‘Love Is Blind’s’ Zanab on How Cole Tried to Control What She Ate and His Preference for White Women: ‘Everyone Heard It’

SPOILER WARNING: This post contains spoilers for the reunion episode of “Love Is Blind” Season 3, out now on Netflix. 

Zanab Jaffrey isn’t looking back. During her wedding to Cole Barnett in Episode 11 of “Love Is Blind’s” third season, she rejected her fiancé at the altar. 

While Jaffrey affirmed that she loved Barnett, she didn’t hold back while explaining her choice. “You have disrespected me. You have insulted me. You have critiqued me. And, for what it is worth, you have single-handedly shattered my self confidence,” she said. 

Jaffrey, 32, bonded in the pods with Barnett, 27, over their shared faith. Things seemed to go smoothly upon their first meeting: “You’re beautiful,” Barnett exclaims before showering Jaffrey with kisses. 

But the couple quickly hit bumps in the road, notably when Barnett told Jaffrey she was a “nine out of 10,” while then adding that contestants Raven Ross and Colleen Reed were perfect “10s.” Tensions escalated further when Barnett told Reed about his attraction to her, and said repeatedly (seemingly to anyone who’d listen) that Jaffrey was not the type of girl he usually dated. 

“I proposed to a girl named Zanab,” he told Jaffrey. “You think I thought Zanab looked more like the girls I dated in the past that were named like, Lily?” Things came to a head when, during an argument, Barnett asked Jaffrey whether she was bipolar. 

During the reunion episode, Jaffrey said that she felt Barnett was trying to control what she ate, revealing that she stopped eating and would only consume a “banana and a teaspoon of peanut butter” on some long days of filming. 

In her first-ever interview, Jaffrey opened up to Variety about the season’s most jaw-dropping moments, including her reactions to Cole’s much talked-about critiques of her physical and mental state. 

It was shocking when Cole called you a “nine out of 10.” How have you reflected about that moment, and did he make other comments in that same vein that we didn’t see on the show? 

Obviously, there’s so many hours of recording and not all of it makes it. There were moments that were just as cringe-worthy as that. You know, I think a nine out of 10 would be OK. But when you get the follow up that there were two 10-out-of-10s in a group of just five women, statistically it didn’t really add up. That was a good foresight for us for what was coming up. I really struggled with, “Oh, we’re already off on a bad foot if you don’t think I’m a 10 out of 10.” Obviously, I loved him. It was painful to hear. 

Cole consistently brought up that you weren’t the type of girl he usually dated. At one point, he said he knew someone named Zanab wouldn’t look like his past girlfriends that were named things like “Lily.” Some viewers interpreted this to mean that he only dates white women. Was that your perception? 

Yes, very much so. Everyone heard it. Even watching it back, I was like, wow, I really didn’t hear that like everyone else heard it. I’ve gotten hundreds of messages like what you just said: “He’s saying this.” In the heat of that moment, I didn’t necessarily hear it. But we’d had conversations about women he previously dated. There were many conversations about how to I did not look like it or live up to it. 

You spoke at the reunion about developing some unhealthy eating habits as a result of Cole trying to control what you were eating. Can you elaborate on how it affected you? 

I did love him. The things he was saying to me did hurt. I was somehow trying to make myself desirable to him, whether it be skinnier, or… [pauses and takes a deep breath] I’ve never had someone speak to me that way about my body or eating. That was very real for me. I did change what I was eating. I was just eating a banana. I did lose weight by the wedding day. It had nothing to do with fitting into my wedding dress. 

I’m sorry to hear that. How are you doing now? 

I’m doing great now. Thank you for asking. I did leave that relationship broken. I was devastated not to get married. I was sad that I had this great love and it didn’t result in a healthy relationship that turned into a happy marriage. I recognized some stuff on myself that I was like, “Wow, I need to go build myself back up. I used to be a words of affirmation person. I need to do that. I need reassurance. I need to get back to myself and encourage myself.” So that’s really what I’ve done for the last year. I did go to therapy after the wedding, because I was like, “When this comes out, I’m going to have to revisit this and I don’t want to be slingshotted back to how low I feel right now.” 

I’ve been in therapy for a year, and I’ll probably continue going to therapy because I think therapy is wonderful. I’ve just taken all that that relationship taught me and truly just been so selfish this year and poured into myself and loved myself hard and gave myself those affirmations because I never want to be in that low of a space in a relationship ever again. I just want to give my healthiest, happiest self to someone. 

You said during the reunion that you don’t regret things with Cole, and wouldn’t change anything. Given how much the relationship seemed to affect you, can you elaborate on why? 

Cole was the only one for me in that experiment. Our reveal, I loved. It was so genuine. I was so happy, and I thought I had met my person. The context of what I was trying to say was that I would do it again and choose him again knowing the outcome. It did send me on a journey. It forced me to dig deeper within myself. I learned so much about myself.

Would I repetitively do it again? No. But I don’t regret Cole coming into my life. I don’t ever regret being that happy and in love with him at one point. To do it again would be so I could experience that high with him again, even knowing where it came to. I just think the direction it put me in my life, it taught me something. I’m choosing to take a lesson from our relationship instead of being angry at him.  

During an argument, Cole asked if you were bipolar. How have you processed that insinuation? 

I think it was so uncalled for. I think weaponizing something like mental health, especially with the stigma around mental health — it’s like how you don’t call a woman crazy. I would never use that. There’s one thing I believe in having conversations: fighting clean, never hitting below the belt, not saying something you can’t take back. People take things they hear and run with it. I’ve gotten lots of messages that it’s what I have, or that’s what I am. It’s unfortunate. Now I get hundreds of messages that it’s something I should go checked out for. The internet is a very interesting place. 

How are you dealing with the public response to you on the show? 

My takeaway is that women that have done work on themselves very much see what that relationship was for me and have been very supportive. Of course, you’re not ever going to be able to win over everybody. I have gotten a lot of negative that I need to lighten up and be less serious and not so miserable, and that I have mental health issues. I’m sure it’s quite easy for some people to speak on someone’s life when they’ve only seen 45 minutes. I personally wouldn’t do it. I’ve never gone in someone’s inbox and written something ugly.

I’m a big supporter of other women. I will go out of my way to gas other women up. I think what is beautiful to see is the amount of women that are supportive and saw what I saw. I think that’s a beautiful community. No one should have to accept disrespect in a relationship. 

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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