I don't watch anything having to do with The Bachelor franchise — for reasons too complicated to spell out here. But I do have access to the internet, and happen to sit in an open office amid a lot of avid viewers, whose conversations I'll jump into uninvited. (Hey, it's my nature.) So when I heard that Amanda Stanton tweeted that she's on Bachelor in Paradise again just because she keeps getting rejected from "celebrity Tinder" (also known as Raya), I piped in. I've been a Raya user since its beta-testing days back in 2015.
This is hilarious because I am in no way more famous than Stanton. But I've definitely matched with people on the app who are.
I joined in the summer of 2015 after a breakup. My friend knew someone who helped launch the app, so she suggested I join. Raya has always lauded itself as a more exclusive dating app — and it definitely is. Profiles are vetted by a "secret committee" (LOL), and it helps your membership chances to have a healthy Instagram following or a job in a creative industry (Finally, I thought, this writing thing might pay off.). Your Instagram is irrevocably linked to your profile, too — so you know the people in the profiles are legit. Raya is a no-phony zone.
I was accepted quickly, my membership fee waived (for reasons I still don't understand), and I made a profile right away. Instead of your typical swipe-based interface, Raya pulls photos from your Instagram, lets you pick a song to run with them, and then presents it slideshow-style to whoever's checking you out. (My song? The opening guitar riff of Bon Iver's "Beach Baby," to portray my moody, sensitive, art-chick side.) When you match with someone — meaning you've both Liked each other's profiles — you have the ability to message in-app, and their Instagrams automatically populate on your feed.
After a few days of scrolling profiles set to a curious amount of David Bowie and Drake songs, I had my first date. The man in question was the founder of one of the biggest music festivals in the country, with a six-digit Instagram following and a cute butt. I was hooked.
In my experience, the guys on Raya tend to be a little flakier than they are on other apps. That first guy, for example: We went on two dates, and then he went to Yacht Week in Croatia, never to be heard from again. Not that he was one, but so many big-name daters have been spotted on Raya that it's been dubbed "celebrity Tinder." In fact, Amy Schumer met her ex-boyfriend Ben Hanisch on the app. It's at least celebrity enough that a Bachelor alum was ostensibly denied access. I reached out to Raya for comment on this alleged snub, and will update if I hear back.
One of the ways Raya lures in famous folk is its commitment to privacy — which is part of the reason I was hesitant to even write this piece. Raya is like Fight Club, in that the first rule is you don't talk about it. If you try to take a screenshot of a profile, you're met with an alert warning you that, if the photos wind up online, you'll be booted from the app. Users are discouraged from talking about the people they see on the app, in order to keep it a safe and exclusive space.
So, no. I won't be naming names here. (If you're reading this, Raya gods, please don't delete me.) But I've matched with former boy band members, about four European football players, an NBA player, two famous DJs, a guy who owned an island, and half-a-dozen restaurateurs. One outspoken comedian-turned-TV-stoner messaged me asking if, for $100,000, I'd let him inseminate me, then have the kid and have no part in their lives. (He was kidding. I think.) We made loose plans to meet for Asia Dog and gelato, but it never actually happened, which left me a little pissed. I could have used the cash.
I never got the feeling that people on the app were just looking for a famous fuck. I truly think they're looking for companionship — mainly because I’ve seen (and matched with) people on other dating apps whom I’d also matched with on Raya. The caché of Raya, then, isn’t the prospect of meeting someone famous. It’s more about being part of an exclusive community of likeminded creative people. It’s like that one nightclub everyone wants to get into: Just being in there seems cool, but if you happen to meet someone special, that’d be great. And if that person happened to be famous? Added bonus.
I now rank Raya as second only to Bumble in my ever-growing list of favorite dating apps — and I think the real reason I dig it is because it's given me the opportunity to network, too. One bar owner I had coffee with has now become a pal, and has told me I can drink for free whenever I decide to swing by.
And to me, a single gal living in Manhattan, I'm not about to turn down a free drink.