We Spoke To The Founder Of The New Dating App Dedicated To Helping Black Women Find Love

Photo: CarpeDM
This Dating App Is Ending The Struggle Black Women Face To Find Love
Love

Racial discrimination against Black women plays out in every aspect of life, even in online dating. 

From receiving fewer matches than their non-Black friends to fetishization and lewd racial comments from the matches they do receive, Black women have seen it all.

 

Online dating and the quest to find love should be a level playing field but because modern dating is created and dominated by white men, the specific needs and desire Black women look for in potential suitors are pushed to the wayside. 

But CarpeDM, a dating community created by and for professional Black women is here to change the dating landscape and elevate the experiences of Black women in online dating. 

The freshly-launched platform is like no dating app you’ve swiped and matched on before. It’s far from being a place where one-time hookups and late-night booty calls begin. Through its dedicated matchmaking services, CarpeDM offers Black women and those who want to date them a real shot at finding love. 

We talked exclusively to CarpeDM’s dynamic and passionate founder Naza Shelley to shine a light on the challenges Black women face in online dating and how CarpeDM seeks to change that. 

For Shelley, an attorney-turned-entrepreneur, CarpeDM is more than just a business venture. It was an idea born from need. 

The HBCU grad was tired of swiping through unsuitable matches and going on disappointing dates and wanted to build a space where women like her could focus on their needs rather than pandering to algorithms created by white men. But this wasn’t just Shelley’s experience.

Across the board, Black women come up against challenges in the world of online dating. 

“Statistically, we get less engagement on dating apps,” says Shelley. “Next to Asian men, Black women are considered to be the least attractive or the least desirable to date by other ethnic groups.”

Shelley also points out that Black women typically marry Black men. Most ethnicities marry within their ethnicity but for Black women, this is particularly high, with just 9% marrying outside their race.

“When you combine the low engagement and our desire to target Black men, I felt like we needed a space where the men came to us,” Shelley says, though she also notes that any race, gender, or sexual orientation is welcome on the app as long as they want to date Black professional women. 

“[We wanted to create a space] where we were elevated to be a prize, we were elevated to being desirable, to the position of being wanted,” Shelley tells us. 

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Most algorithms are male-driven, and though bias is hard to prove, CarpeDM isn’t taking any chances. 

The majority of the team at CarpeDM is compromised of minority women and Shelley praises the work of their Black female tech-lead and the Black female psychologist who have worked to build the app. 

“From the ground up, we want to take into consideration the needs of Black women which we feel like we haven’t seen on the market,” Shelley says.

In doing this, CarpeDM uniquely positions itself as a place where people come to date Black women rather than Black women having to push through algorithmic and racial bias on other apps. 

The detailed screening process means there are no time-wasters or undesirable suitors on CarpeDM. 

Everyone who downloads and signs up to the app goes through the same application process. 

This involves creating your profile with videos and photos and filling out a 50-question questionnaire that was created by a Black female psychologist.

Then users fill out personal information as well as some guidelines about what they’re looking for in a match. At this point, pending approval, all users are invited to a video call with a member of the CarpeDM team to help gauge how genuine a person’s commitment to finding love is. 

The final step is a background check. This includes identity verification plus your income, and credit score, though Shelley clarifies, “It can be whatever it is but you just have to be truthful about what it is.”

The background check also checks for criminal history, particularly for a history of stealing, theft, embezzlement, identity theft, sex crime charges, violence, and domestic violence. With Black women experiencing violence at alarmingly high rates, this is a crucial step. 

Low-level crimes, traffic violations, and minor drug offenses are not prohibitive. 

“What we found with other dating apps is that they’re very convenient but because of the low bar that it takes to get in and start engaging people don’t actually value the interactions that they’re able to have with people on the platform,” Shelley tells when discussing the decision to create the multi-step application process.

The app is also conscious of people seeking to date Black women for the wrong reasons and actively avoids that. 

This is where CarpeDM’s face-to-face consultation before acceptance is vital. “We want to be able to ask and gauge your sincerity and your rationale and motives for joining,” Shelley says.

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“We have very specific concerns as Black professional females when it comes to dating interracially,” she continues, “We want to know if have you dated other Black women, what are your motives, what do you hope to get out of this community, what can you bring to the community based on your personality and the things you have to offer.”

RELATED: On Being A Black Woman In America 

Black women are then connected with a personal matchmaker who coaches them through the process to further elevate their needs. 

As well as getting matches through the app’s algorithm, women can connect with matchmakers who provide highly selected matches and plenty of relationship guidance

Each new match on the app can only be pursued via a 5 to 10-minute video call, before which no contact is allowed. Then, provided both agree that the call was successful, the match can continue. 

This is part of CarpeDM’s mission to cultivate actual human connection even through a screen — but it also allows a helpful feedback loop. 

Matchmakers collect feedback on these video dates and use it to coach women through some of their dating mishaps. This, alongside the expert content the app intends to launch, allows women to have guidance through all stages of a relationship. 

Through focus groups used to test and develop the app, Shelley learned just how badly Black women have been in need of a service like this, and though the app is primarily launching in Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas, she plans to expand quickly.  

“Our mission is threefold. It is to elevate Black women, to help create healthy stable families and build generational wealth, and to give ‘Black’,” Shelley says.

CarpeDM is available to download now on iOS — Android coming soon — with matchmaking expected to take place by summer 2021. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment.