Naza Shelley, a young professional Black woman based in Washington, D.C., frustrated by the dating scene, realized she wasn’t alone in her struggles to date.
Her girlfriends had similar experiences and frustrations, especially when it came to dating apps. They all experienced some combination of mysterious matches, fake profiles, algorithms with biases, and lots of disappointment. Shelley said she remembers thinking they could all just give up on their pursuit of love.
“I got into the mindset of ‘OK, so either we’re going to all resolve that there’s nothing out there for us, or maybe build something to address our problems,’” Shelley said.
That something is CarpeDM, a dating app launched by Shelley for Black women (and anyone interested in dating Black women), which supplies fully vetted suitors after a lengthy application and background check process.
According to Shelley, the waiting list for CarpeDM is long, and the standards for acceptance are high. Through its rigorous application process that involves video interviews, criminal background checks, and verifying identity, CarpeDM hand-selects its members.
Shelley said this process is what “differentiates” CarpeDM from the slew of other dating apps on the market that allow anyone with a smartphone to make an account. Shelley also said they’d built their entire platform in consultation with a Black female psychologist to really “get to the heart” of compatibility.
“I wanted to create a space specifically where people could come and interact with Black women who are professional, smart, beautiful, ambitious world travelers. That’s what really kind of led to the idea of creating CarpeDM,” Shelley said.
When Black women are up against dating statistics like 62% being unmarried and harsh stigmas around desirability, CarpeDM’s high standards are weeding out anyone who could pose a problem.
“We want to make sure that we’re letting the right people into our community,” Shelley said, adding, “We really value our members, and so we want to remove the barriers between our members and their ability to build chemistry with each other.”
Thinking back to her days on other “swipe apps” Shelley said, “It’s really hard on other dating apps when you’re doing Google investigations to see if this person is really who they say they are.” CarpeDM does all of that work for its members.
“We really want to solve a lot of the problems that we saw with other dating apps, like low engagement and people being fake profiles,” she said.
However, finding love through CarpeDM isn’t cheap. The service offers three different paid membership tiers: pool, which costs $400 for six months or $750 for 12 months; gallery, which costs $1,500 for six months or $2,400 for 12 months; and premium, $2,500 for six months and $4,500 for 12 months.
While CarpeDM doesn’t guarantee results (its site makes clear that there are no guarantees in love, after all) or offer refunds, they do promise to continue searching for the right match for you until they find a connection. CarpeDM services anyone from young Black professionals to notable public figures and celebrities (whose identities they cannot disclose) looking for connections with Black women. Shelley enthusiastically said all races, sexualities, and relationship styles are welcome. She emphasized that CarpeDM is for anyone interested in dating professional Black women.
Since the second version of the app launched in January, Shelley said she’s seen success among her members. Some are finally exclusive, others are courting, and the remainder are enjoying going on quality dates with quality matches.
“We’re hoping that this time next year, we’ll have our first CarpeDM engagement,” she said.
Next year, Shelley also hopes to expand CarpeDM from its roughly 4,000 members based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to more cities throughout the country. The app has lengthy waiting lists in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. In the next five years, Shelley said she hopes CarpeDM is a household name that can be traced back as the origin for many meaningful relationships.
In the meantime, she’s encouraged by the quality of the men and women joining CarpeDM.
“I think people can get a little bit down with dating and a little like, ‘Oh, well, there’s no good candidates or prospects.’ I really don’t think that that’s true. I think that there are amazing singles out there,” she said. “I just think that we need a better way to weed through them. A more curated matching process, which is what we’re trying to serve to our members.”
Shelley added, “Black women need to remember that we’re amazing, and we all need to stay encouraged despite how difficult dating can seem.”
Kay Wicker is a lifestyle writer for theGrio covering health, wellness, travel, beauty, fashion, and the myriad ways Black people live and enjoy their lives. She has previously created content for magazines, newspapers, and digital brands.
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