Brad Womack, 38, is so darn happy. It's obvious in his voice during Wednesday's pre-season media conference call. Back on The Bachelor Season 11, he was the most hated guy in the franchise — if not the country as a whole at that moment in 2007 — because he refused to pick DeAnna Pappas or Jenni Croft. Fans were outraged. Ellen DeGeneres called him a "jerk." But now Brad is happy. He's telling us right now, almost a month before the January 3 premiere of Season 15, that the process worked this time. He found someone. He's in love. He's downright giddy. "I can promise you there is a very happy ending," Brad says. "A true love story happened." And even more than that, "not much drama occurred" on the show and "I hope that doesn't make for a boring season."
Boring? The Bachelor? Good luck! (Besides, we all know he gets slapped by Chantal O'Brien, 28, of Seattle in the premiere and Brad says it was "a very, very real slap.")
Read below for more from the Austin, Texas, bar owner about his journey to this point and what we can expect from him and the show in the coming months. (Hint: Brad says a TV wedding on ABC is not off the table. "Never say never.")
After the first rose ceremony were you thinking, "I'm so glad to be back" or "What did I get myself into?"
I think after the slap I was thinking "What did I get myself into?" I'm kidding. I was so, so happy to be back. I really was so thankful that I was asked to be back and I was very, very happy.
Even Chris Harrison had said that you almost have to fall in love at the end of this. Did you feel that pressure going into this, thinking "If I don't pick someone at the end I'm screwed?"
No, not at all. I almost sound like a jerk for saying this, but love and all of it — I take that very seriously and not a chance would I let somebody pressure me to make any kind of decision like that, any decision at all for that matter. I definitely make my own decisions and I felt no pressure, I can truthfully say that.
Can you talk about how the experience was different this time and did you find love?
I did find love. I'm very happy to say that — I'm very happy to be able to say that. I'm very much in love. I'm a happy guy. It was completely different for so many reasons. One, of course, I was so much more open to the process and I just had a great time. That sounds strange, because I had a good time last time, but it was just so much more fun. I don't know. The women were so much more engaging. It was a great experience.
What is different about you that made this experience different?
Very expensive therapy. No, I'm kidding. Okay, I try to be funny, it just doesn't work! No, on a serious note, I really did go through very intense therapy and all of that good stuff. I just wanted to come on the show and be my true self and let people see it. And it worked. So that was what was so different. I wasn't closed off at all. And, again, it worked. I'm a very happy person right now.
You said back in 2007, "I wouldn't do this again because I didn't like being scrutinized," so why did you choose this process again to fall in love? It didn't go well the first time.
No, you're right. And that's a great question. One, I've learned to "never say never." I mean, I'll call myself out about that, but I can truthfully say I believe it can work. I get that scrutiny comes with everything, but I truly believe that this process can work and that's the only reason I decided to do it again.
How did you know that you were ready to find love again, even before the show approached you?
Well, I've been ready. I don't want to be a single guy and for whatever reason I've remained single for quite some time. I've always wanted to find the right person and when the show approached me I felt really, really honored to be asked again and felt like I was given a second chance, a very good second chance. I was definitely ready to find it and I thought "What better way to do it?"
What would you say to viewers who were upset with your last outcome to get them to watch this time?
Well, one — and again I'm so happy to be able to say this — but, one, I can promise you there is a very happy ending. I did find somebody. I did fall in love. So for the viewers that want to see that happen no matter who that guy is, or girl for that matter, it happened. A true love story happened. For no other reason, that's a great reason to watch — 'cause it worked.
Did you approach the situation different this time around?
Any chance I had to talk to the women individually, I was just very — I don't know. I asked some very pointed questions, trying to really get to know who they were and in turn try to let them know exactly who I am. I don't think I did that last time, I was a little bit closed off. I think we all got to know each other really, really well this go round and, like I said, it worked.
Tell us what it was like when you were back at the mansion.
Actually it was a very surreal feeling. I remember pulling back up, I was very anxious. I was excited, of course, but I was very anxious, which in turn turned into nerves. I mean, I was a nervous wreck. That first night was a little bit overwhelming. I thought it would be easier, because I had gone through it before. I think it made it even more difficult and I don't know why. ... Remember, I didn't know what the girls were going to think, that I was The Bachelor again. I didn't know how I was going to be received. So it was a very overwhelming evening.
Were a lot of the ladies apprehensive about you? How did you gain their trust?
To be perfectly honest, yeah — and rightfully so. Quite a few questions that first night. I think after that first night, I gave each and every woman a chance to ask anything she wanted to ask. I was very up front and honest and I think I calmed their fears about the fact that I was there for the right reason. I didn't intend on just walking and wasting anybody's time. I think it went well, but the first night, yeah, I spent quite a bit of time just wielding questions about my past.
With all the beautiful women in Austin and being a bar owner, what made you decide to go mate hunting on TV?
I've had that question asked quite a few times. One, I never mix business with pleasure, ever. And so whenever I go to work at the bars people think I'm the guy who goes in to pick up the women, but it's anything but that. As you know, Austin is a big city but it can also feel quite small at times. I thought this was an incredible way to break out of that mold and meet some women I never would've met before in my normal day-to-day life.
It says in the press release that you get to meet with Jenni and DeAnna in the first episode. Without giving too much away, what can you tell us about that?
One, it was a complete shock, because I truly had no idea they were going to be there. That conversation was something that I wanted to take place long before then. So I was very happy to learn that they were there. But you know Jenni and DeAnna, they're incredible women. They're not going to back down. So they were a little bit tough, a little bit tough on me. But after we talked for a while, all was forgiven and the three of us moved on. So, great conversation and in some ways — actually in all ways — I gained some closure there. So I was very appreciative of the opportunity.
How did your friends and family react to the news that you were doing the show again?
They were very supportive. My mother, of all people, even though I'm a grown man she's very protective, so she was a little bit worried just in case I didn't pick anybody or wind up with anybody again. My brothers were so supportive because they know I was looking for somebody.
Looking back, do you think — had you gone through therapy to begin with — that maybe DeAnna or Jenni would have been your choice?
I don't know. I don't know how to answer that and that's a great question. Would I have ... maybe I would've stuck around and at least given a relationship a chance instead of just walking away. I can truly say I would never have proposed on that day, but I very well may have given a relationship a chance and seeing what could've happened once we moved on, instead of just abruptly walking away.
Did you ever think it had nothing to do with you and those two were just the wrong girls for you?
Of course. Of course I thought that. At the end of the day, I always think that, would I have pursued a relationship with DeAnna? ... I wouldn't have proposed, but I don't want to blame it on the girls because they were such good women. They really were. Yeah, maybe they were the wrong girls, I don't know. I really don't know. I kind of feel bad because I should've given a relationship a shot. I truly feel that way. I'm not just saying that because I think I'm told to say that.
In the immediate aftermath of the show, people were hostile to you. Is that part of what compelled you to take a good, long look at yourself and change?
Absolutely. In fact, I can say this, it was brutal. People didn't hold back at all. In Austin they were really supportive, but elsewhere it got pretty bad and people let me know exactly what they were thinking — and they weren't good thoughts. It got pretty tough for a while.
Did that affect your dating life afterward?
Yes it did affect my dating life. One, after the finale aired I took it upon myself — I didn't even want to go on dates. Then once I tried to get out into the dating world, my eyes were opened a little bit 'cause you're right. People knew everything about me and some girls just were plain uninterested in getting involved with that. There was a national feeling of the fact that I couldn't commit. So it did affect it negatively. It wasn't a positive thing at all.
You've pretty much sold us on how much you've rehabilitated yourself. So where's the controversy left on this show?
That's a good question. I don't know if it takes controversy to sell the show. I have no idea. I'm happy to say, not too much drama occurred. There were some really, really good women and we all had a great time so I hope that doesn't make for a boring season. I know it was exciting for me and I like to think for the women as well.
What do you have to offer the woman you're about to propose to?
Well, I'll tell you. Oh my gosh, I'm about to sound cheesy. But I like to think I have a lot of love to offer. I really do. I want to be an incredible husband. I want to be, if and when the time comes, to be an incredible father. So that's all I've ever wanted — a really wholesome family life. I could care less about material things or anything like that. I'm very confident that I have quite a bit of love to give a woman and I'm ready to that. So I think I'd make her a happy woman. I truly feel that way.
Does any woman you propose to have to move to Austin?
I'm very happy here. I know love is all about compromise, I get that. I'm learning these things! Anyway, Austin, yeah, I don't have any plans on moving anywhere just because I've spent 10 or 11 years trying to build a career and I have some roots planted here. Yeah, I consider Austin my home. I would ask a woman if she'd be moving to Austin. I don't plan on moving anywhere.
The Bachelor tends to attract a lot of women who are pretty young — early 20s, mid-20s. Was that a concern of yours going in, that it would be a really big age difference between you and the bachelorettes?
Let me say this, I've never thought about age until now. I'm beginning to realize I'm an old guy! Age has never been an issue. I truly believe age is just a number. I'm more concerned about maturity level and things like that. So age never bothered me, I don't know if it bothered any of the women. It was brought up a time or two in a joking manner. But that's about it.
It seems like even when the Bachelors and Bachelorettes find love, the tough part comes after the fact in dealing with the tabloids and scrutiny. Are you and your special lady friend ready to weather that public storm?
I think so. I'm going to be honest, I have a very thick skin that developed I guess from last time. I can honestly say, I don't read any of it. I really, really don't. So hopefully I can be the guy that calms her fears or any concerns that she has. I just don't let things like that bother me and I hope she doesn't either. I don't know. There's a lot of good and there's a lot of bad that comes with this and I think we're up to the challenge of getting through it.
Did you have a favorite date from this season?
I know I can't get too specific but I'll tell you this, my favorite location was South Africa. The dates that occurred there were just, I mean they were some of my lifelong dreams. I had such a good time there, it was a beautiful country. All of the dates that occurred in South Africa were my favorites. ... One thing, we went on a safari and that's something I had always wanted to do. Seeing that and animals in their natural habitat — it was amazing. And it wasn't adrenaline filled or anything like that. It was just amazing. It was a lifelong dream of mine so I was very grateful to be able to do it.
I'll tell you my initial concern, believe it or not I'm actually a really, really shy person. In fact, painfully shy. So my concern, it wasn't so much wrapped around the fact that I was about to be on TV, I don't think I realized my life would be such an open book. I didn't realize that until afterward. ... I guess I was afraid of the unknown and how public my life was going to become. ... As soon as it was announced the first time that I was going to be The Bachelor, you could go online and pretty much read anything about my past. That's why I stopped doing any of that. It was crazy the reach that reality TV has and I don't think I was aware of that until I got into it the first time.
Do you think when this is over, and you find love, you'll be able to go back to Texas and just live in obscurity after a certain point?
Yeah, 100 percent. Austin's a really cool town and people don't care. For the most part people don't get wrapped up in anything. And that's all I want to do. I want everything to air, have the very happy ending and just continue on with my life. That's all I want to do.
What was your reaction to the slap? Does it set up what's coming on the show?
I know there was some concern among the women that I was The Bachelor again. I will tell you this, the slap, unfortunately, was very real. I don't know if it's a prelude of what's to come because everyone calmed down a little bit. It shocked me, of course, but we moved on. We talked about it, we laughed it off and moved on. But it was a very, very real slap, no doubt about it.
Did you find there was an increase in competition because of who you are?
Well, I'll tell you, I don't know if it had anything to do with me, but the women were very, very competitive. Very competitive. I mean, there were some cocktail parties before the rose ceremonies that were downright overwhelming as far as, you know, it's inevitable that women try to steal you away and have private conversations. It seemed that that happened more so this go-round than last time. So I don't know what's the cause for that, but, yes, very competitive women. They made it very well known that they wanted to have their individual time. It was a lot of fun.
Will we see a lot of drama then between the girls? Do you think they got along better or worse than the girls did in the first round?
You know, that's a great question. I was told there was drama happening back at the house when I wasn't around so it's going to be interesting — I'll watch it exactly as you watch it, you know what I mean? I have no idea, but there were murmurs of drama going on back at the house that I just wasn't aware of at the time. So I'm going to be anxiously watching to see what really happened at the house when I was gone.
What kind of woman were you looking for?
Someone who is genuinely sweet and ... someone that makes me want to be a better person. And I know that's so vague. Trust me, I want to tell you so much more! But just genuinely sweet and very much a friend, and I found that.
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