The Big Choice Makes A Comeback In My Life A Decade Later.
So, I’ve always been a truth seeker. Sometimes even too much. I might even call myself an over-sharer. In an effort to connect with other people I tend to dig deep while sharing and talking. Usually, it’s a good experience and an interesting conversation. However, my stint on the reality tv show was not something positive or something I wanted to share with anyone.
Posing in front of the castle outside of Paris. It was 2002 and I was 27 years old.
Back story: I was on a furlough from being a flight attendant post 9/11. I was living in LA, teaching spin classes and waiting tables at Big World Restaurant on Main Street in Santa Monica. I lived in a cute, little bungalow in Santa Monica right by the promenade with girlfriends. Life was oh so simple. One night I waited on the producers of a dating reality tv show. We instantly connected and got along really well. They convinced to come to an interview for an upcoming reality tv show. At that time, reality tv was The Real World on MTV and the Bachelor had just started to take off. I hadn’t watched the bachelor so had no idea what I was getting into. I also had zero interest in watching other people date on tv. It seemed boring and the little bit I did hear about the girls seemed caddy and pretentious. Two of my least favorite characteristics.
Back to how I got roped into auditioning for a dating reality tv show when I was 27.
The producers asked me 3 basic questions:
1. Do you like to travel? Yeah! I love it! After being a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines for 3 years prior, I was no stranger to the joy of travel.
2. Are you single? Yeah, super single and on a 6 month no date dry spell to be specific.
3. Would you like to go on an all expense paid trip for a month or longer? Twist my arm-yes please!
I immediately pictured myself on a beach in Taihiti working on my even tan and snorkeling everyday. Or maybe sipping americanos in a cute cafe in Europe reading my Eckhart Tolle Book, A New Earth. My mind was exploding with awesome travel fantasies.
Needless to say, none of them happened. Yes, I stayed for a week in the castle with 12 other actresses. There was a lot of sitting around waiting and more waiting at all hours of the night. Yes, we left our microphones on in the bathroom, while running outside and any other time. Yes, we woke up to large tv cameras in our face. Startling to say the least.
The producers would set us up to not get along everyday. It was being a kids and playing duck, duck goose and the snowball all at the same time. One day they brought in evening gowns all different sizes and styles. Then they let us loose in the room with the dresses to find a dress to wear. You had to choose a dress but there was one of each kind and no repeat sizes. AWKWARD. Yes, this is how it felt the whole time.
What I remember the most from being on that show is feeling trapped in a divey Best Western hotel in Paris. With no access to the outside world and a bodyguard outside the hotel so you couldn’t step outside for 3 weeks. There were 8 of us girls that got the boot after the second cut. After being driven away in the middle of the night and dumped at the ghetto Best Western, we had to go everywhere in a group to make sure no one “talked” about the show. Secrecy is a big clause for reality tv. No workouts, limited fresh air, McDonalds everyday and no contact with friends and family or the news. It gives me goose bumps to even write about it. It was SO UNCOMFORTABLE! I remember running the stairs in the 6 story hotel and doing a ton of push ups and sit ups in my room to stay sane. There were a couple of “handlers,” an onsite psychologist and a bodyguard who made sure we NEVER went outside. The bodyguard was like a rent a cop but bigger and super creepy.
Back Story cont. While waiting on the tv producers, I told them that dating one guy with lots of other girls wasn’t my style. I was more traditional than that, one guy and one girl is more my style. Perfect, they said we need someone traditional. I said I’m from Oregon. Even better, they said! They continued to talk about the travel and how perfect I’d be. At the very least come to the first interview and then see how it goes. I talked myself into the interview because I figured I could decide later if I even made it. Well, the interviews went well over a couple of days. Then we had 3 days to get ready and show up at the airport with our passport. Turns out, there would be 20 girls and one guy in Paris. 15 were aspiring actresses and models, only 5 of us including me were “real people.”
Spoiler Alert: Being on the show was very uncomfortable and so invasive. It wasn’t anything how I pictured and a lot worse. After the month abroad in the Best Western, I returned home and felt really bad. The trip wasn’t anything like the producers that I met explained to me. They had really cool people do the auditions and casting so you think it will be okay. But, the cool, casting people don’t go on the trip, they just rope you into the deal. By the way, the show was supposed to be called “THE BIG CHOICE” not Joe Millionaire.
When I got home I felt shame and so much embarrassment from being on the show. The pilot commercial aired during the superbowl which is where everyone heard the “new name” and the theme of the show. Oh my god, that was not what I signed up for…
The way that reality tv show worked back then was the opposite of reality and a high drama story that the producers created. Turned out that Evan Marriott (the average Joe) was as dumb as nails, with icky long, greasy hair and had a girlfriend waiting for him back in Santa Monica…
Funny how life works. It’s rarely what you expected, sometimes it’s better and often times it’s NOT AT ALL WHAT IT SEEMED.
That my friends is how I ended up on the Joe Millionaire reality tv show. It’s taken fifteen years to talk about it without the shame face. Like Brene Brown says, shame can’t exist with truth, light and vulnerability.
The funny part is most people thought it was really cool and were surprised I didn’t want to talk about it. Back then, I usually said it was really weird and not what I signed for. You never know what’s going on behind the scenes on tv and in life. So f*ck the secrecy, silence and judgement. At least I did it and won’t ever wonder what it would’ve been like. No wondering here. Not at all. Haha!