Love Is Blind: Zanab responds to criticism as she breaks silence on Cuties scene

Love Is Blind star Zanab Jaffrey has responded to criticism she received after the season three reunion special, and broke her silence about the Cuties scene at the end of the episode.

Warning: Spoilers below.

After Netflix aired the Love Is Blind season three reunion episode on 9 November, Jaffrey faced backlash online from viewers who accused the flight attendant of exaggerating Cole Barnett’s treatment towards her. During the reunion special, Jaffrey claimed her ex-fiancé had made disparaging comments about her body, which “shattered” her self-confidence and ultimately resulted in her stopping eating.

The 32-year-old flight attendant then described one moment when she was peeling a clementine – specifically from the brand Cuties – and Barnett asked her: “Are you about to eat two of those?”

Love Is Blind producers included the clip at the end of the reunion episode, but many fans had mixed reactions to the scene. Some viewers supported Jaffrey on social media, while others accused her of exaggerating the story.

On Thursday, Jaffrey took to Instagram to respond to the criticism. She shared an unseen picture of herself with Barnett, and captioned the post with an open letter to her former fiancé. “Cole, I fought for us until I couldn’t anymore. I know you know that. I know you know why I said what I said. I know you know what you did. It’s ok if you aren’t ready to talk about that yet,” she wrote.

Jaffrey then posted a tongue-in-cheek “apology” to her social media critics, writing: “I’m sorry you weren’t in that relationship. I’m sorry you didn’t feel what I felt. I’m sorry we don’t have the same triggers. I’m sorry me standing up for myself, offended you so greatly.”

She continued: “I’m sorry you didn’t see all the reasons for what I said. I’m sorry you didn’t live that with me. I’m sorry that you don’t know me. I’m sorry your insecurities are different than my own. I’m sorry your online hate says so much more of you than it ever will of me.”

Jaffrey also responded to viewers who claimed she was trying to copy Deepti Vempati, who was praised by fans for rejecting Shake Chatterjee at the altar in Love Is Blind season two. “I’m sorry Deepti’s wedding was a week before mine, long before you or I knew her story,” she said.

The Love Is Blind star concluded her message: “I’m sorry you don’t believe me. I’m sorry I know how worthy I am. I’m sorry you have the time to be a keyboard warrior. I’m sorry I’m not a paid actress. I’m sorry I can’t cry on demand. I’m sorry you feel manipulated, gaslit and played. I’m sorry I’m your villain. I’m sorry I’m your bad guy - I promise you I’m not.”

“One thing about me, I choose my words carefully and I stand by everything I said.”

Following the reunion episode, Jaffrey also broke her silence about the Cuties scene controversy that had viewers divided. In an interview with Cosmopolitan UK, she emphasised that she stands by her comments towards Barnett.

“The internet has two sides,” Jaffrey explained. “People feel strongly about it, and that’s the pitfall of going on reality TV and falling in love and not having it work out. [I’ve read] that I’m a liar, and that I’m evil and deceitful and mean and need to work on myself.”

“I stand by what I said,” she added. “I’m someone that chooses their words very carefully. I said what I said for a reason. I think people saw the ‘Cuties clip’ different[ly] than how it made me feel. That’s why I brought it up.”

“People are already saying it makes it seem like I’m a liar. I hate that it looks like I don’t have credibility there. [But] I wouldn’t have brought it up if it wasn’t important [to me] or wasn’t part of why I said what I said at the wedding. People know they shouldn’t make comments on what a woman is eating, period.”

In the season three finale of Love Is Blind, not only did Jaffrey reject Barnett at the altar, but she also called him out for critiquing her and lowering her self-confidence. “The last two months have not been picture perfect,” Jaffrey told Barnett as she made the choice to say no to continuing their relationship, rather than exchange vows. “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. And I hate that you have had that kind of effect on me.”

Later on in the reunion episode, she listed moments from her short-lived relationship with Barnett that weren’t shown on screen. “The pushing food away from me, asking if I’m gonna eat that, trying to get me to order a salad, the daily comments about my face and my body were not used,” she claimed. “And that’s great, because it really did protect you.”

After calling off her wedding to Barnett, Jaffrey revealed that she’s sought therapy since filming for season three wrapped last year. “When I left my wedding and wasn’t married, I definitely needed to process that, so I went out to my mom’s for a few days and took some time because I was sad,” she told Entertainment Weekly on Wednesday.

“After the wedding a year and a half ago, I went to therapy because I was like: ‘Help me. This is what’s happened. When I’m watching it and the world feels like they can comment on it, I want to be able to be in a good headspace for it.’ So honestly, just space, avoiding men at all costs, and just taking time to level myself for this release,” she continued.

Jaffrey added that she’s been to therapy “several times” in her life and wanted to separate her current self from the emotions she felt at the time, saying: “I knew how emotional I was during the experience and the experiment, and I wanted to be able to watch myself, and see myself upset, and be able to detach from that, and know that I’m not there anymore.”

Barnett has remained somewhat quiet since the final episodes of Love Is Blind season three aired, apart from one interview, in which he revealed he was “blindsided” by Jaffrey’s rejection. “I wanted to marry her so badly,” Barnett told USAToday earlier this week.

“If she would have said ‘yes,’ I really have a feeling I would have said ‘yes’ too, because we had gotten to the best place in our relationship,” he said. “But looking back now, it’s hard for me to say, seeing where she was at and how she was feeling. I was blindsided by the ‘no’ and the extent of the ‘no.’”

This season, five couples left the pods engaged: Alexa Alfia and Brennon Lemieux, Nancy Rodriguez and Bartise Bowden, Raven Ross and SK Alagbada, Jaffrey and Barnett, and Matt Bolton and Colleen Reed. By the season finale, only two couples tied the knot while the remaining couples called it quits at the altar.

All episodes of Love Is Blind season three are now streaming on Netflix.

Read more to find out which couples were married in the season three finale.

For anyone struggling with the issues raised in this piece, eating disorder charity Beat’s helpline is available 365 days a year on 0808 801 0677. NCFED offers information, resources and counselling for those suffering from eating disorders, as well as their support networks. Visit eating-disorders.org.ukor call 0845 838 2040.