Janhvi Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor, Neha Sharma are Indian members of Raya, “the celebrity dating app” used by Ben Affleck, Channing Tatum


A celebrity dating app with a waiting list of hundreds of thousands is gaining popularity in India. Raya, concisely described by The New York Times as “Illuminati Tinder,” is a members-only platform with a lower acceptance rate than Harvard Business School. Like an Ivy League school, it screens, rejects, and waitlists applicants, with a wait time that can span weeks. His international clientele includes actors such as Channing Tatum, Demi Lovato, John Mayer, Lizzo, Cara Delevingne, Sharon Stone, and the bustard Ben Affleck.

Having made inroads in India, Raya has attracted celebrities such as Janhvi Kapoor, Vaani Kapoor, Neha Sharma, Sonal Chauhan, Anushka Ranjan, Lisa Mishra and a major filmmaker who wishes to remain anonymous. Raya, by invitation only, offers exclusivity and privacy that celebrities wouldn’t find on traditional dating apps like Tinder. The app, deemed “not for everyone”, follows a rigid code of silence where exposing other members’ names, taking screenshots of other profiles or even tweeting about it can get you kicked out. The app is meant to facilitate friendship and networking as much as dating.

Actor Sonakshi Sinha in a recent interview with Raw, he was asked what his dating biography would be. She scoffed at the mere idea. “I don’t have a dating app bio,” she laughed. The interviewer quickly moved on to his next question, but Sonakshi was clearly distracted by the possibility. She interrupted, “Imagine that. Imagine what that would look like, even. The number of DMs I get on Instagram, in the thousands. I can’t imagine what my dating app would look like.

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For celebrities like Sonakshi Sinha, who has over 21 million Instagram followers, some things are ironically out of reach. For example, many actors will often admit that part of the devil’s bargain to becoming a celebrity is sacrificing all forms of privacy. Once they cross a certain fame threshold, their every move will be documented with the diligence of a meteorologist tracking an impending storm.

But Raya, despite being essentially a virtual VIP section of the hottest club in town — or “the Soho House of dating apps,” as one person told the NYT in 2018 — offers one thing that the rich and famous desire more than anything else. . Confidentiality. Launched in 2015 by Daniel Gendelman, the invite-only app is unadvertised, but growing through word of mouth. As an added layer of exclusivity, it is only available on iOS devices. Sure.

Society has largely become accustomed to the concept of social silos and closed circles. Even non-celebrities, for example, are willing to wait a few decades to become a member of the Delhi Golf Club. But on Raya, only about 8% of applications are accepted. One person even offered $10,000 cash for admission, while others, according to the Times, submitted elaborate resumes.

“I tried to solve a big problem for a small number of people,” Gendelman told The Times, after emerging from the woods after successfully keeping not just Raya’s membership secret, but the app. herself. He designed it, unsurprisingly, after a knock on Tinder. But his vision, he said, was to create a sort of digital Davos.

Not just movie stars and musicians, the app also welcomes athletes, journalists and, as Gendelman insisted, people who aren’t famous at all. The app, he told The Times, is “for enthusiasts around the world who have something to share with other members and can do so in a respectful way.” It costs approximately up to a month’s Netflix subscription in the US and requires aspiring members to apply through their Instagram accounts. Raya even asks members to create a musical montage of photos, which she displays, according to a 2021 New Yorker article, in an interface reminiscent of iMessage and AirBnb.

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A screenshot of the Raya interface, as displayed on the App Store. (Photo: AppStore)

But that’s where the connections to regular platforms end. Omertà is what ultimately defines and sustains the application. Each application is reviewed by a group of existing members, in a process that can sometimes take years. Decisions are made based on digital impressions and references, or, as Gendelman told The Times, even if the candidate happens to be “rad.”

Any misconduct of any kind is not tolerated and results in the expulsion of the candidate with an unspoken response: “Our decision is final”. The woman who exposed Affleck suffered the same fate, as did an “aggressive” man she was in a relationship with, she told The New Yorker.

Groucho Marx, at the insistence of his friends, agreed to become a member of a closed club. Having decided it wasn’t for him, he wrote in a famous resignation letter, “I don’t want to belong to any club that has me as a member.” Raya is the antithesis of this idea. It remains to be seen how that will work in a country where celebrities spend entire careers trying to be relatable.



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