When Deepti Vempati stood before her fiancé Abhishek “Shake” Chatterjee on season 2 of Love is Blind, viewers anxiously awaited her answer. Would she choose to marry Chatterjee, who had spent the season making disparaging comments about her body when she wasn’t present and loudly stating his preference for blonde white women? Or would this strong, compassionate Indian-American woman choose another path?
Vempati, dressed in a gorgeous Falguni Shane Peacock lengha, took a breath before stating her decision. “I choose myself,” she said simply, and walked away.
Nearly two years later, Vempati has become an inspiration to countless women across the globe who found courage in that moment of strength. With her recently released memoir, I Choose Myself, Vempati gives readers insight into her life leading up to her appearance on Love Is Blind. The book dives deeper into her childhood, including her struggles with an eating disorder and the white-washing nature of her hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, where her family moved from Hyderabad, the capital of India’s Telangana state, when she was seven.
A Telugu and Hindi speaker, Vempati says her memoir is also a tribute to her heritage. “I absolutely love the richness of my culture,” she tells Sweet July. “The traditions and beliefs are so deep.”
“Everyone thought this book was going to be a tell-all for Love is Blind, Vempati adds, “but I wanted to focus on my upbringing and what led me to that moment. I wanted to share the negative things, the mistakes I’ve made and how I’ve grown from them.”
Vempati chats with Sweet July about her journey to self-love, how Hinduism inspires her life philosophy, and what she’s learned from the Love is Blind experience.
What’s one part of Hinduism that guides your life philosophy?
Lord Ganesh is the elephant head God. I have a tattoo of him. He represents elegance, education, intelligence, new beginnings, learning and growing.
Every year we do the Ganesh Puja, and you have to listen to this story and you can’t look at the moon until the story is finished. The story goes that the god Shiva and his wife, the goddess Parvati, were separated when Shiva went off to war. Parvati molded this little boy from the earth to protect her while Shiva was gone, and the little boy was told to not let anyone through the gates. When Shiva comes back and he’s trying to get into his own home, but this little protector she created says “No, you can’t come in, I’m protecting it.” So Shiva cut the little boy’s head off and Parvati bawled her eyes out, saying, “Why would you do that?” So Shiva went down and cut off an elephant’s head and put it on the boy, who came back to life and became Lord Ganesh.
That story means so much to me. Its message is someone willing to do anything for love—you’ll protect those you love, even if it means death. It teaches you loyalty. It also teaches you that mistakes can happen, and sometimes those mistakes can turn into something more beautiful.
We’re seeing a lot more Desi representation in the media, particularly on Netflix. Obviously, we’re nowhere near where it needs to be, but how does it feel to be part of this moment?
I absolutely love it. I think I didn’t even realize the impact or the responsibility that I would have. But seeing somebody who looks like you on screen is huge. When I was growing up, we didn’t see people who looked like us—our size and our color—on screen. So you see your culture showcased and people get insight and understanding into what things look like—marriage, food, attire. It’s so special because it’s something that I was running from my whole life because I wanted to fit in, not realizing that I was always born to be different.
You applied for the show during the pandemic and it was filmed right after the vaccine became available. What impact do you think the COVID-19 had on Season 2?
I think the pandemic does make a difference, because it makes you look inward and sometimes also act out of loneliness. You’re longing to have that intimacy. Maybe people were longing for it so much that they jumped without knowing, “Is this gonna work?” But again, I can’t speak for other people. Had I gone through the exact same experience a year before the pandemic, I feel like it would’ve broken me more.
Many women of color who saw the way Shake treated you on the show identified with that kind of mistreatment. How did that feel to have so many people connect with that part of your experience?
It’s so wild to me that people even connected with me. I had no idea that those words would come out of me when I went to the altar. I just said some words and then went along with life and tried to pick up all the little pieces of me that were broken from that whole experience. So when the show aired and people connected with that, it made me feel so good. It just proved that I did the right thing by even doing the show and also being myself. I had to go through this lesson in such a public way because it inspired other people to look inward at their relationships and say, “This is not okay, we need to normalize talking about it.”
How do you stay grounded given the public nature of the show?
Oh my gosh, the public pressure is so hard. I do get so much love and support from people, but there is a dark side to it. People have a lot of opinions about you, your relationships and your friendships—and it adds a layer of pressure. It’s been really hard for me because my ex-fiancé [Chatterjee] is very public about the way he talks about me, and sometimes it’s negative and vindictive.
But I have to take a step back and realize that maybe he’s doing all those things because it comes from a place of hurt or resentment and not because he’s a horrible person. And so, it takes a lot for me to practice patience and not retaliate.
I think that’s the hardest part—stay humble and authentic. Don’t let other people’s opinion change you or the way you look at yourself. If you’re just yourself, the right people will gravitate towards you. And the people who don’t understand you or get you, they’ll just drop off. And that’s okay. Your energies are not meant to mesh.
Do you think you’ve found those right people in your friends?
My friends—and my family—are the biggest blessing I’ve ever had. We all went into this experience thinking we would find true love, but what we found was an unexpected amount of friendships that are gonna last a lifetime. Some of the girls that I’ve met on the show will be in my wedding. I think that’s what makes this entire experience so worth it.
Going forward, what type of journey do you aspire to be on?
Me and the girls were just in a group chat talking about, like, “How do we date now?” It’s going to be interesting because I think it’s going to be a little harder, being in the public eye. It’s one thing to have your friends and family’s opinions. Now, Instagram and TikTok also have opinions.
But I’m just so excited about the unexpected right now. I have no idea where my life is going to be in a year. For once in my life, I think that’s such a beautiful thing. Because I’ve always had a plan. I’ve always needed to know where my income was coming from, where I’m gonna go, who I’m gonna be with. Now, I’m just going to let go and just go with the flow and follow my intuition.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.