Credit: Instagram

Emily Maynard is the gorgeous blonde star of Season 8 of the ABC franchise The Bachelorette. The 26 year old was first seen on The Bachelor, where she fell in love with Bachelor Brad Womack and won his heart and the final rose. While her life might seem like a (televised) fairy tale, her backstory is a heartbreaking tale of triumph over tragedy.

BEFORE THE BACHELOR

Emily tragically lost her first fiancé, professional NASCAR racer Ricky Hendrick, in a plane crash on October 24, 2004. Ricky and Emily had been dating since they were just 15 years old. He proposed to her six months before he died. Just days after Ricky’s death, Emily learned she was pregnant with their now-7-year-old daughter Ricki.

LIFE AS A SINGLE WORKING MOM

Credit: INF Daily

Emily and her daughter still live in the Morgantown, North Carolina, house she shared with late fiancé Ricky Hendrick. When she’s not winning hearts and roses on television, Emily is an event coordinator at the Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina. The 11-story, 234-bed kid-friendly facility — the largest children's hospital between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. — includes the Ricky Hendrick Centers for Intensive Care, a pediatric intensive-care facility named for Ricky after his father Rick Hendrick and mother Linda Hendrick donated $3 million to the hospital.

THE BACHELOR

Emily Maynard became an instant fan favorite on Brad Womack’s Bachelor Season 15. In the finale, Brad got on bended knee with a $90,000 ring — the most expensive ring in recent Bachelor history — and Em said yes. However, Brad and Emily’s love story fizzled just a handful of months after their engagement.

Brad told People magazine he was to blame for the split. "The demise of our relationship was completely my fault." Emily, for her part, says Brad will always be a part of her life, but that the impending move to Brad’s hometown, uplifting Ricki from her childhood home in the process, proved too weighty an endeavor.

In July 2011, Emily told Chris Harrison: “I’ll always be in love with Brad. No one will ever hear me say a bad word about him — nor will I tolerate anybody else saying anything bad about him. Not a day will go by that I don’t regret how things have turned out and wish things were different.”

THE BACHELORETTE

Credit: Twitter

In January 2012, ABC officially announced Emily was the eighth Bachelorette. This came as a surprise for many Bachelor franchise fans, because Emily had previously insisted on keeping her daughter away from the cameras. At Emily’s request, ABC agreed to move the entire production of the show to North Carolina in order not to disrupt Ricki’s home environment. In March 2012, The Bachelorette Season 8 crew descended upon Charlotte, and the season premiered on May 14, 2012. In the season finale, Emily picked Utah entrepreneur Jef Holm — but the two split just months later, officially announcing their separation in October 2012.

More on Emily:
Why She Left Brad Womack
15 Things You Didn’t Know
Emily’s Heartbreaking Past

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