangle up until the very last day. I was very surprised they didn’t show that.
Elizabeth: That’s wild! What was your love triangle like? What happened?
Danielle: Yeah, I was literally falling in love with two men, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I was in such a weird headspace. I’ve never been in that situation before, where I’ve had feelings for two men like that, for Matt and Rory. They were both 100 percent in it, Team Danielle. But they were also great friends with each other. They didn’t have any beef. I think maybe the show was hoping for something like that, but they’re such sweet guys. And that last day I didn’t know what I was going to do to be honest. I didn’t know if I was just going to walk out, or if I was gonna get engaged to one of them or to nobody.
Matt told me, “I want to continue this with you, but I don’t want to follow the rules of the show. I don’t feel like we should rush into marriage. I’m going to leave today, but I want you to leave with me, and then we can figure this out.” I barely had words. I was just sitting there in shock and crying. But I thought I wouldn’t be doing myself justice if I made that decision then. I had to at least hear what Rory had to say. I told Matt that I couldn’t give him an answer yet. So we basically left it at that.
When I saw Rory, I told him, “This is crazy. I can’t explain my feelings, but I’m falling in love with you, and it doesn’t make sense.” We went to the very end of our date and [the producers] told us we had two minutes left. Rory just said, “We can figure this out. I don’t have all the answers for you, but I just know that I want to figure it out with you. It sounds crazy, but I think we should give it a shot.”
And so he proposed to me. We were able to give each other gifts earlier, and I had sent him a package of Lincoln Logs because I grew up in a log cabin, and we had talked about building a home together. So Rory had the producers place a Lincoln Log in my pod, and he had one in his hand. He said, “I’m down on one knee. Grab your Lincoln Log.” And he said, “Will you marry me?” I said yes, and at that moment it felt right. It was crazy, but I was going to do it.
The next day, reveal day, I met him for the first time, and it was like the craziest moment. Vanessa [Lachey] was in the rooms with the girls right before those reveal. She was talking me through it like, “How are you feeling? What are you going to do when you see him,” and trying to calm me down. But when the doors opened, I just had the biggest smile on my face. I had no idea what he was going to look like. It was a really special moment for the both of us.
I wish you guys could have seen it.
Victoria: I can’t believe we didn’t get to! It must have been so frustrating not getting to see that unfold on screen.
Danielle: We were definitely disappointed. We felt we were so very much a part of this experiment, just as much as the people you did see, and we put our hearts out there and went for it 100 percent. We were there to find love and for it not even to be shown! These are special moments that we just wanted to see ourselves. There is footage out there of us falling in love and meeting for the first time. And I think it’s another powerful story that people didn’t get a chance to see.
Elizabeth: Why do you think they made the choices that they did, in showing the particular couples, do you have any clue into that?
Danielle: Basically what happened was, they only let us see each other for 20 minutes for the reveal. They separated us again, and then they brought us to hotels. They told us that the next morning we were going to leave for our Mexico vacation. So I was excited.
But then the next morning they came to our hotel rooms, and they said, “Hey you guys, we didn’t know what we were in for with this show. We thought we’d be lucky if we got one engagement. We got eight engagements. We don’t have the funds, we don’t have the crew. We’re not prepared to follow eight stories. So we had to cut some couples.” And they told us that we could go back to normal life. They handed us our phones back and everything. It was really strange.
The night before I was mentally preparing myself like, “Okay, I’m going to go on this trip, and then I’ll have to start planning my wedding.” I was mentally all in. And the next morning for them to say, just kidding. We were like, what?
Victoria: How did that affect your relationship with Rory? Did it make you doubt or question the engagement at all?
Danielle: It did. And I think that’s where the problems came in. We didn’t end up staying together.
So coming out of this, and just getting thrown back into regular life, was crazy. There were the four of us, Lexi and Wesley [another engaged couple] were also there. We got a drink at the hotel bar after production left us to think about what we were going to do next. None of our family and friends knew we were going to be coming back yet. We were still supposed to be gone for a while, and I did not feel ready to tell people anything. I needed to just breathe for a minute and figure out what to do. Do I tell my family and friends I’m engaged? That I’m not on the show anymore? Do I just bring this guy home and say like, “Hey, I’m engaged y’all!”
Victoria: And this was just two weeks after you had left home?
Danielle: Yeah, it was just two weeks. After that I went to Rory’s house to just hide and get to know each other for a second. And that’s when things started to become real.
Apparently, when Matt had left the show the night before, he had found my information and followed me on Instagram. He wrote me this huge message, and poured out his emotions. It was so overwhelming. Like, reading it made my head spin. And soon after that everybody from the show who didn’t go to Mexico got together for dinner.
I showed up with Rory, still wearing my engagement ring, holding his hand. I walked in and saw Matt for the first time. He came over and tried to shake my hand like, “Hey, I’m your friend Matt.” And I just pushed his hand away and gave him a hug and told him how nice it was to finally meet him. But it was weird, he just told me he loved me two days ago. I couldn’t talk to him the rest of the night. I was hiding honestly. I just couldn’t deal with it then.
The next day Rory and I decided to skip town to get to know each other with no other distractions. We flew to Miami for five days, and we had so much fun. He’s truly a wonderful person. But I was still getting all these emails from Matt, so it was hard for me to process. And deep down, I knew it didn’t feel right.
We got back from Miami and tried to make things work for another week or so. But I decided I needed some time. I told Rory, “I’m so confused. You’re amazing, and I can’t even say anything negative about what we have. But I’m just so emotionally torn up inside. I feel like I can’t continue an engagement with you while I have feelings for Matt as well. I think I just need to resolve things on my own.”
It’s so, so weird, reliving all of this, because it was a year and a half ago. I really truly loved Rory. I really cared about him, and I just think if things played out differently or, you know, maybe if we met in different circumstances. I just, I don’t know.
Victoria: Did you reach out to Matt after that?
Danielle: Yeah, Matt and I eventually sat down and just talked everything out. For a couple of weeks we just stayed friendly, but then we started to see each other more seriously. We clearly had strong feelings for each other. I was falling head over heels for him. I even spent the holidays with his family. He was talking about our futures together, how we would raise children together, and all these adventures that we would go on.
Every time we talked, it felt clear that we were going to have a future together. But he never wanted to put a label on anything. It had been a couple of months, and things were really serious, so I said, “Hey, I’d really like to be your girlfriend. Like, what, what is this?” And he said, “Oh, you know, I’ve never liked labels. I feel like we don’t need a label.”
Also, back when we first started talking again, he told me about a trip he planned while I was still engaged to Rory, a trip to Paris with a girl that he was romantically interested in. And he said that he was still planning on going. So I said, okay, totally fair. You made these plans when I was engaged, and we’re just talking at the moment. Who knows what’s gonna happen? I was very understanding. But as we started really dating and becoming so serious, he never brought up the Paris thing again, and I assumed that he just wasn’t going to go. Why would he go to Paris? He just took me to meet his whole family, he talks about having children with me, why would he still go to Paris with another girl?
Then things started to get weird. He was acting funny whenever I brought up the boyfriend- girlfriend thing. He was very distant for two days, and then he wrote me this big letter. It basically told me that he loved where things were going with me, and he wanted to continue the relationship we had. But then he said, “I don’t want to hold myself back from other experiences, and I don’t feel ready to limit myself.” He was still going to Paris and basically wanted to be in an open relationship. He said that love was unconditional, and he didn’t want to put conditions on our love…
It was so frustrating for me! He knew from the beginning that I was looking for something serious. I went on a TV show to find “the one.” I was ready to find my forever person. So I told him that if he went to Paris I wouldn’t be here when he got back. I walked out of his house that night and didn’t hear from him after that for a long time.
I don’t want to say he ghosted me… but he definitely ghosted me! He didn’t contact me after that. He ghosted me and went to Paris. I was really upset. I was so caught off guard. I guess I shouldn’t have had expectations for how another person wants to live their life, but I think I was a little misled. He did eventually apologize, and now we’re cool. I forgave him, and it’s in the past. I don’t want to have expectations or get upset with somebody for how they want to live their life, but I was hurt.
Elizabeth: I know this may be hard to conceptualize, but how do you think it would have been different if you and Rory had been able to go to Mexico and continue on the show?
Danielle: I have literally played this scenario through my mind so many times, especially after watching the show. They told me little things about their experience, but it’s so different from when you’re watching it and seeing what they went through.
I tried to play it out in my head, if Rory and I still were cut off from the world and we had that pressure of the show pushing us. We would have had to go to the altar, even if we were going to say no. There’s something really magical about planning a wedding and being in a wedding dress. And I truly love Rory. I don’t even know if we would have fought, ever. We might’ve gotten married, to be honest. If I hadn’t seen Matt, and if I wasn’t confused with that… Gosh, I know that sounds so crazy, right? But we might’ve gotten married.
Victoria: Well, the next season of Love is Blind is going to start filming soon. Even after everything you went through, and with that possibility that you may have gotten married to someone who wasn’t right, is this something you would tell people to sign up for?
Danielle: I say that everyone, if they have the opportunity, should do it. I mean my story’s kind of crazy, but honestly I wouldn’t change a thing, I really wouldn’t. The experiment is like nothing I’ve ever done before. It really gets you thinking about what is actually important in a relationship, who you are as a person, what kind of partner is actually right for you.
These relationships, through Love is Blind, have no outside influences. You don’t have the stress of work or your family. And you’re talking through a wall, so you don’t even have your own mind assessing what you’re seeing. It’s truly just an authentic connection. You either have it or you don’t. There’s no faking it when you’re talking through a wall.
Victoria: I know this isn’t your first experience with Reality TV dating. How do you think Love is Blind compares with other shows?
Danielle: Yeah! I did, it was called Love Connection. I did that three years ago. Honestly, I think it was pretty cool that I had that other experience first because I was preparing myself for it to be like that. And that’s why I’m like, no, this is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before in my life. Like this was the real deal. It just wasn’t, it wasn’t the same.
Elizabeth: That’s so cool and random that you go to be on both of those shows. What was the casting process like?
Danielle: It took like five months. It was crazy! They want to know everything about your life, like your religious background, your family history, your parents’ marriage. They want to know how your childhood was. They want to hear about trauma. I had to send in all sorts of pictures and videos and do all these questionnaires. I had Skype interviews with so many different people in the network, had to get a psych evaluation, had to get a doctor’s appointment, background checks, all of it. They were truly trying to match people. You don’t want to just throw anyone in the house.
Victoria: Going a little back to the whole thing that your story wasn’t shown, obviously there were a bunch of people on the show we also didn’t see very much of. And I’m kind of fixating on this one guy who I remember told everyone that he was a virgin, and that’s like all we ever see of him. To go through that extensive casting process, and the only thing the world sees of him is that weird out-of-place confession…
Danielle: So, Taylor is NOT a virgin. He was joking when he said it, he said something immediately afterwards that was sarcastic, and he’s so funny, but they cut it! From what they aired, that just makes it seem like he’s like, “Oh, I’m a virgin.” He’s not a virgin.
Elizabeth: Oh my God. That is so funny. Have you talked to him since this thing aired?
Danielle: Yeah, he’s one of my good friends. He even dated one of my friends after the show. He’s a handful and just entertaining. It’s so funny for all of us because all we see of him on the show is him being like, “I’m a virgin,” but he actually had a really strong connection with Jessica. On the very last day he was thinking about proposing. The reason he didn’t was because he knew that Mark was definitely going to propose and he knew that his feelings were a little bit more strong. But he really cared about Jessica.
Elizabeth: I know you guys all went on dates with everybody, and so I’m kind of curious about your impressions of the people we saw. For example Twitter loves to call Barnett a fuck boy, would you agree with that?
Danielle: I don’t remember too many conversations with Barnett to be honest. I think we only had a couple dates. But I do remember him just kind of being funny, kind of a jokester. There were not really bad vibes, but I didn’t have any kind of romantic connection with him.
My date with Kenny was great. Just good vibes, same thing with Mark. But there were definitely some people that I knew right away just, no, next. With Carlton, I was like, is he trying to sell me a car? Like, he was just trying to sell himself to me. And the same thing with Kenneth, and you don’t even really see him. Kenneth is a barber, and he’s this big dude, but he was just too much for me. He just right away started asking questions, about my weight and my religion. He asked me how many kids wanted to have. And I was like, Whoa, this is a seven minute date. Sorry, next too heavy.
Elizabeth: What about the girls in the house? Who were you close with?
Danielle: Oh, all of the girls were really close. The first girl I met was Jessica, and we instantly hit it off. We were there for each other the whole time. I honestly don’t know if I would have made it through the experiment if it wasn’t for her.
She was my roommate for the first half of the experiment, and it makes me so sad how most people view her. But you know, the show, they’re showing every rough moment. That’s not what Jessica is like. There’s so much more to this woman. She is so intelligent, kind, and thoughtful.
People don’t even know that her dog was in the hospital for two weeks during the whole planning of the wedding, and she really thought her dog was going to die. She was so emotionally distraught that whole time. So, yeah, she probably drank a little too much. But I can see myself doing that too during that time like that. I just hate how she’s got such a bad rep because she truly has a heart of gold and was one of the closest girls to me there.
Victoria: Has dating on Love is Blind changed how you view dating or love? I know you’re in a relationship right now. Do you think Love is Blind has impacted it at all?
Danielle: I honestly don’t even know if I’d be with my boyfriend right now if it wasn’t for the show. It was such a growing process for me, and it really taught me so much about myself. I let down walls that I’d had up my entire life. I opened up to these men about things that I had never shared with even past relationships before. It helped me become more honest and fluid about what I actually am looking for in a relationship.
My boyfriend now, I’ve actually known him for like seven years. We’ve been friends for such a long time. He’s had my back more than anyone I could ever think of. It’s just kind of weird how everything happened and the timing of everything after the show. He kind of popped back into my life at the right point in time and was there for me through a lot of this, and he knew exactly what had happened on the show.
This is honestly the healthiest, happiest I’ve ever been in a relationship. It was just like perfect timing for us to finally come together. I soon realized that I had some really strong feelings for him. I mean, I always had. But he grew a lot as a person, and I think that I finally grew enough as well.
Written and Interviewed by Victoria Ward and Elizabeth Endara
Photography by Crystal Anne Photo
Follow Danielle Drouin @iam_daniellerose