TikToker exposes exclusive celebrity dating app Raya as a hub for toxic men

By Charlie Sawyer

Published Nov 5, 2023 at 09:00 AM

Reading time: 4 minutes

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Considering the fact that I’m a literal nobody who only made my Instagram public recently because I was told that it was “important” for “networking purposes,” I naturally never received an invitation to join the exclusive and private dating app, Raya.

Conceived for the sole purpose of matchmaking celebs and emboldening DJs’ egos, Raya’s kept a pretty low profile these past few years. That is, until now. On 20 October 2023, model and TikTok creator Celeste Aria posted a video titled “Don’t Join Raya.” In the video, the model goes into detail over how the app can be an incredibly toxic place and attract some pretty yucky users—particularly in the male department.

https://www.tiktok.com/@celeste.aria_/video/7291997682380311841

What is Raya?

Before we dive into Aria’s warning, here are a few little things to know about Raya. First off, this isn’t the kind of dating app that you’ll see advertised on billboards or on the tube. Raya’s exclusivity factor means that everything is spread by word of mouth.

Plus, the app is pretty strict when it comes to maintaining its privacy, so if you’re caught screenshotting a profile, you’ll be issued a warning and you could even lose your account and be blocked from the platform. Oh also, there are rumours that there are some pretty serious A-listers on Raya. I even heard rumblings that Paul Mescal was tearing through half of London having found quite a few love matches on there.

@millyg_fit

it’s time to name drop and shame. I know at least one of these will SHOCK you ffs. P.s Don’t spend your money on pretentious apps like raya lol #dating #datingapps #raya

♬ original sound - Milly G

Why is Raya being criticised online?

I seriously needed to know more about this app, so I reached out to Aria in hopes of picking her brain about her experience on Raya, and also to give us the goss about the types of people you might come across on the dating platform. I mean, it’s not like I’ll ever get allowed on, but a girl can dream of finding a toxic love online, okay?

Aria started off by letting me know how she first heard about the app: “A few years ago, I saw some of my mutuals start making funny tweets alluding to the fact that they had been ‘accepted on Raya’—mainly folks working in the fashion industry in New York and Los Angeles at that time. I was aware of it from then on, but didn’t apply until a few years later.”

According to the model, she decided to try out the dating app just after she moved to Berlin and started embodying a new “nothing to lose” attitude. “I had tried other dating apps out, and on other apps, the pool is so large, it was rare to see a profile that felt like I wanted to meet that person or had common interests. I remembered Raya existed, and seemed to be for folks working in the entertainment industry like me, and was also definitely curious about the alleged ‘celebrities’ on the app. It seemed like a low-stakes, fun social experiment,” Aria continued.

Then, of course, things just went a bit sour. You know how Hinge is so dead it’s almost funny? Yeah I don’t think Raya’s lack of sound and/or genuinely good people is so much a laugh as it is a major stress. Aria explained: “I didn’t feel negatively at first, and was actually recommending it to friends. However looking back, I had to block all three people I met with in real life because they acted alarmingly weird and malicious when things didn’t work out. I honestly really regret meeting those folks at all, and the overall takeaway is definitely negative.”

Next, Aria laid out for me the ‘stereotypical’ guy she might’ve come across on Raya: “At the time, men on the app required some type of status, job or fame that would qualify them in some way. I can’t generalise, but what this meant in practical terms was a lot of guys with 2,000 or 3,000 IG followers with some type of job in culture or entertainment or fashion, and then the odd celebrity that they let you swipe on to try to keep you on the app.”

It seems pretty obvious to me that an app that labels itself as this incredibly private and exclusive members club is going to attract users with serious god complexes. They’re going to be giving Jake Paul energy and will also undoubtedly use vision boards to map out their next business venture.

“ [On Raya] you can see the size of people’s followings on Instagram, and there’s a ‘how famous are you?’ type of bargaining that happens with the matches. Next, the app in general attracts people who are clout-chasing and it seems as though a big percentage of people on the app are actively trying to get famous, or actively trying to social climb,” the creator explained.

But it gets worse. These aren’t just fame-hungry individuals, they’re people who genuinely aren’t capable of controlling their emotions or handling healthy rejection. Aria is convinced that Raya is a place that “attracts a lot of people with genuine problems and insecurities.”

The creator continued: “The way that the folks I met reacted to rejection was what ultimately made me regret [downloading] it. It was never a ‘this didn’t work, let’s part ways and let the other person life peacefully,’ where you leave the other person alone. My experiences with the people I met involved annoying and downright scary ways of dealing with rejection. It was a spectrum from the benign but annoying ‘constant strategic reappearing online and texting despite saying you’re done’ to a slightly more worrisome ‘text hissy fit after being rejected from a second date complete with sending me a picture of an artwork that was themed on women not giving adequate attention’.”

In one particular rejection scenario, Aria explained that she had been sent a “text-based sculpture about being ‘breadcrumbed’ that he sent me as a ‘f*ck you’.” She went on to say that she wished she could tell me more, but she didn’t want this person to be identified.

We closed out our convo with Aria recalling one of the most traumatising experiences she had following an encounter with someone on Raya: “The scariest thing was getting public intimidation from a guy I’d rejected. I was seated at the same bar in a public restaurant a few years afterwards randomly, the guy saw me and stood on a couch to stare at me and intimidate me for a full 30 minutes, trying to get me to acknowledge him. I know there are good people on there and lots of people have met great partners. But I regret thinking it was low stakes to meet someone on that platform, after those experiences. I do think people need to be extra careful on that platform.”

Look, the idea of matching with Jeremy Allen White or Sabrina Carpenter is an obvious pulling factor for an app like Raya. But in reality, the concept and idea are always so much sexier than the reality of dodging IG boys who have clearly not spent enough time in therapy.

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