That One Time When I Was Almost a Contestant on the Bachelorette
By: Rosie Valentine |
To a certain extent, everyone wants his or her 15-minutes of fame. We see this today, reality TV stars born overnight, and constant media attention on each season’s crop of ‘real life’ stars.
If you’re a fan of this television genre is irrelevant. It’s likely that at one point in your life you’ve envisioned yourself as a contestant or participant on one of these shows, whether it’s another instalment of MTV’s The Real World or one of the various cooking shows that are on both network and cable channels. Most of us talk a lot of shit about how awesome we’d be on said show, yet never go the extra mile to actually back it up. But not me. It’s not in my DNA to talk big game without following through.
My show was The Bachelor. Every so often I’d get hooked on a season and tell people I’d dominate. Can I handle 25 girls at once? Damn right I can. I’ve already conquered the world of online dating and studied communication during the courtship process in grad school. I was built for this show — it’s the Super Bowl-like stage my ego needed.
January 2012, I had my buddy interview me for my audition tape. I heard nothing for months and eventually, the thought of being on the show faded from my mind. Until 10-months later.
It was October and I was living on Martha’s Vineyard doing what any recent graduate with a master’s degree wants to do — drive a taxi. It was supposed to be just a summer job, but I have an island addiction, which makes it incredibly hard to leave each time I’m there.
Anyway, I was dropping a local off at the bar and got a call from an unknown number and let it hit voicemail, while I deal with the fact that the guy only has half the fair cost and that he’ll pay me later (a regular occurrence). As I drive away shaking my head I listen to the message: “Hey Kevin, it’s Lacey from The Bachelor. We have your audition tape and was looking to see if you wanted to meet for an interview in NYC in the next few weeks. Call us back when you get a chance.”
I almost swerved off the road, my heart was racing at 100 miles an hour. I needed to pull over and listen again. What!? How did this happen? I made that tape almost a year ago. And the opening to my audition tape — they actually liked that? I mean, of course they did. Who wouldn’t like a video from a guy that starts with the chorus to Straight Up playing in the background as a baby picture of himself sits in the distance?
After I calmed down, I called back and said I was interested. They said they’d get back to me soon, and “soon” ended up being more a month of silence. I assumed they’d changed their mind about me. Out of the blue, they called on a Tuesday asking if I could get to NYC for an interview that Friday. It was short notice, but I needed to at least meet these people and see the process for myself.
When I get to the lobby, I text to say I’ve arrived. I meet this token dude, who has me fill out paperwork while I sit on a couch. As I wait for my turn, I notice a few model-like guys leaving the elevator every few minutes and assume these are other potential contestants. Most of them are either decked out to the nines or wearing those nut-hugging hipster jeans. Meanwhile, here I am rocking Timberland boots (horrible for walking in NYC) baggy jeans, and a sweater I borrowed from a friend I was staying with because the one I brought wasn’t up to par. Eh, well, fuck these people. None of them are living on a summer island in the winter. I haven’t worn anything other than track pants in public for months, they’re lucky I even took a shower for this.
After over-analyzing every guy that walked by me, I was up. I’m greeted by a handful of people and I have a seat in front of the camera. The interview is essentially an open forum to see how I articulate myself. They occasionally ask follow up questions and are really interested in hearing about my current job as a taxi driver and my newest part-time job as an online dating consultant. I mean, my general story on its own is unique. I remember thinking that there’s no way in hell they’re going to pick me. It doesn’t matter how entertaining I am — who wants to date a guy with this odd career set up?
The interview lasts about 30-minutes. Before I go, they hand me a thick manila envelope. Now, I didn’t see any of the guys walking by me in the lobby with one of these, so something is up. They hypothetically explain the next steps should I make it to the next round, and what to do with the contents of the envelope. Basically, the next step would include an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles, only given to the top 50 guys for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette. I felt as if I was on autopilot, trying to absorb all this information while envisioning what the process would be like.
Just before I left the room, one of the producers looks at me and asks, “Was your hair longer in your original audition tape?” “Yes,” I reply. “Grow it back out,” she says, smiling.
Wait, what? What the hell is happening? This started as kind of a joke and now it’s getting real.
Once I got back to the Vineyard I had a chance to sit down and really dissect my packet. It was filled with questionnaires and directions on how to take more pictures. Again, I’ve made it this far, I might as well follow the procedure and see what happens.
I had one of my friends help me and together, we took one of the douchiest photo shoots known to man. I’m talking lighthouses and little pastel cottages in the background. Use the unique island landscape to my advantage, right? The entire time I felt like cutting off my balls — an emasculating process. Oh look, a lighthouse!
They advise you not to tell anyone other than your family and place of employment that you’re a candidate but of course you tell more people than that. If you’re on the show, it tapes for a maximum of six weeks, and there’s no communication with the outside world, short of an emergency. The only problem when you tell people is that they won’t shut up about it.
Nothing — and I mean nothing — happens on the Vineyard in January and February. So naturally, any gossip spreads across the island like wildfire. I couldn’t go to the post office or grocery store without someone asking me if I made the show yet. It’s amusing at first, then quickly turns to annoyance, as it’s now the sole focus of any conversation I have. If you’re a person that suffers from any sort of anxiety, you’re screwed.
I wouldn’t say I normally have high anxiety, but potentially going from a quiet island to being in front of millions on national TV was a little intimidating. And great that every time I left the house I was bombarded with inquires on whether or not I was the next bachelor. “No guys, I told you — it’s the Bachelorette.” Eh, whatever.
At this point, I know all the producers’ phone numbers by heart, so when I got a call a week after submitting the manila envelope, I knew it was them with a decision. “Kevin, hey — it’s Ashley. So we want to fly you out to LA one of the next two weekends. You’re on Martha’s Vineyard correct?” Remember that no anxiety thing? Yeah, my hands were literally shaking.
We set up a date after checking my calendar to make sure it wasn’t a weekend during the AFC Championship. Yes, even the Bachelorette isn’t more important to me than the Patriots. As I hung up the phone I called my family right away. I don’t even think I was excited, if anything, I was numb. Did I make the show yet? No. But I’m in the top 50 and my ego told me there’s no way in hell they wouldn’t pick me. In addition, you have to prep as if you’re going to make the show. Life on the outside doesn’t stop while you live in a mansion with 24 other bros, and you have to act like you’ll be gone for six weeks. Easier said than done, of course.
Reality TV is anything but real life. I wasn’t going on this show to find my wife or my soul mate. I was going on to try hang out with a hot chick, wear a 1980’s Bruins jersey, say ‘wicked pissah’ all day and see what happens. You can’t tell me there’s a better story to reminisce about with your friends. “Dude, remember that time you were on The Bachelorette and she was so into you until she found out you were a taxi driver? Yeah, that was awesome.” However, as it’s a dating show, it throws a wrench into your current dating plans.
I had started talking to a girl around the time I went to NYC for the interview. We ended up meeting a few weeks after and hit it off right away — so much so that I may or may not have written something about it. What are you suppose to do in this situation? I’m not going to put my dating life on hold while wait to hear from the Bachelor, but at the same time, I felt like it was better to be transparent. On our second date, I told her I was a potential candidate and was waiting to hear back about possibly going to LA for round two. She took it pretty well at first, though it seemed to weigh on her mind and loomed over us both. We saw each other a few more times, but once I found out I was going to LA it was pretty much over.
Single people watching the show think, “Oh, it’d be so much fun to be a contestant!” What they don’t think about is the process leading up to it. It’s long. Real long. You try to not put your life on hold, but you can’t really date. If you meet someone awesome, and after a few dates they tell you they don’t want you to go on the show, are you going to listen?
There are months and months of time put into this process it becomes a struggle of what things in your life you put on hold and what things you keep doing. To my core, I couldn’t stop the show because of a few weeks of good dates. It would’ve put unfair pressure on a budding relationship wondering, “What if?” had I chosen not to proceed with the process. This didn’t make the decision any easier. When you’re a dating coach and you chose a TV show over a relationship with a lot of potential it doesn’t make you sleep well at night. There’s a part of me that felt like I was selling my soul.
There’s being in shape, and then there’s the I’m-potentially-going-to-be-on-national-TV-with-my-shirt-off-in-a-pool shape.” The self-analysis I went through after getting the call to go to LA was brutal. I made up flaws I didn’t have and felt like I needed to get in the greatest shape of my life. For a dating show. Sounds pretty stupid when you say it out loud. Not to mention, what the hell am I going to wear?
At the time I didn’t even own a suit. I’m the kind of guy that will rock $20 jeans and $5 shirts from Old Navy. Suddenly, there was this urge to buy better clothes and pimp out my wardrobe. I went from not caring about what I wore to feeling like I needed to impress all of America. Which is a great position to be in, since I have zero fashion sense.
Flying out to LA felt like going on a business trip. Sure, it was fun to experience, but the process was far from ordinary. When I first got to the hotel, I texted my handler, Matt. (Yes, I had a handler.) This was my go-to guy for anything I needed. He met me in the lobby and we made our way to one of the main function rooms. Here I received another manila folder and was told to stay in my hotel room unless pre-approved and accompanied by my handler. They don’t want any potential candidates running into each other and spoiling that initial on camera reaction when you first meet inside the mansion.
I grab my folder, a few Bachelor gift bags and begin to walk out. Matt goes, “Hey, you want to bring anything with you to the room?” as he points to a table. The table is full of candy and protein bars. I snag a few treats while he offers me some drink options. Since the drinks are free and unlimited I suggest several Bud Lights, fill my bags and look forward to be locked down in my room with alcohol and junk food — exactly what you want for dinner after a 15-hour travel day.
The manila folder is filled with about 600 true-or-false and likert scale questionnaires. Filling out these questionnaires while locked up for hours, made me both ponder everything in my life. At some point I started going stir crazy and was bewildered by the questions. They must have asked me five or six times if I’ve ever thought about killing or harming myself. By the sixth time, I almost checked yes.
When you finally leave the hotel room, you meet with a criminal background investigator, a psychiatrist, a doctor to test your blood and urine, and then a have sit-down meeting with the production crew after yet another on camera interview. Keep in mind I’m drinking through this entire process. Not sure how good a look it is to sit down with a shrink five beers deep, but it happened. The part of the process that stood out most to me was meeting the production crew.
I walk into this extra large hotel room and there are about 25 people who I haven’t met yet. They’ve pushed all the couches and chairs together creating a stadium-like seating arrangement. I have a seat on this one, lonesome chair, about 15 feet in front of them. The room is completely silent. This one guy has what must have been my file in front of him. He looks down and then looks up and says, “Kevin, if I want to just get laid on an online dating website, what do I have to do?” Shocked I reply, “Are you serious?” He goes, “Fuckin’ right I am.” I laugh, the whole room laughs, and that moment was a microcosm of how The Bachelor crew was.
Every single person I met from start to finish was awesome to deal with. Knowing that if I made the final cast I’d be working with these people was a reassuring feeling, and the main reason why I felt comfortable with the idea of filming. Seriously — they were some of the nicest people to meet, a pleasure to be around.
I arrived on a Thursday around 9 p.m. and was on a flight home by 6 a.m. on Saturday. The trip was quick. They told me I’d hear from them in two weeks with a decision. Those two weeks turned into five. And those five weeks were filled with levels of anxiety I’ve never felt in my life.
Waiting to find out if I was one of the 25 contestants was pure torture — the not knowing part is what killed me. It’s hard to move on with your life when this unique circumstance looms over your head. I couldn’t talk to my friends, family, or coworkers without the topic coming up daily, sometimes hourly. It was impossible to escape, and the anxiety took its toll.
I thought daily about the girl I’d so firmly let know I was pursuing the show. Looking back at the situation, I should’ve handled it differently. It wasn’t fair for me to bring someone into my dating life as all of this was going on. While I think finding love on the show is far from anyone’s true main goal, it is still a dating show. And it was a total asshole move for me to act like it wasn’t going to affect what we had going on. Had I known the process would have taken as long as it did, I would’ve stopped things sooner. I assumed the best course of action was to move on with all aspects of my life as if everything was normal. But it was the wrong idea, nothing was normal.
Instead of going on dates with her, I was now relinquished to obsessively watching the current season of The Bachelor, as one of those 25 women would go on to be the next Bachelorette. I’ve watched a lot of major sporting events in my years. I’m talking intense Super Bowl games for the Patriots that legit took years off my life from the nail biting and stress. However, none of those events could match what I felt watching back-to-back weekly episodes on Monday and Tuesday nights — I felt like I was going to puke from start to finish. It wasn’t fun and I didn’t watch it with anyone. Afterward, I’d toss and turn in bed, wondering why I was really putting myself through this. This isn’t what I had envisioned, but I still had to see it through.
The season I was cast for was set to begin filming on March 11th. I didn’t get a call with a definitive answer from ABC until March 1st. And that call was to inform me that ABC didn’t think I was a match for their next Bachelorette.
Finally, I had an answer. ABC had picked Desiree over Lindsay, the girl they deemed I wasn’t a good fit for – had they chosen Lindsay, this would be a much different blog. Thus, my Bachelorette journey was officially over. This huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. And it wasn’t that I was scared to be on the show — it was the not knowing part that constantly consumed all my thoughts and actions. Living like your life is on pause for three months isn’t fun.
To this day I can’t watch The Bachelor or Bachelorette. Even the commercials get my heart rate up. There were too many memories of sleepless nights filled with stress and anxiety. A huge factor of your experience is where you’re currently at in your life — it’s clear the timing of the show couldn’t have been worse for me. Unfortunately, the combination of curiosity and my ego was too much for me to resist.
It’s an odd spot to be in without someone to provide any experiential advice. When applying for the Bachelor you’re a pioneer amongst your peers in this journey. Nobody can relate to what you’re going to and the advice you get is mixed.