Mia Lux was newly divorced after a four-year marriage when she found herself dating again in mid-pandemic New York. A former lawyer, comedian, and wellness-events host, Lux tried “all the apps,” she tells me via Zoom. She lasted only three months. “The swipe fatigue and the confrontational nature of those systems poisoned my heart.”
Lux was struck by the limited information—a picture and some words, as she put it—through which people were supposed to connect. “Everyone gets reduced to making a decision about love based on symmetry,” she says of the sea of profile pics. “Every time you match with somebody, there’s a combination of excitement but also fear because you’re in these weirdly anonymous, antisocial contexts.”
One of the most pressing and painful problems, as Lux saw it, was ghosting. “People are conflict averse. They don’t want to write that hard message,” she observes. Even when she attempted to tell people she wasn’t interested in more, sometimes “someone lost their shit at me, and it was scary,” Lux said. “There were no community parameters or accountability around treating each other well.”
And so, with her life coach (Lauren Zander, who guided her through her divorce), Lux is disrupting the wilds of online dating with a nontoxic site of her own: the newly launched La Vette Social Club. Aimed explicitly at “intentional daters looking for real connection” and prioritizing honesty and authenticity (rare virtues in the hookup-app game), the name is a play on the club’s vetting system: Applicants must pass a certified third-party background check. “If you want to create a more socialized dating experience, you have to have a base level of trust with the people you’re connecting with,” says Lux, La Vette’s CEO.
Instead of static, possibly deceptive profile pictures, La Vette relies on 100% video profiles, which are harder to manipulate, Lux says, and a better measure of a person’s overall vibe. “You actually get to feel the person’s energy—how they speak, how they move.”
As a veteran life coach, “I know that human connection is like T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land,” Zander says. “Everyone’s lying. They’re using the wrong pictures. They’re not putting their honest age. They’re full of shit.” But “there is no way to get into La Vette without telling the truth about who you are and what you’re looking for,” she adds. Having worked with Match.com in the past, she touts La Vette Social Club as an antidote to the dating masquerade. “I do a lot of work on love and relationships,” Zander says, before clarifying: “A lot of repair work.”
La Vette’s boldest innovation, however, may be its emphatic no-ghosting policy. “Clarity is kindness. Knowing where you stand and telling the person is really important to respecting each other’s time,” Lux says. La Vette takes the onus off of daters to tell each other where they stand; instead, the platform automates the process with buttons. At the end of a date, three options pop up onscreen: “I’m interested in more,” “Just friends,” or “Close connection.” Depending on what each user clicks, La Vette sends a message, either to say that both people want a second date, one wants to be friends (which a user can opt in or out of), or it wasn’t a match. If someone doesn’t weigh in after a date, “you get three chances,” Lux says. “And then, if you keep ghosting, you’re out.” As a cute probational tactic, La Vette affixes a ghost emoji to members who failed to participate in the post-date process.
For those seeking another kind of connection, La Vette also has virtual rooms for networking and working out. (In the Body Shop, members can engage in a five-minute pre-date meditation session.) On their profiles, members are asked about what they love, and what sucks about, four areas of their lives: love, career, lifestyle, and family. “It gives so much more depth to who the person is because they’re not only sharing the good stuff but also stuff that they’re struggling with, which allows for a kind of vulnerability and connectedness,” Lux says. “On most of the dating apps, we’re encouraged to show a highlight reel.”
With $2 million in seed funding from investors including Questlove and Hugh Jackman, La Vette is attempting to create a more careful, self-aware space for dating and socializing—the kind Lux wishes she had when she first started dating post-divorce. Dating-app culture has “trained people to behave badly because even if you try, at first, to be honest, you end up feeling disadvantaged because everybody else is behaving in a different way,” she says. “We’re retraining people to tell the truth. We’re retraining people to treat each other well.”