Cheyenne M. Davis reviews the most popular dating app for Black singles and asks the question, is it fat-friendly?
Although Plenty of Fish didn’t garner the best results, it still reinvigorated a sense of hope for me in dating apps and even in finding love, period. Now that I am experiencing “Mainstream Dating App Fatigue” from using three platforms owned by the same company, I have started to look for dating apps that are more niche or specific to a certain subgroup. In the spirit of Black History Month, what better app to choose than BLK?
An app developed by, you guessed it, Match Group, BLK (which to be quite honest, I don’t know if it’s pronounced “B-L-K” or “Black” as I personally call it) is created for Black daters and gives them a safe haven to match, meet and find love. Even though BLK has been around since 2017, according to Jonathan Kirkland, their Head of Marketing and Brand, the app has gained more traction and user activity in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic. Hearing this inspired me to give this app a try because it not only offered the impression that I will find like-minded folx, but I also felt that it would possibly be easier to date on this app being that it is specifically made with Black people in mind.
At first glance, BLK is everything I imagined it to be, it almost looked like an upscale version of its predecessor SoulSwipe. For Black History Month, the app’s logo, which is normally white lettering on a black background, is spelled in kente cloth colors, and the interface of the app itself is on a black background as well. To add to the cheekiness of the dating app, on Sundays, it even sends you church-themed notifications to remind you to check it. Although this may seem corny or even cringe-worthy to some, I find BLK’s fun humor and incessant need to prove its affinity for “Blackness” to be quite entertaining.
My biggest issue with the app is its user-friendliness. Although it is a swipe app, navigating it as a whole isn’t as seamless as I would’ve liked for it to be. When swiping, all profiles are seen as a collection of pictures with the person’s name and age. In order to get more information on an individual, you have to tap on the small information icon. As a person who enjoys reading profiles, having to jump through hoops to find it is annoying and not so user-friendly at all. In addition to this, having only pictures and one’s name be the first thing you see initially, can give off the vibe that BLK is more of a hookup app and not necessarily one for dating. The app can also be glitchy at times with the occasional frozen screen slowing down the platform’s performance.
My final take on BLK’s infrastructure is that even though you can change your gender identification in your bio, which is very much unlike Plenty Of Fish where you have to make a whole new profile to change your gender, you can only choose between woman or man. This app is most definitely catering to cisgendered folx and isn’t inclusive of a-gendered, nonbinary, intersex, trans, and other folx who do not identify within the margins of the binary. This is super problematic to me because it paints a picture that only certain types of people, specifically those who are socially acceptable, are welcome on BLK, and y’all know that grinds my gears.
Creating a Profile
Similar to Tinder, creating a profile on this app was easy and didn’t require a lot of writing. The only thing it requires is your name, birthday, occupation, education, and a brief bio, and chile…do I mean brief. What sets my profile on this app apart from the previous ones is that I intentionally left out my work on fat activism or the fact that I support BLM. On other dating sites like OkCupid, Tinder, I tend to put these things on my profile because those apps cater to and have an audience that predominately white and non-Black. Having this information visible on my profile adds a level of protection in eliminating people who are ignorant. Being that BLK is a Black app, I felt a bit safer with sticking to my non-political interests because there is a greater chance of running into potential partners who have similar viewpoints as I do.
Paid vs Free Subscriptions
In typical Match Group fashion, BLK offers free, Premium, and Elite memberships. In the Premium subscription, for as low as $9.99/mo, you can have unlimited likes, a monthly boost, and the ability to rewind on profiles that you’ve swiped left on. The step up to this is the Elite package, which for an additional $10 only allows you to see who has liked you already. To be frank, I find Match Group’s pricing system to be a bit of a scam when it comes to these paid subscriptions because they don’t come with enough incentives. Additionally, you would think that they would try to tap into some discounted or even free offerings for these features this month being that it is our month.
Membership aside, I will say that I was pleasantly surprised to see how astronomically more attractive the people on this app were compared to others. It was truly a breath of fresh air. However, once you remove the thirst and actually tap onto some profiles, you will definitely see a completely different story. I truly hate to say this, but a lot of the men on this app give off Black incel and “hotep” vibes. Most of them refer to women as “females” (big yikes), incorporate unnecessary rants about how they will block all folx who don’t identify as cis women for even telling them they’re attractive, followed by a few words about how they don’t support “gold diggers” and women with Cash App in their bios. I just swipe left on these types of men automatically because it’s super violent, and this type of thinking is late AF. Another thing that sends me into orbit is that most of these men in the NYC Metro Area seem to do the same poses, having the photographic trifecta of a “summertime fine shorts and fitted” pic, a “leaning against the car” picture, and the quintessential “sweatsuit and Jordans while standing in the stairwell” image to tie it all together.
In terms of my personal experiences, I will note that BLK is the “perfect” marriage of the fat fetishism that I’ve endured on other platforms, but also with some pleasant surprises. Y’all know that I always receive messages like “U so thick (insert peach and smirking devil emoji here)” and some sexual innuendos here and there, and honestly, I’m pretty numb to it. However, I will say that I’ve gotten the most responses on this app from folx I would consider dating in the future. Despite having to weed out some chubby chasers, I am pleased to report that there are a few potential suitors I am interested in who I am currently talking to, so I will definitely keep you all updated as things progress.
Honestly, BLK has given me, even more hope in my dating app journey, thus receiving a fat friendliness rating of 3/5. Dealing with fat fetishists comes with the territory for every dating app, so I urge all of my fellow fat femmes, especially fat, Black femmes, to err on the side of caution when it comes to conversing with people who conflate having an affinity for larger folx and/or being fat amorous with fetishizing them. Despite this, I will say that my experiences, thus far, have been pretty positive and interesting. Now, to the many people who have relegated me to “niche” apps, I would like to make a note that platforms that are made for people and the groups that they identify with (i.e. racially specific or size-specific dating apps and services) are not utopian spaces for those folx to congregate and connect. They, too, are microcosms of the world that we exist in and are not devoid of critique.
In theory, BLK has the potential to be a great app for BLK folx to connect. However, I find it to be very performative in the way that it not only uses copywriting and design elements that feature African-American vernacular English but also includes things that may pique the interest of Black people. Keep in mind that this app is made by Match Group, whose executive and development teams are teeming with non-Black folx, so the app’s approach to dating and Blackness can come off as very disingenuous and lacking the progressiveness that they are trying to portray. All in all, BLK definitely has a lot of room for improvement, but I will say that it has given me opportunities to find new people to meet, talk to, and hopefully date.