Before a studio audience, “The Bachelor Pad” broadcast its season finale live last August. Camera crews swarmed as all the season’s contestants stared at Rachel Truehart, who sat next to Nick Peterson, eager to hear the pair’s final decision.
If Truehart and Peterson stuck with their previously agreed to decision, then they were to split $250,000 in prize money and be crowned the joint winners of “Bachelor Pad.” Truehart sat perfectly poised, with just a hint of fear tainting her bright blue eyes, and she revealed that she would honor her decision to share the money with Peterson, a “frat boy” type with his floppy hair, toned body and cool demeanor. However as Peterson began to respond, his unruffled persona hinted that something was about to go wrong.
Rachel Truehart, 28, first graced America’s television screen in 2012 when she appeared along with 24 other women on season 16 of “The Bachelor” and vied unsuccessfully for the heart of Sonoma wine maker Ben Flajnik. A few months later, after recovering from her public heartbreak, the Massachusetts native was approached by show producers and asked to appear on “Bachelor Pad,” a spinoff game show of “The Bachelor” in which 20 former Bachelor contestants, ten guys and ten girls, compete as couples to win a quarter of a million dollars, and a second shot at love.
Truehart and Peterson survived eight weeks of challenges and other eliminations to get to the final round where each had to decide whether to spilt or keep the $250,000. If they both chose to keep the money, it then went to the season’s other contestants; if they chose to split it, the money was shared; however, if one chose to share and the other chose to split, the contestant who chose to keep it walked away with the entire jackpot. And to Truehart’s shock and dismay, that’s exactly what Peterson did, backing out of their previous agreement, and leaving Truehart with no money and certainly no love. “I get it; it’s a game. But still, I’ll probably never forgive him, and I’ll never be friends with him again,” Truehart says of the incident. “I think he handled it poorly and just left me very shocked and hurt.”
Now just six months later, Truehart is back to normalcy, working as an executive assistant at Ralph Lauren in Manhattan. She recovered from the repercussions of her two stints on reality television and now lives her life like most twenty-something women trying to make it in New York, except for one small difference. Truehart, unlike most of us, still basks in a bit of fame.
“When I first got back [from Bachelor Pad], I was stopped all the time. Girls sometimes would chase me down the street,” Truehart says, as she sat in Green Café on 59th Street and Madison Avenue, clad, appropriately, in Ralph Lauren clothing during a recent interview. Her blonde locks, killer blue eyes and vivacious attitude create the perfect look for reality television and, as she sits in the café, she seems almost out of place with her Hollywood looks.
Though Truehart says the attention from fans has cooled a bit since the show’s final episode, she still gets recognized as she goes about her daily routines. “People want to hear the inside secrets,” Truehart explains. “They want to hear about the filming, or what I did in down time. They want to know what they didn’t get to see.”
Her journey started on a whim two years ago when a family friend decided to nominate her to compete on “The Bachelor.” “I honestly thought it was a joke and that I would never get called,” she says. Yet, two weeks later, she sat for an in-person interview with producers in Los Angeles and was told she made it to “finals weekend,” in which 100 girls are put up in a hotel for two weeks to go through extensive background checks, psychology evaluations, blood tests and more meetings with producers.
She recalls the two weeks being tough and emotionally draining and says it was easy to go “a little stir crazy,” because all the prospective girls are kept under quarantine in their separate hotel rooms and are never told how many girls are still in the running. But she says she never felt deterred from wanting to appear on the show. “I loved the interviews. You met fun producers. A lot of them are young and so friendly, and you could tell they just loved what they did and that many of them truly believe in the show,” says Truehart.
Once she made the cut, Truehart says the decision to uproot her life was an easy one. After working as a sales representative in the textiles industry, she was ready for a change. “I had been in N.Y. for five years, hadn’t done anything new and interesting, and I was like, ‘All right, here’s an opportunity to do something totally new that I not in a million years thought I would ever do,’” Truehart says, smiling.
And while she does not regret her time spent on “The Bachelor,” it was not the vacation she anticipated. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, you get to travel! That’s awesome!’ Truehart says. The reality: “You’re stuck in a hotel room.’” “The Bachelor” films its first few weeks in The Bachelor Mansion, about 30 miles from L.A. in Agoura Hills, Calif., before jetting the remaining contestants around the globe, whether the destinations be exotic islands or frigid continents.
But Truehart explains that unless you’re the lucky contestant getting whisked away on a lavish date, you spend a lot of time cut off from the world (no outside contact, electronics or books allowed), chained to the hotel room with only the other contestants and the camera crew to keep you company.
“Sometimes they’d let us go to the gym in 30-minute increments, but we’d have to be walked down [by a crew member],” Truehart says. “You can’t just lay by the pool; it’s not this relaxing vacation.”
After eventually facing elimination on “The Bachelor,” Truehart thought she would never appear on reality television again. Dating is awkward enough so to do it in front of America like that was a bit of a taxing experience. “I knew it was coming,” Truehart says, referring to her elimination on “The Bachelor.” She says she knew Flajnik “wasn’t really feeling” her and was wary herself, anticipating a “hometown date” between him and her family. “I didn’t want [my family] to think I was in love with him, because I kind of knew at that point that I still wasn’t and felt like I should have felt that way,” she says.
She thought “Bachelor Pad” would be a good opportunity “to a show a little bit more of my personality, that there was a little bit more to me.”
But “Bachelor Pad” quickly proved to be a much more challenging experience, with cameras filming 24/7 to capture every contestant’s every move. “If you walked into a room, you could hear the camera turn toward you. You couldn’t change your clothes without a camera on you,” Truehart says, which left her feeling vulnerable.
Contestants on “Bachelor Pad” were awaken at 7 a.m. and didn’t get a chance to sleep until 3 a.m. “I think that’s why you see people so drained and emotional,” she says, explaining that some of the crazy is definitely from sleep-deprivation
She was also critical of the editing process in which situations were edited out of context for more drama. “I’d be like, ‘I wasn’t saying that about that situation! That wasn’t even on the same day!’” Truehart recalls.
Despite the downside though, there are benefits to appearing on reality television. “I think it made me a little bit more outgoing and a little bit more secure in myself. You see it on TV, and you just have to know that that’s not all of you,” Truehart says. “You have to just trust that you know yourself, your friends and family know yourself, and that makes it a bit easier.”
She also made some lasting friendships in the process. “I became close with a lot of the girls, and, that’s the half of it,” she says. “You need that. You need to be able to hang out with the girls.”
Truehart’s sister, Crystal, a realtor in Texas, says nothing can prepare you for watching another family member go through such an emotional rollercoaster. She almost couldn’t bear to watch her sister on the “Bachelor Pad” finale because she knew the ending. “Even after knowing the outcome, nothing can prepare you to see someone you love get hurt,” Crystal wrote in a recent email. “To be honest, I hated every second of the finale and just wanted to give her a big hug,” “I cried just watching her.”
Truehart admits that, despite the unhappy endings, she’d gladly appear on reality television a third time around. “ When I first got off the show, I was like, ‘I will never do that again!’ but as hard as it is, it’s also super fun,” Truehart says. “It’s kind of fun to take yourself out of your comfort zone.”