Dating-based reality television shows are notoriously whitewashed. (See: The entire “Bachelor” universe.) But on Netflix’s new hit show “Love Is Blind,” the epic, sweeping love story that fans can’t stop swooning over has a Black woman at its center.
Lauren Speed, a 32-year-old content creator from Michigan, and Cameron Hamilton, a 28-year-old data scientist from Maine, met and fell in love during the dating experiment, in which a group of men and women are put into pods and left to speed-date for hours over the course of 10 days. The catch? They can’t physically see each other until they’re engaged.
Well, Speed and Hamilton made that commitment, then met in person, and subsequently moved in together in Atlanta. Then, 38 days after their initial introduction, they made their way down the aisle and actually said “I do” in front of a slightly nervous group of family and friends.
Speed and Hamilton’s love captivated viewers, who have continued to champion them in the days following the Season 1 finale episode. During an interview on HuffPost’s “Here To Make Friends” podcast this week, the happy couple said they are humbled by and beyond grateful for all the support they’ve received.
“Being in an interracial relationship, I wanted to really just live my life authentically,” Speed told hosts Leigh Blickley and Emma Gray. “I wanted to talk about, ‘What about our children?’ ... It’s sad. I mean, we are in 2020, so it really shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s real life.”
“We had to have these conversations about parenting in a mixed relationship,” Hamilton added. “Children who are mixed, how they’re going to be treated by society, what are other kids going to say to them at school, and how are we going to parent them when they’re being perceived as Black and are going to have different experiences than me as a white man? That was something that was critical for us to touch on, not because of the show, but because we were about to get married.”
Speed also acknowledged how important it is for other women to see a Black woman as the lead of a dating show, especially one who doesn’t fit the mold of what they’ve come to expect on their screens.
“You don’t see a lot of Black women in reality TV being the object of affection or in the forefront or being admired,” she said. “I’m a quirky, kind of nerdy Black girl. Kind of awkward, too. So it’s great because a lot of people are seeing me and I feel like I’m representing a thing that wasn’t there before.”
In this edited interview, Speed and Hamilton talk all things “Love Is Blind,” and share their insider perspective on the process that brought them to each other.
Cameron and Lauren, how has it been? Just getting all of this amazing feedback and love from people who have binge-watched “Love Is Blind”?
Lauren: Oh man! It’s really super amazing, especially because for Cameron and I, we took this super seriously. We were both very vulnerable and that’s scary, especially if you’re being vulnerable in front of the world. So we’re so honored that the world not only can identify with our story and relate, but that they appreciate it.
Were you a little skeptical going into the whole thing?
Lauren: Yeah. I was definitely open to it just because I was at a point in my dating life where it kind of sucked. Let’s be honest. So I was just like, what do I have to lose? Go there and meet somebody great? And plus my mom was kind of putting the pressure on me like, “You’re getting old, Lauren.” I mean, what’s the worst that can happen.
Cameron: We were skeptical, but we went into it with an open mind. And at first it felt a little bit artificial, but I think once Lauren and I met each other and we had this first initial conversation about family, the reality of it struck immediately and then we really started taking it very seriously.
Can you explain the structure of the pods and how much time you actually got together to talk? How many times per day?
Lauren: So we started off with 15 on each side ― girls and guys. And the pods are like these mystical meditation chambers, as we like to call them. So the more people that were there, you get less time dating. But as it whittled down, if you didn’t make a connection with someone then, of course, that was that. But we would have these ranking lists, so you would just say your top five, like out of all of the people that you dated they would match up like, OK, these two made a connection. That’s how it will go on. And Cameron was always my top.
Cameron: Yeah, we were No. 1 on each other’s list every day.
Lauren: But as time went on, we would have longer dates, even up to four hours. And we’re talking about multiple dates a day, so there would be times when we would be on 16-hour dates.
What are some conversations that maybe couldn’t make it into the narrative that you wish people had gotten to see?
Cameron: Yeah, we talked about how we would raise kids together and sort of have similar family values. We talked about spirituality; we talked about family life ...
Lauren: Political views.
Lauren: All the stuff you don’t talk about on a first date.
Honestly, all the things that I would love to see more of on reality TV.
Cameron: It was just a matter of time, really. But there was a lot of complexity to our relationship that there just wasn’t enough time to show it.
When you first saw each other, what was that moment like and did anything really surprise you about the way you each looked?
Lauren: Well, I was a nervous wreck just because I’m just like, OK, this is going to be my fiancé. First off, I’m thinking, what if he doesn’t like what I look like?
Cameron: Come on!
Lauren: I mean, but that’s a real thing. Just ’cause everyone’s taste is different, though. But when I saw him, I was just like, oh, he’s so cute. He looks like a prince. When I say he looks like Prince Charming, to me, literally that’s what I felt. And it wasn’t even just about how he physically looked. It was just like, man! He has all the qualities that I wanted in my husband. So to me, that’s my Prince Charming. Like, how did you get so perfect? And it was just unreal.
Cameron: Yeah, it was a very surreal moment. I felt like I couldn’t really even trust my eyes at that moment.
Lauren: Oh yeah. His eyes were wandering.
Cameron: That’s true.
I’m sure the sweat was just pouring down. I’d be so nervous.
Lauren: Oh yeah, he was a wreck.
Cameron: Yeah. ’Cause we’re waiting in front of those “reveal” doors to open for some time. It could have been an eternity.
Lauren: I feel like they stretched it out 2,000 years. We were waiting.
Cameron: Yeah. I was standing there, just chanting her name. I don’t know why.
Lauren: What? You were?
Cameron: Well, ’cause I was going to, as you saw, re-propose to Lauren now that she could see me, so I wanted it to be, I don’t know ... I was just saying Lauren Michelle Speed. Lauren Michelle Speed.
Lauren: Oh, Cameron! You never told me that!
Cameron: I never told you that?
Lauren: That’s cute, babe.
Now that you guys got to know each other in the pods, you met in person, you’re re-engaged and then you’re whisked off to a vacation. What was the vibe like that first night when you guys were together in person trying to figure out your connection?
Cameron: Like I said on the show, it was like waking up from a dream to a dream and I mean that sounds corny, but it’s true. I really couldn’t believe it. I was trying to process it.
Lauren: Yeah. We literally couldn’t keep our hands off each other and I’m awkward anyway. So I’ve seen comments hover where people were like, “Lauren is so awkward around cameras.” No, I’m just awkward, in general. So yeah ... We’ve built this connection and we’ve talked, we’ve had all these deep conversations and I already love you and now I’m meeting you for the first time and I’m able to touch you and rub your skin and hold your face and look into your eyes. So we were just head over heels.
And what was the process like of actually combining belongings and moving into an apartment together?
Lauren: For me, it was kind of a struggle at first. I’m not going to lie, because at that point in my life I was kind of a hermit. I was independent; I enjoyed my own space. I had my own business and my dating life wasn’t really that good. So I was kind of used to being by myself. So having to move in with someone ― I’ve never lived with a man before, besides my family ― so having to share a space and just being there with each other all the time was something that I had to get used to. And Cameron is very affectionate with that, which I appreciate, but I had to learn how to be, I guess, comfortable with sharing that space ’cause that was different for me. So it was definitely a transition.
Cameron: And I didn’t want to push too hard for her to move in and I knew how much her space really meant to her. So it was tough too because I was really excited for her to move in, but I didn’t, I don’t want to force anything.
Lauren: You know, it’s like when you’re set in your ways, ’cause I’m in my 30s. So that’s kind of where I was. But of course it worked out fine. Cameron was super patient with me. He’s like, “Take your time. It’s all good. I know when you need space, let me know.” So it was good. We definitely got through it.
Yeah, I remember when you were on Cameron’s ― well, it’s now your house, I’m assuming ...
Lauren: Yes it is. It’s our house.
But you were outside on the deck and you said, “But can I keep my apartment?”
Lauren: Oh yeah, I did! ’Cause that was scary to me! Like, wait! I have to get rid of my place and move in ... Like I said on the show, that’s my sanctuary. I’m a loner. I love being in my space, having my music, just being weird, whatever. And so the thought of that was terrifying to me ’cause I was like, oh my God, this is a complete change. In a way, I felt like I was going to be uprooted even though that’s not necessarily the truth. It’s kind of like I was growing. I wasn’t being uprooted. But I ended up getting rid of my place. Of course, I kept it for three months after we got married because I still needed that. I needed that transition. I couldn’t just go cold turkey. That’s a lot for me. And Cameron was super supportive with that too, so it was great.
Cameron: Yeah. One thing I learned was that when I’m able to give her her space, she just feels happier. And it’s not like it’s something that she needs all the time, but I learned that just giving her that space is how she recharges her batteries, so to speak. And of course we, like any married couple, are continually building our relationship. But that was one thing that I had to learn pretty quickly and I’m thankful that I did.
And how was it with your friends and family when you guys were like, “Hey, doing this thing, see you in a while. Might come back engaged”?
Lauren: Mostly, people were definitely skeptical at first. But I feel like our friends and family trust us and they know that we’re both kind of good judges of character. So they’re like, “If you feel like this then let’s see what happens.” Well, at least my family and friends for sure. They were like, “This is crazy but OK, I support you.”
Oh, your parents are my faves. Papa Speed had me bawling at your wedding.
Lauren: Oh girl, I was too. I cannot watch that scene with me and my father without crying every time. If you played it now, I would start crying just because me and my father, we’ve always been so close. I’m a daddy’s girl, for sure. And so it really meant a lot to me for him to just embrace this. Like, this is my husband and I know we met in an odd way, but him grilling Cam, I feel like that’s anything that any protective father would do for his kid.
Cameron: Yeah. I would have done the same.
Lauren: So it was nerve-wracking, for sure. But I feel like that’s one of the passages to your daughter’s partners. You kind of have to go through that.
Yeah. Lauren, you left the room [for that conversation], too...
Lauren: For sure, they needed to have a man-to-man.
Cameron: It was a necessary one.
So on the day of your wedding, did you both go into it being like, “I’m saying yes”?
Lauren: You know what? For me, it was scary. It was a huge commitment. So it’s definitely something that I thought about for a long time. But, for the most part, I knew. But like I said, it’s a scary thing. So even as I was in my wedding dress, I’m just like, OK, Lauren, are we really about to do this? ’Cause we’re talking lifelong commitment here. But eventually I got up out of my own head and listened to my heart and was like, yeah! We’re not messing this up, girl.
Cameron: It was very fast by most measures. But you all know that I was going to say yes. I think that was pretty clear.
So on our podcast, we talk about several reality dating shows, but focus primarily on “The Bachelor.” And shows like “The Bachelor” are kind of notoriously overwhelmingly white and obviously you guys are an interracial couple. You became kind of the central love story of this juggernaut reality TV show. I’m wondering if that’s something that either of you thought about while filming and how you’ve been conscious of that as the show has aired and you’ve seen the response.
Lauren: Well, for me, it was definitely something that I knew had to be addressed. Being in an interracial relationship, we can’t just ignore that because it’s something that’s real and we live in a real world and it is what it is.
So I wanted to really just live my life authentically. I wanted to share my concerns. I wanted to talk about, “What about our children?” My friends and peers, what would they think? This is new for me. And it’s sad, I mean, we are in 2020, so that really shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s real life. You know what I mean? So watching it play out, it’s amazing, because so many people have been touched by our transparency in it and how we were honest with it and talking about real-life things and how it could affect us in our life and our family.
And a lot of women are really appreciative because, like you said, you don’t see a lot of Black women in reality TV, even on dating shows, being the object of affection or in the forefront or being admired or, you know, so a lot of people are happy and they’re happy that it’s not as stereotypical catfight, loud. I’m a quirky, kind of nerdy Black girl, kind of awkward too. So I think that it’s great because a lot of people are seeing me and I feel like I’m representing a thing that wasn’t there before. So I’m really appreciative of that.
What are your thoughts on that, Cameron?
Cameron: For me, the main focus after we got engaged was focusing on our relationship working out. The filming aspect of it, of course, it’s there, but I realized that these are conversations that we need to have if we’re going to have a successful marriage when everything ... all this stuff disappears, the filming and all that. We’re still going to be married and we’re going to have children and we need to make sure that they’re taken care of in the world and our family at large.
So we had to have these conversations about parenting in a mixed relationship, children who are mixed, how they’re going to be treated by society, what are other kids going to say to them at school and how are we going to parent them when they being perceived as black and are going to have different experiences than me as a white man? So that was something that was critical for us to touch on, not because of the show, but because we were about to get married ...
Lauren: That’s real life.
No, absolutely. I think, just as viewers, it was something that was awesome to watch actually be addressed because, again, a lot of these shows it feels like try to exist in this world where, there is no race, there are no political views.
Lauren: Right, and it’s very real!
So how has life been since filming? Did you have to spend 18 months avoiding posting photos of each other on Instagram?
Lauren: We did! Trying to hide our rings and pictures. It was actually nuts. Of course, our close family and friends knew, but I had to keep my marriage a secret from some of my associates, my school friends. And that was hard. No posting pictures, no holiday stuff. Had to look like I was by myself. Just post the plate, not the family: “Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!”
Cameron: It was frustrating ’cause you want to share, especially when you’re in a happy relationship, you want to be able to share that, especially in our day and age. We couldn’t, and having to kind of feign being single or what have you, I mean it was just frustrating when you’re happily married and you want to be open about it and talk about it. That was such an important experience for us in many ways.
I can’t even imagine because even with “The Bachelor,” it’s like three to four months of secrecy. That seems like a long time.
Cameron: It was kind of the daily mental battle. ’Cause we didn’t know exactly when it was going to come out and we tried not to think about it. I think Lauren did a better job than I did of dealing with it.
Lauren: ’Cause if we would have become obsessed with it, it just would have been torturous. So I was just like, OK, let’s just take this time to focus on you and me and strengthen our relationship, and that way if it does come out or when it comes out, at least we’ll be strong.
So we did see the reunion, and I just need to know what was going through both of your heads when Amber went after Jessica? You looked like you wanted to crawl out of your skin.
Lauren: Right! I kind of did! I cannot hide my face, guys. My face is so reactionary. So when she said that, I was just like, “Oh, do they have security? ’Cause it might be about to go down.” Now it’s just like, “They better not come over here and hit me by mistake.” But do you know what? I saw Amber’s face throughout the time when Jessica was talking and I was like, if she says one wrong thing, Amber is about to go off. So it was kind of like, oh! When she said, “You sheisty whatever,” I was like, OK, here we go.
Cameron: I thought it was going to be a really long day after that, but it was great to see everyone.
Lauren: I think a lot of people got a lot of closure that they needed from a lot of people and got their feelings out, so ...
Cameron: People had some things to air.
Well, you were in this “experiment” and you know how taxing it could be. But then someone like Jessica has received a ton of criticism. Awful, like, hate.
Lauren: Yeah. It’s been bad. Bullying.
I find it unfair, but do you guys feel that way, too? To see someone who you were a part of a cast with kind of have to suffer a little more than others.
Cameron: Yeah. Absolutely.
Lauren: It’s super unfortunate, especially because being on a show like this, you have to be vulnerable and even if you’re trying to live your truth, like if whatever Jessica did or said, hopefully that was her truth in the moment. And the fact that she bared that and unfortunately the public reacts negatively. I could imagine that could be hurtful. Whatever growth she had to go through in that process or whatever she did in that time, that’s kind of hurtful. Like, man, I was just saying how I felt or doing this and now I’m being crucified for it. So it’s unfortunate, but that’s reality TV. You open up your life to opinion and you never know if it’s going to be good or bad.
There’s always someone ready to take that criticism too far.
Lauren: Right! Exactly!
Cameron: Just to pair it somewhat with what Lauren said, the vulnerability was so high, the bar that you had to go to participate in the right way. To meet someone and fall for them. You had to put it all out there. Anyone who’s listening, caution against judging people for this. Although we’ve talked a lot about it, it’s hard to really know what the pods were like and the whole experience in general. So, yeah.
We also learned that Gi and Damian are dating still, which is very exciting. A good twist.
Lauren: Yeah. Shocking!
Do you guys hang out with them? Have you seen their relationship grow or...
Lauren: Cameron is close with Damian.
Cameron: Yeah, I talk to Damian weekly and I think they’ve been working on it for some time. They have a very unique relationship, I’ll say. And I’m not going to pretend like I know the deeper workings of it.
Lauren: Hey, if it works for y’all, then go for it.
Cameron: I really hope they can work it out and that they are working it out now.
Lauren: I hope they’re happy.
Cameron: Yeah, I think that’s the main thing as we just want them to be happy. However it works out.
On the reunion, they seemed great and it seemed Gi has really sort of explored their relationship more. She seems so much more mature about how they treat each other, how they talk to each other.
Lauren: I would definitely hope so. After a year and a half, hopefully they both matured as individuals, but especially as a couple, too.
Who are you guys closest with currently from the cast? Is there anyone that you talk to a lot, see a lot beyond?
Lauren: Oh, it’s probably Mark.
Cameron: The most, yeah. But I stayed friends with Damian, too.
Lauren: Mark, he’s the best. Hey, Mark!
Also, I want to shout out to Kenny, who had a great finale episode moment where even Kelly’s mom was like, “I love him.”
Lauren: That speech. I was like, he needs to run for a political office. It was amazing.
He really kept it together. It was impressive. But he revealed he has a new girlfriend and that this experience has helped him navigate that relationship and what he needs to do to be more vulnerable. Have you met the new girlfriend?
Cameron: We haven’t yet, love to if we get that opportunity.
Lauren: Yeah. But I feel like this whole experience has to change you as a whole. You can’t be the same person that you were going into this or especially not even a year and a half ago. You just learn so much about yourself because you’re trying to partner up with someone and you can’t properly do that unless you know what you want and who you are. So the whole process is just life changing and it’s amazing.
Cameron: There was so much introspection going on throughout the whole process. And speaking on the guy’s side, you might’ve thought that there would have been some competition. All of us were just talking about our emotions day in and day out when we weren’t in the pod. You don’t usually see that in your typical scenario, a bunch of men talking about how deeply they’re falling for these different women. And so it was a beautiful thing and we all came out of it, like Lauren said, changed.
Yeah, absolutely. So the people have spoken and they want you to host Season 2! [Laughter] We might need to get rid of the Lacheys!
Lauren: Ohhhhhh. [More laughter]
What is next for you guys, though? I know there’s been talk of a spinoff, people want you to host, people want you to get a YouTube channel. What do you guys want to do?
Lauren: All those things, we would love to do all of them — whoever’s listening that can make that happen. But we’re going to start with YouTube. So we’ll start there and just continue sharing our life and our story and ask for the rest. You know, we’ll see.
Cameron: I think one of the main things for me beyond building our relationship was, like, “working together” with Lauren every day. Just being together in our work life as well, in a sense. So I just want to continue doing projects with Lauren in any capacity, really.
And still be an artificial intelligence scientist, like what??
Lauren: I know, it’s crazy!
Cameron: Crazy stuff.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. For the full Q&A, out Friday, find “Here To Make Friends” on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.