What Is Raya, and Is It a Dating App That's Only for Celebs?

Here’s the hot goss from app users

What is Raya?: illustrations of dating apps plus David Harbour and Lily Allen
Getty Images: Westend61/Rich Fury /Rudzhan Nagiev

There’s a lot of noise around dating these days—from Gen Z throwing shade on the apps to the throwback IRL ritual people are embracing—and we’re here to explore all of it. (Hello, Zodiac signs and love languages.) And there’s an insider-y dating service called Raya we’ve heard our friends talking about. But what is Raya, and is it the next right step for our love life? We chatted with folks who’ve used the app, and checked out the high-profile people who had used it, to get the inside scoop on all the swipes.

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What Is Raya?

Raya is a member-only dating app for Apple iOS that attracts users including celebrities and successful professionals. It was founded in 2015 in West Hollywood by digital business entrepreneur Daniel Gendelman as an alternative to sites focused exclusively on dating or hooking up, instead of expanding a network of friends and professional contacts as well as romance. The name Raya, in Hebrew, means “wife” or, in its masculine form, “friend.”

What is Raya: David Harbour and Lily Allen on the red carpet
Rich Fury / Getty Images

Is Raya Only for Celebrities?

Soon after the brand’s founding in 2015, it gained a reputation as being a celebrity dating app or, in a nod to the secretive rules to using the app, “Illuminati Tinder.” But users we spoke with said that the ten matches a day they were sent didn’t necessarily include celebrities, although they had heard of many on the site. Amy Schumer wrote about meeting her former boyfriend Ben Hanisch on a site presumed to be Raya, and making a profile with her SNL star friend, Vanessa Bayer. Simone Biles met her now-husband Jonathan Owens on the site. Lily Allen met David Harbour on the site. Nick Kroll met his wife on the site. Andy Cohen tried the app, and on his show in 2020, Drew Barrymore said she’d tried it too. "I did terribly too,” Barrymore said. “I got stood up, and I didn't match with anyone. And my friends gave me this sort of bloated sense of false confidence. They were like, 'You should try it. You will do great.' It was a car wreck." In 2021, Olivia Rodrigo told a GQ reporter, “I had Raya for a second, and it was so vomit. Like, I could not.”

what is raya application screen

How to Get on Raya

First, get a referral link from a friend who is on the app. The app requires a minimum of two referrals from current users to consider an application. Once you have your two or more referral links, submit that along with your name, age, occupation and link your Instagram profile. Raya responds in as little as a week or as long as a year before accepting your membership request. Like in many clubs, there’s no transparency as to who is admitted—one user we know said they were surprised to be accepted after two weeks, with only two referrals submitted, while their gorgeous friend with four referrals waited month for acceptance.

What is Raya: illustration of a guy on the apps
lemono/Getty Images

What Makes Raya Different from Other Dating Apps

In short, although the dating app’s founder has been quoted as saying that you only need to have a cool look or be an interesting person to be accepted to use the app, users report profile after profile of gorgeous-looking users. Additionally, the interface is *very* minimalistic. All you get is a brief (two to three sentences max) bio with a few photos and a song of your choosing to play in the background. "You also display your location and spots/places you like in the area,” says PureWow Assistant Editor and Raya user Sydney Meister. “It’s more ‘judge a swipe by their Instagram’ than a ‘they seem interesting’ mentality. The lack of prompts or unique ways to showcase your personality was frustrating to me—I couldn’t get a sense of who these guys were (outside of their yachts and Rolex Daytonas).”

It’s worth pointing out that while the heterosexual side of Raya features showy displays of wealth, a queer Raya user we spoke to said that the app can be a great alternative to other dating sites. “Unlike on Tinder, where it feels like every other person is ‘looking for a third to join me and my boyfriend,’ (ugh), women I’ve met on Raya are much more interested in making genuine connections,” she says.

what is raya dating apps on phone
wongmbatuloyo/Getty Images

How Much Does Raya Cost

Standard membership is $25/month, $114 for six months and $156 per year. Standard membership means you have access to a limited number of profiles—and a limited number of likes you can send per day—and you can’t see who liked you unless you both match (unlike Hinge, where you can swipe right on a like). A pricier option is Raya+ for $50/month, $230 for six months and $350 per year. Raya+ includes the add-ons of seeing who's already swiped right on you, access to more profiles (and unlimited likes) per day and ‘maps and directory results,’ which means you get more recommendations when viewing members near you or by searching specific terms in the directory.

what is raya app interface
iOS App Store

Is Raya Really Different Than Other Apps?

In general, Raya is:

  • Full of almost exclusively Instagram-pretty people
  • An allotment of only a limited number of matches per day
  • A high percentage of celebrity and influencer users
  • A high concentration of New York and Los Angeles users
  • Discreet, with a policy of banning users if they publicly disclose fellow members

According to Meister, “The general vibe of Raya is wealthy guys who are looking for influencer-esque girls, and if you’re into the club scene, this is probably a fun place to meet someone who you’d probably go for IRL.” (Note: Though flashy wealth is all over the profiles, no one would be so crass as to promote their credit score or state their net worth.) Meister says she’s more of a dive-bar girl than a bottle service-at-the-club girl, so she didn’t find anyone who she particularly wanted to date. “The lack of prompts or unique ways to showcase your personality was frustrating to me. Hinge, on the other hand, is less serious with a broader range of profiles to choose from. This is a double-edged sword because you’re not sure whether your next swipe will be a clown (as in, a guy wearing a literal clown costume) or a Brazilian model on a dirt bike,” she says. “In that sense, I think this is where Raya is better for making more targeted connections (since it’s exclusive in who it accepts). Raya, in theory, is better than Hinge but it ultimately felt too surface-level for me.” Unlike Bumble, Raya allows both men and women to make the first move, as well as drawing from a smaller user base. And in contrast to Tinder, the overall reputation of Raya is less for an exclusively sexual experience and more for possible romance.

dana dickey

Senior Editor

Dana Dickey is a PureWow Senior Editor, and during more than a decade in digital media, she has scoped out and tested top products and services across the lifestyle space...