‘Love Is Blind’ Star Deepti Vempati Opens Up About Dating As An Indian Woman: ‘I Always Ran From My Culture’

As a kid, I was bullied for my darker skin tone and being overweight, and literally wanted to run from being Indian. I just wanted to be a skinny white girl. That way, I didn’t have to deal with the bullying and pressure to conform. I felt like I didn’t want to live in this body as myself.

I’m darker-skinned, and lighter skin is so worshiped in India, where I was born. When I was 8, my family moved to the United States. Suddenly, almost everyone had lighter skin compared to me—it was hard. I felt like I didn’t belong. Even within my own family, relatives would tell me, “You’re darker, we want you to stay out of the sun.” I dyed my hair, wore colored contacts, and even avoided getting on the train with my parent’s home-cooked food because I was afraid I’d get judged for the smell. If my friends came over and my mom was in an Indian outfit, I’d ask her to change. Her response? “Hell no, I’m not changing for anyone.” I admire her confidence, even though I’ve struggled with emulating it myself.

Now that I’m an adult, I can’t believe I ever ran from such a beautiful culture that has such deep values. But, those small comments kids would make, like about my food smelling bad, really impacted me.

My first dating experience was in college, and to be honest, I felt like I’ve been settling ever since. You know that saying: You settle for what you think you deserve? I was always the rock and pillar for everyone else in my life, so I didn’t think I deserved to ask for that from a partner. My last ex was white, and we dated for about six years. I hid it from my parents the entire time—even though we lived together. In an Indian household, you don’t bring home a boyfriend unless you know he’s “The One.”

After we broke up, I actually even tried Dil Mil, a dating app for Indian people. I really tried to create a connection with someone from my culture for my parents. All I ever want is to make them happy after everything they’ve sacrificed for my siblings and me. It just never panned out. It’s not like I was making an active effort to stay away from Indian men. I found Indian men attractive, too. But I'd been so surrounded by white people for the majority of my life, that was just the first thing I organically gravitated toward when I started dating.