My Brush with The Bachelor
*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct inaccuracies that appeared in the August 2011 print version. Updated on 29 July 2011.
Editor’s Note: Renee Simlak was one of 25 contestants vying for the affection of business development manager Jason Mesnick on Season 13 (January 5 – March 2, 2009) of ABC television’s reality show The Bachelor.
In January 2009, I stepped out of the limo and into the surreal world of reality TV. I put myself out there, on primetime television, because I was ready to do something “outside the box” and take a risk.
I was 36 when I participated on The Bachelor. It was a time in my life where I was seeking a challenge and wanted to be placed in a situation where I had no control over the end result. I anticipated an incredible journey — and that’s exactly what it was.
People seem willing to put themselves in emotional situations on reality TV (knowing they may be embarrassed, rejected and/or heartbroken) in front of millions of viewers for three reasons: fame, publicity and glamour. It’s the chance to do something outrageous and fun; and it’s filled with uncertainty, the unknown and adventure.
For me, it was reasons two and three. On the first night of taping, I was with six girls in the limo driving toward the mansion to meet the bachelor, Jason Mesnick. Before we met Jason, we each told the producers what we wanted to say and/or do, and they told us what they liked or didn’t like.
My five-minute greeting with Jason translated into 30 seconds of airtime. Not everything I said aired, but I was really glad they kept the part where I said I grew up in Michigan! After everyone met the bachelor, there was at least another 12 hours of taping that day.
It was very tiring at times, but still very exciting just to be there and be in the moment. It didn’t really hit me that I was actually on the show until the host, Chris Harrison, walked into the room with the “first impression” rose. At that moment, all 25 girls looked at each other and realized that this was real.
As it turned out, I ended up going home on the very first night. I was among a group of 10 women who didn’t get a rose. But, I had one major scene with Jason where he asked me about “vision boards” — and that’s how I became known as the “vision board girl.”
I told him I believed in the Law of Attraction and had made a vision board for myself. It seemed quite silly when the show actually aired and, the reality was, I only had one vision board — but America may have thought I had many from the way that clip was shown (with background music added, which was not there during the conversation).
People from all over wrote to me on Facebook, sent emails and approached me on the streets of L.A. wanting to know more about vision boards. I would Google myself and find blogs where fans were writing about me.
Joel McHale from E! Entertainment Television’s “The Soup” made a joke about me. Talk show host Bonnie Hunt spoke about my vision boards on her show. And a little girl who was sick with leukemia sent me a beautiful necklace she made. I couldn’t believe the attention I was getting from being on the show for just one night!
Although The Bachelor didn’t show me precisely as I am, not realizing my story might be edited due to time constraints, I embraced the attention. This was essentially what I signed up for.
When I didn’t get a rose, I was disappointed because I wanted to continue the journey and experience more. I gave the producers a 30-minute exit interview and only one minute actually aired.
There are hours and hours of tape no one ever sees. While my stay was short, I made many great friends in that brief period of time. To this day, many of us keep in touch — and there are bachelor-bachelorette reunions every few months.
At the time, I didn’t trust some of the producer’s intentions but they never put words in my mouth. I would definitely do it all over again, not have any expectations and just enjoy the ride.
Reality TV is real because the people on it are real, but let’s be honest — they’re making TV after all — viewers need to be entertained.
Renee Simlak, 39, grew up in Southfield and attended Southfield Lathrup High School and is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University. She is currently an event producer in Los Angeles.