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What really happened during Cole and Zanab’s ‘Cuties’ story on ‘Love Is Blind’?

How a conversation about citrus became the season's buzziest moment.

The cast of “Love Is Blind” Season Three unpacked the good, the bad and the laughable moments of the show at their reunion. But for one couple (or should we say former couple) the truth came out … and so did the Cuties. 

Zanab Jaffrey and Cole Barnett’s relationship this season was anything but smooth sailing. The couple broke up at the altar, with Jaffrey delivering an explosive speech about how Barnett had damaged her self esteem. 

At one point on the show, Barnett told Jaffrey she was a “nine out of 10” in terms of attractiveness, while co-stars Raven Ross and Colleen Reed were “10s.” He also told Reed she was more “his type.”

During the reunion, Jaffrey brought up interactions that didn't make the cut, and which she said contributed to her wedding diatribe. Co-star Alexa Alfia referred to the “so many things that happened off camera.” Raven Ross brought up “the tangerine thing” (more on that later) and “body shaming.”  

Jaffrey alleged that Barnett’s comments about her eating made her control her diet, and that sometimes she would subsist on a “banana and a teaspoon of peanut butter” during filming. She said that Barnett pushed food away from her, asked if she was going to eat “that,” and tried to get her to order salads.

Barnett denied that he ever made these comments. Jaffrey responded, “The daily comments about my face and body were not used. And that’s great because it really did protect you and you are now denying it and now calling me a liar in front of all these people.”

Enter: The “Cuties” discussion, wherein a conversation about tangerines ends up having major consequences. Like the show “The Affair,” each remembers the conversation differently — and the clip of the interaction, shown at the end of the episode, had the internet divided.

How Jaffrey described the ‘Cuties’ story at the reunion

Jaffrey recounted their citrus-centric interaction, which Ross had referenced earlier on. 

“People had known things that had happened,” she told hosts Nick and Vanessa Lachey. “Like trying to control what I ate and me trying to change my eating habits. People … a couple of my friends knew.”

Barnett replied, “That’s hilarious. I never once cared what you ate. What are you talking about?”

Jaffrey said, “The ‘Cuties story’ that didn’t make the cut. It was like 2 p.m., we were still filming, so I grabbed two Cuties, like the little tiny oranges that fit in the palm of your hand. He looked at me and he goes, ‘Are you going to eat both of those?’ And I said, ‘Yeah that’s a serving.’

“And he goes, ‘Well, we’re going out to eat later, maybe you should save your appetite.’”

Barnett said, “Oh my God, I cannot believe you would say that, Zay.” 

Jaffrey replied, “This is all working out so wonderfully in your favor because they did not use it … I’m not crazy. I’m not a pathological liar.”

What the ‘Cuties’ clip played at the end of the episode showed 

Barnett, during the reunion, addressed the camera and said, “If you have (the clip), please air it." And it did.

In the lead-up to the conversation, Barnett was talking about visiting Jaffrey’s parents’ family in England for a second wedding. Then, Jaffrey peels oranges in the kitchen. Here's what happened.

Barnett: “Peeling oranges. Are you about to eat two of those?”

Jaffrey: “Maybe. That’s a serving. You okay with that?”

Barnett: “You better save your appetito.”

Jaffrey: “I’ve only had a banana and a scoop of peanut butter today.”

Barnett: “I’m talking a big old sucker tonight. You only had a banana today? Why?”

Jaffrey: “I could tell you, but probably shouldn’t.”

Barnett: “I offered you a poke bowl.”

Jaffrey: “I know you did but we had that last night.”

Barnett: “Oh, are you getting wedding dress bod?”

Jaffrey: “Something like that. Yeah.”

The "Cuties" Interaction

The internet weighed in on the moment

The internet was divided, with some saying Jaffrey blew things out of proportion and others saying the interaction was evidence of Barnett's insidious comments taking hold.

One user wrote she was "gutted for Zanab being body shamed and having her self esteem crushed by a man who denies everything."

Another wrote, "I don’t think Zanab lied. I think she’s so traumatized by the way Cole destroyed her self esteem and said the thing’s he did that she’s triggered by anything he says and turns it into something Cole may not even have meant by the cuties and wedding dress but to her he did."

Much of the discussion was about defending Barnett. One Twitter user said they think Jaffrey misinterpreted Barnett's comments, calling her the "real villain" of the show.

"Plot twist: zanab is the real villain in #loveisblind season 3,"the user wrote. "Seeing the cuties clip, cole did nothing wrong. zanab, out of her insecurity, made it a bigger issue than it was and blamed cole entirely. he did not deserve that humiliation at the reunion."

Another user said “both were wrong,” continuing, "Zanab attacked Cole's self esteem everyday nit picking who is as a person. Cole lashed out and said things he really shouldn’t have. Cole needs work on a filter. Zanab needs to work on self esteem.”

After the reunion, Jaffrey addressed the internet blowback

On Nov. 10, the day after the reunion aired, Jaffrey posted a photo on her Instagram with an apology to Barnett and a message to the internet, saying that people "didn't see all the all the reasons for what (she) said" about Barnett.

"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," she said.

Jaffrey also addressed online criticism head-on: "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."

She ended the message by saying she stood by her statements at the reunion. "One thing about me, I choose my words carefully and I stand by everything I said," she wrote.