Lisa Donovan finds the old-school approach to zodiac—short blurbs in the backs of magazines summing up what’s to come in a pithy couple of sentences—to be, well, “bullshit.” “‘Being a Pisces means this summer is going to be great for you!’ That was the old way, a way to sell newspapers,” Donovan, the founder of social astrology app The Pattern, says over Zoom from her home in London. “We just can’t do it like that anymore.”
In 2014, having just sold her first company Maker Studios to Disney, Donovan—who was, at the time, a burgeoning YouTube star—had her chart read by an astrologer who “kind of blew my mind.” “I was not somebody who came from an astrology background or was into that kind of a thing,” she says. “But he gave me a whole psychological breakdown of who I was, and suddenly astrology became this incredible tool for me, at a really challenging time in my life.” She then founded The Pattern, known for its frighteningly accurate assessments of users’ personalities based on their birth chart: where and when exactly they were born, and how the planetary alignment at that moment created a blueprint for their lives. Since its launch four years ago, its user base has swelled to the multimillions.
The Pattern’s immense success has led Donovan to pivot to creating a dating feature within The Pattern called Connect, which taps the same astrologically based personality information to measure people’s romantic compatibility. Users run what are called “bonds” through the app, which slot potential partners into six categories: soulmate, extraordinary, powerful, meaningful, complex, delicate, or challenging. In many ways, it’s a brilliant approach to dating—many folks use zodiac to predict their love lives, anyway—and a helpful tool for those looking for a significantly more personalized dating app experience than answering prompts and swiping.
“I wanted these apps to be a mirror for people, to create something that was much deeper than most of the other things out there,” Donovan adds. “I wanted to mimic my experience with a birth chart reading that was very cathartic and deep.” Below, Donovan—who has spent the past seven years studying astrology—discusses summer romances, how to set intentions during a rare eclipse, and why this moment is perfect to embrace opening your heart.
What made you want to start Connect?
This is the stuff that we’ve been hit up about since day one; our audience has been asking for it for a really long time. They feel connected to The Pattern as a safe space, and they’ve been saying, “Could this be something where I could meet people? Can there be a dating feature?” So we spent the last couple of years creating these algorithms, trying to use our methodology to bring people together in a deeper way. As a result, the way we’re doing online dating is very different than it exists currently, because it’s rooted in The Pattern. It allows people to feel seen and understood and connect in deeper ways.
Can you explain how, specifically, it’s different than other dating apps?
When you go on Connect, you’re sliding through, looking at people that you’re attracted to—but before you connect, you have to run the bond to see your compatibility. So there’s context around your relationships: you’re seeing if you’re soulmates or if the match is meaningful or it’s challenging. Right out of the gate, you can communicate about if you’ve had a past life, or a karmic link. It’s not just about the avatar and just how you look, but who you really are.
So the main thing is that it’s more personalized?
That was the idea. And it’s especially interesting because of the timing—the entire world has gone through this intense transformation together. Everybody is deeper as a consequence of all we had to face this past year. It feels like we’re a companion for where people are in the world now. We’re just different now, and people are hungry for depth and something a little more. Things can’t be as superficial, because people got really real. Before the pandemic, you could be in a couple and never see each other, avoid each other, avoid all of it, and still go on dating. After the pandemic, you were forced to be together. They’re more in touch with what’s important to them, what’s a dealbreaker, and more “this is me.”
What would you say to people who are skeptical about astrology in general?
I would say that I was somebody who thought astrological predictions telling me how my life would be didn’t make any sense? But over the years, I’ve understood how detailed it is: it’s thousands of years old, based on very specific things, and it’s hyper-personalized. I don’t believe in the predictive stuff: Oh, I’m born in March, so this is what’s going to happen to me, and everyone else born in March is just like me. That isn’t real, essentially. I want to shift that perception, because there’s so much wisdom here. Astrology just gives you a little information to help you out along the way.
Many people are coming into this summer newly single after pandemic-related breakups and divorces—so much so that some have already dubbed it a “Hot Girl Summer.” What can people expect from the next month or so, romantically speaking?
A couple of things are happening for everybody globally in terms of relationships. For almost three months starting on May 13th, Jupiter entered Pisces. Pisces is about opening your heart, healing, and sensitivity. That gave us a taste of hopefully what’s going to come, because next year, it will be fully in Pisces. So right now feels like a healing moment to forgive and open your heart. On July 13th, 14th, and 15th, Mars and Venus are conjunct in the sky. This is a very special time, and a general occurrence, the way Mercury in retrograde happens; we’re all going to deal with it. It’s a very special, rare conjunction: whatever’s going on for anybody in their relationship life, it’s going to be on full display at that time, meaning if you’re somebody who’s ready to find a relationship or you’re in one, this could be a really beautiful time when you’ll be really connected and go to the next level. If you are somebody who’s needing to do some more work, that might be when it really expands. You’re going to see things differently. Or maybe you’re someone who shut yourself off from relationships last year: in July around at that time, you might be so hungry for it. For some people it’s going to be about finding that self-love—it’s not even about a relationship with another person. It’s about the relationship with you so that you can meet the other. You might need to do that work—and that will come up for you in the middle of July. I guess that’s not necessarily a breakdown about how it’s going to be a “Hot Girl Summer.”
Do you see the pandemic influencing these planetary alignments at all?
Absolutely. Twenty-twenty was something we were talking about since I started learning about astrology seven years ago. We were all wondering, what’s going to happen in 2020? Because there was a Saturn, Pluto, Jupiter conjunction in Capricorn. Again, I don't believe in predictive astrology, but we knew we were going to be fated to deal with something major that would break down existing systems, since Capricorn is the authority. Pluto came in and destroyed it. So we knew something was going to fall apart. It’s not surprising that something really overwhelming happened—Pluto’s about being overwhelmed.
Today, there will be a rare “Ring of Fire” eclipse. How do you see this event affecting the season?
This North node solar eclipse is a big one. They come in pairs, by the way—the first eclipse was the lunar one on May 25th. And that was very much specific to letting go of something from the past. It was a time to let go. Then, we were in a two-week portal, where we’ve been in this sort of time outside of time, where something is meant to transform and change. With the eclipse, it’s about pushing forward, it’s about your future. You’ve let go of something during this time. If you can, set your intention during the eclipse. This is going to impact the next year and the next couple of years, potentially. What do you want from your life? What is your intention in your life? This is a really rich time of transformation.
What would you say is an overall theme for all people, regardless of their sign, this summer?
It will be a time of healing, growth, and opening up. We do have the solstice, the start of summer, happening on June 21st. It’s the longest day of the year, and there’s a very special Mercury occurrence happening then. It’s actually probably going to be a pretty crazy few days—a bit chaotic and wild, unpredictable. But solstice is also about setting intention: what do you want the rest of this year to look like?
At the way end of the summer, around August 23rd, Mars enters what’s called the underworld, when it’s hidden behind the sun. Usually, that’s an intense time of transformation and impacts relationships. But this time, it’s a certain kind of underworld experience—the hero’s journey. Something has to die, and with it, the hero gets close to death, but then it rises back from the ashes. Again, to me, the themes are so much about healing and resurrection. Even this Mars underworld journey is about redemption. It’s about coming back and finding your strength.
Next week, we are in Saturn and Uranus. Uranus brings about a feeling of restlessness: I need to move, I need to change, I’m ready to go. Something has to change. Now Saturn is coming in and you can feel blocked, with boundaries and frustration, and like you’re still a little bit strapped in—but change has to happen. This is a time of radical change, even though things feel uncomfortable and weird. Again, it’s about cleaning out the old, getting rid of the things that aren’t working. We’re in that process all year long, but a peek of what’s to come this year and the next is happening next week.
What is your advice for people, going into summer 2021?
We’ve all gone through this really intense thing together, and we’re changed. How do we enter this phase as deeper, more conscious, more real people? And can we set intentions? Can we be kinder? Can we relate in more authentic ways? Can we do the personal work that needs to be done? There’s a healing and an opening coming, a chance to forgive, move on, and redeem. Go into the summer more real—let’s relate and connect with each other with more compassion and more authenticity.