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‘Love is Blind’ Mark Cuevas on His Relationship With Jessica Batten
On February 13th, as a pre-Valentine’s Day treat to the world, Netflix dropped the first five episodes of its new dating show Love is Blind. What ensued was a lot of hot people making some pretty insane decisions. The show started out by placing 30 Atlanta singles in pods to date ‘blindly’, get engaged without ever seeing each other, and then once engaged, meet in person and take a vacation to Mexico. On Thursday, Netflix drops the next four episodes, in which the still-standing couples will return home to Atlanta, move in together, and meet each other’s families in the days leading up to their weddings.
Of all the singles on Love is Blind, we feel for sweet, 24-year-old personal trainer Mark Cuevas the most as he navigates the murky pod-dating waters. Not only is he the baby of the cast, but he also stays earnest, kind, and thoroughly devoted throughout the process, despite a rather, shall we say, challenging partner to wrangle into loving him. Mark and I hopped on the phone to talk about his time on the show before the premiere five episodes of the show dropped last week—before he’d seen any of the footage from his time filming more than a year earlier, in October of 2018.
Esquire: Hi Mark! How are you?
Mark Cuevas: Well, right now trying to survive this monsoon. Georgia weather is so crazy. It was snowing on Saturday, it was sunny yesterday, and now it’s pouring down rain. You never know what you’re going to get. Every day is like a jack-in-the-box.
I love the show and admired how real and honest you were the whole time.
Thank you, that means a lot. What I’ve told even the people at Netflix is that this whole experience made me who I am right now in this moment and I couldn’t be more thankful for the whole entire thing, everything, all of it. I would never take any of it back. It really means a lot that you even take the time to acknowledge that, it really means a lot.
Are you planning on watching the show?
Yes. But I’m not going to watch it with a big group, I’m just going to watch it with close friends and family. I’m going to have a couple people over at my apartment, like only close-knit people. I know some of the folks are—I could see them planning on doing this big event or whatever, like, “Let’s go watch it on a big screen.” I’m like no, I’m keeping it super low-key. It’s hyper-personal. Some tears were shed. So I’d rather watch it with family.
Did you know what you were getting yourself into? What did you know about the experiment?
They were very upfront that there was the possibility of marriage. Like you could get married at the end of this. And I’ve always been kind of like a hopeless romantic and have always wanted that. I’ve seen love, I love it. So hey, if this is an opportunity where I find the person I’m supposed to be with, then like, heck, why not? And I took the chance and like I said, it was totally worth it.
Mark lays eyes on his fiancé Jessica for the first time.
What was it like starting off in the pods? How did the rotation work in the beginning?
It was kind of like speed dating at first. So you go in there, right? And there’s 15 guys, 15 girls on the other side and the first day you’re going to talk to every girl so you’re in there and you only have a few minutes, I think it was seven minutes. They give you these questions that essentially allow you to connect with people, they’re open-ended questions so that way when they answer them, you can see quickly. And so you’re in it, you have to know what to ask right off the bat, like out of all these questions which ones are more important to me, because I only have a certain amount of time to really find a quick connection the first day. And as every day passed, you got more time and you got to decide who you had more of a connection with. It was pretty intense at first, and as the days went on it got more intense, but it was more like you knew A) what you wanted but B) what you wanted to ask, too.
What happened to the singles who didn’t pair up? Did you have any really bad dates yourself or did anyone’s proposals get rejected?
You know what’s crazy, I think I got the lucky end of the stick. I didn’t necessarily get any bad dates, where I was like oh my god, this is traumatizing. Everybody I think was a match for someone else, and whoever wasn’t a match for me, wasn’t. It wasn’t that I didn’t like one person or this, I just had the most connection with one person.
Do you think that you would have ever ended up dating or proposing to Jessica in an alternate reality, had not been on this show together?
You know, that’s the whole crazy part of this show and this experience is, is that I think that we…it’s two different worlds. She was 34 at the time and I was 24 and she’s career-oriented, like corporate, and I was building myself and being a trainer and diving deep into that industry. I think our paths, they were nowhere near each other but I think they were brought together because of this. At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have crossed paths, but it’s crazy that we did because there was that initial spark.
The couple struggles with their physical relationship in paradise. But they’re definitely both trying!
Was it scary committing yourself to someone like that without ever seeing them?
I mean, yeah, it’s scary for me to order food sometimes, so you can imagine the fear if I’m about to propose to you and I’ve never even seen you. The one thing about me, I’ve always trusted my gut and that’s just who I am. I go with it. Sometimes it works, sometimes you get burned a little bit and it hurts but you always learn. I trusted my gut with it and with this whole ride and even committing myself to someone, I was like “I gotta do it,” and not have to—I want to do this. There was no one that forced me to do it, I trusted my gut and I went for it.
I feel like proposals are often made a really big ordeal these days. How did it feel to propose through a wall? Did she know that you were going to?
My whole thing was, I didn’t even know what I was getting myself into but I told my family, “Yeah, I’ll be back in ten days, this is what they said. I only asked for enough time off work to do these ten days.” And as the experience went on, I realized how serious and how important it is to get to that. Like to dive deep and get to know somebody, but also to follow that connection, and that’s what I did, I went for it. And I know how serious that proposal is and even though it was behind a wall at first, and I can only imagine what it looks like—a little embarrassing. Like, “Wow, you can’t even see her, like what the hell are you doing?” But at the end of the day, I followed that connection, and it led me to do that and it just felt natural. It didn’t feel forced, it didn’t feel like I had to do it. I knew the gravity of the situation and I still committed to it.
How long were you without your phone in total? Did you have no connection to the outside world?
Three weeks. Honestly, it was really nice. I wish I could do that again. I need a phone timeout.
“It’s scary for me to order food sometimes, so you can imagine the fear if I’m about to propose to you and I’ve never even seen you.”
Do you think that the cameras had an effect on your or anyone else’s behavior?
I’ll speak for myself. For me, I honestly forgot that they were there, to be very frank. The first day when I walked in, I stared at every single one because I’d never been in front of that many cameras. I was like, whoa. I looked like a kid walking into LegoLand, I was just staring at every single camera, like “Oh my god, what is this place, like what?” But after like five minutes, I forgot they were there. I never once was, like, camera-induced. I was always feeling the moment because I was in it. For me, it was all real, and I knew that camera stuff didn’t matter at the end of the day, like that was me.
Mark arranges a romantic evening for him and Jess with a wall in between them so she doesn’t have to look at him 🙁
I was going to ask you about the situation with Jessica and Barnett. Do you think that her relationship with Barnett impacted your relationship with her at all?
Uh, in what sense? Cause, again, I haven’t seen what they put on there, so I don’t even know the half of it. I know that he told her that he loved her or something like that, I remember that. I didn’t see anything of it, so, you know, whatever it was with her and that whole ordeal, it is what it is, everything happens for a reason and I always believe that. I’m super thankful for her, and I’m just thankful that it worked out the way it did.
Were you guys living together right up until the wedding day?
No, so, she had been staying in her house—she lived down the street—and we met up and we stayed at the apartment together every once in a while. But I stayed there. I stayed there the whole time, cause that was just what I was doing. But she had her house and, you know, with work and traveling…it was like this triangle of either traveling, being at her place, or being at the apartment, so she was all over the place.
The show makes it seem like you had to be living in those apartments together, so I didn’t realize.
Yes, we had to. And I’m just being frank, I’m being honest, they were designed for us to, and everybody else was there. Everyone else lived there. That was the whole point of living together to figure our shit out, you know what I mean? That was the whole point of it, and that wasn’t the case a couple times for us.
“I didn’t take anything lightly. I was transparent, I was honest and I was just like, hey, this is who I am.”
Going into the wedding day, how were you feeling and did you have any expectations either way?
Um, god, you’re bringing me back. It’s so crazy to relive it in a way. Obviously I’m about to in a couple days but, it was weird because I was happy, but I was uncertain. I didn’t know what was gonna happen but I knew that connection, I knew what I wanted, and I took it all very seriously. I didn’t take anything lightly. I was transparent, I was honest and I was just like, hey, this is who I am. I was ready for what was to come whether that was yes or no, you know what I mean?
I want to know what your family thought about the whole experience, because I can imagine that the wedding day was pretty intense for them.
Yeah, yeah, it was. My parents, the cool thing about them is that they’ve always trusted me, and they’ve always shown me a lot of love, and they’ve always been there for me no matter what. So I’m like, “Hey, trust me when I go do this.” And they’re always like, “Okay sure, why not?” And that’s what I love so much about them—that they always instilled that in me. And so for them, they just kind of go with the flow, kind of like how I was. They weren’t against the process, because they see you happy and genuinely into somebody, and they don’t care how, they’re just like, “We know what that feels like.” And they want the best for me. If they see any kind of question marks, then they’re gonna be a little hesitant. They were always very supportive, but I could see that they were a little hesitant about it a couple times.
Are you friends with any of the other cast members still?
Oh yeah. Me and the guys, it’s like a fraternity almost. You go through something like this together, and they’re just like your brothers. A lot of them I still talk to and am very close with and you know, they’re like my other family. I’m very thankful, not just for my own self growth in this whole thing, but it also gave me a whole set of brothers and sisters, too.
So does that mean that you know right now which couples ended up together and which didn’t?
Pretty much, I guess, yeah. I haven’t seen the show, but yeah, I keep in contact with some folks.
Did it surprise you at all which couples ended up getting married?
No, actually. Believe it or not. Yeah, I think everybody ended up with—the situation happened the way it was supposed to happen. I really, genuinely think that.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire and Masters student at New York University.