The Reality of Reality TV

Andrew Liu | December 12th, 2023 (Volume 2)
Andrew Liu shares his experience of sudden internet fame and controversy following his appearance on the reality TV show "Love Is Blind”. His story highlights the surreal journey from participating in the show for fun to becoming a central figure in a viral scandal, offering insights into the reality of participating in a televised social experiment and its impact on personal life and public perception.


A little over a year ago, my world transformed overnight. A reality TV show that I’d filmed for had aired, and I had become the center of a controversy that broke the internet for a day. Twitter and Reddit were up in arms, labeling me with labels such as psychopath and narcissist. My DMs on Instagram were full of strangers professing their love for me or expressing their disgust. And TMZ, I was getting calls from TMZ on my direct line, asking for a statement. Rohto Eye Drops reached out to send me a care package. And people were stopping me in the street to get a photo.
So what happened and how did I get here? Well, let’s see. So in January of 2021, in the middle of a gap year that I was taking to pursue a passion in wildlife photography, I got an innocuous little DM from a casting producer at Kinetic Content. She was casting for a show called Love Is Blind, which is a reality TV show that topped Netflix during the pandemic. I bit, so I took the call and she explained the premise to me. It’s a blind dating show where you spend 10 days dating strangers through a wall and then you propose and get engaged sight unseen. The show then follows you through three weeks of attempting to merge your lives before culminating in a wedding where you decided the altar if you want to get married or not. Despite this absurd premise, I continued listening, and as I listened, I was both terrified and intrigued. On the one hand, it made me incredibly nervous to think about the idea of proposing to a stranger on live television. On the other hand, it was a rare opportunity to have a unique experience, make new friends, and get a little bit famous. It was pretty tempting. So my curiosity eventually got the better of me, and I decided to do it.
How many of you guys would’ve done the same? All right, some of you are. So maybe it was a little crazy. I definitely expected more hands on that one. The first plot twist to my story came in the four months between casting and filming when I met the love of my life, Kate. Kate, who’s here with us tonight, is an incredible human being who shares my love for novelty and new experience. And so she agreed to let me do the show as long as I didn’t end up married to anyone. And so it sounded simple enough to me. It was an acting job for a background character role that paid minimum wage with free drinks. And I was all about it. Fast-forward a few months, I’m stepping off a plane at LAX, and I’m whisked away to a cheap hotel far outside the city. We’re given a brief orientation and then we’re locked up in our hotel rooms without phone, TV, music, or social interaction for forty-eight hours.
After the isolation period, the fun began. The pods, which are the first blind dating portion of the show, these days were spectacular. So I liken the whole experience of summer camp for adults. You have a set of scheduled arranged dates every day, and in between that there’s a living room set for you to play pool, drink, hang out, socialize, or just sit and brood over something really embarrassing you did on camera. And so alcohol was free-flowing and any specific request for a specific type of booze would be accommodated. And so a group of us started every morning with a tequila shot, and we’d keep that buzz going throughout the day. And now the drinking, it was excessive, yes. And in part it was because it felt like an endless party in some alternate universe. And in part is because there were just cameras in your face constantly. And I don’t know about you, but for me, having every single second of your behavior recorded and analyzed is incredibly unsettling.
And so I took solace in the fact that very little of what was filmed would ever make it to the big screen, right? 30 hours, three episodes I figured wouldn’t make it. That type of thinking, as it turns out, would come back and bite me in the ass. So every day had a theme, and the theme of day three was sex and intimacy. And after scanning my memories of season one, I could not recall any sex topics being aired. And so it took that one data point to mean that this was a safe space for me to spew whatever came to mind. And so I did. I recounted my recent exploits into tantra, semen retention and sexual kung fu, and I did so in uncomfortable detail. And with a little bit of clever editing, it made me looked like this sexual kung fu guru, giving a lecture on how to cum without cumming. The internet raged when this came out, people were understandably horrified. A smaller set of people were actually quite interested, and they reached out to me directly to figure out how to learn more.
Here in Austin, my workplace decided to hold a showing of episode one. And so I sat there with my coworkers as we watched this scene play out in excruciating detail. And as much as I didn’t care about the opinions of strangers on the internet, I did care a lot about these people that I had to see every day. And so I was mortified, as you can imagine.
Anyway, back to the pods. Day, nine day before the proposals, I found myself in this love triangle with Bartise and Nancy. At this point, it’s pretty clear that Nancy is going to choose Bartise. And given my mandate to not end up married to anyone, I was relieved. I pulled my producer aside to let him know that I planned to bow out gracefully. He had other plans though. So to be clear, he never said anything that could be construed as interference. Production was very careful about that. Instead, he kept hitting me with these vague statements like, “It’s your story, don’t let anyone get in your way.” Or, “Follow your heart.” He’s very vague. He’s very persistent. At some point, I got the message. So I said something back to the effect of, “This should make for good TV, wouldn’t it?” And he gave me a smile, and that was all I needed. I let Nancy know on our next date that she should prepare a rejection speech, and I went off to write my own.
The infamous eye drop scandal moment happened during my final exit interview. So after the staged proposal I was pulled into an interview room with my producer to answer a series of questions on what it felt like to be rejected on live television. I was a little drunk and I didn’t have anything genuine to say. What I did have was a bottle of Rohto reds, which I kept around to keep my Asian flush in check while I was drinking. And so after a couple questions, I ran out of bullshit to say, and I decided it would be a good idea to do a little fake cry for dramatic effect. And so I pulled the eyedrops out of my pocket, dumped about a quarter bottle on each eye, and proceeded to say something about how it brought me to tears. The room was dead silent. There was absolutely no reaction. My producer kept going on with his line of questioning as if nothing had happened. And then when we were done with the interview he thanked me for my time and sent me back to the hotel.
That moment seemed rather innocuous. It would turn out to be not innocuous at all. In fact, it would be the moment that propelled me from background character to temporary villain. The internet raged about my fake tears. People called it a scandal. There were numerous theories about what happened, including one where I was actually crying, but I was using the tears to mask my real tears to protect my manhood, or something like that. By and large though, the prevailing sentiment was outrage. Pure outrage that a reality TV show contestant could be there for any reason other than the quest for true love.
And so what did I learn? A couple things. The first thing I learned was that watching yourself on television is one of the most painfully awkward things you could possibly do, especially if you’re doing it with people that you know. And especially if you intentionally acted like an idiot. And two, I learned that being a little famous is hella fun. I mean, getting drinks for free on the plane because the flight attendant recognized you is pretty cool. And so all I would say is that if you ever get the chance to do anything like this in your life, I would highly recommend it. Thank you.

Andrew Liu
African wildlife photographer and former reality TV show contestant.