Jason Mesnick has been featured in countless news articles, gossip magazines and television interviews. Millions watched his love-life rollercoaster on both “The Bachelorette” and “The Bachelor.” But did readers and viewers get the whole story? How did a Cleveland native come to be one of the most controversial bachelors in the show’s history?
Wednesday night he talked to Ohio State students about the reality of reality TV at the OSU Hillel, but in an exclusive interview with The Lantern, he shared how he got to “The Bachelor,” what he learned from his experience and what he’s up to now.
After choosing Melissa Rycroft on the season finale of the 13th season of “The Bachelor,” Mesnick changed his mind and decided that he really wanted to be with runner-up Molly Malaney.
After the show, in May 2009, Rycroft told Ellen DeGeneres on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that she felt betrayed and was blindsided by the situation. She has since married and had her first baby.
Mesnick understands why his choice was controversial and how it came across to viewers and fans.
“I didn’t make the right decision doing some of that stuff,” he said.
After the split was announced and Mesnick became one of the most controversial Bachelors, he and Malaney did a People Magazine cover.
“We were really excited about that and they told us the title was going to be really fun,” Mesnick said.
The article turned out to be very negative and upset them both.
“For three or four days we just hid in the hotel,” Mesnick said. “But then you just realize that you need to surround yourself with people who care.”
Mesnick said he wasn’t even contractually allowed to speak to other contestants about the show until after it had aired.
“Legally you have a $5 million dollar bounty on your head,” he said.
Sharon West, a professor in the School of Communication at OSU, said that in her opinion it was self-serving to act as though he was used.
“These people provide access to their image and their time,” she said. “People who go into an interview thinking that they can control it are naïve.”
After the show and their wedding, which also aired on television, Mesnick said the media frenzy definitely subsided.
“There’s always the next thing,” he said.
Although he is best known for reality television shows about finding true love, Mesnick has roots right here in Ohio. In fact, everyone in his family, except for he and his brothers, are OSU alumni.
“I was never a Buckeyes fan. All I heard every single day growing up from my dad who went there was, ‘How ‘bout them Buckeyes?,'” Mesnick said. “It was too much.”
Despite not having scarlet and gray fever, he has many ties to the state of Ohio and OSU. Mesnick said that when he was younger, he even worked at a grocery store with Archie Griffin’s nephew. He later admitted that he is envious of OSU’s sports teams compared to what he has in Washington state.
Mesnick moved to Washington when he was four years old and has been there ever since.
Although he had 25 women looking to win him over on “The Bachelor,” he described himself as a regular guy in high school, one who had a girlfriend his sophomore through senior year.
“[I was] not in the popular crowd,” Mesnick said. “Just that guy who kind of ended up being friends with everybody and anybody.”
While attending college, he was a full-time nanny for three years and got a degree in psychology. His plan was to return to school to become a child psychologist.
“As it turned out, once I got my degree there was no way I could go back to school right away,” Mesnick said.
Unsure what he wanted to do, he spent the next few years backpacking in Europe, working at Microsoft, AT&T and in the golf industry.
It was just after he had gotten a divorce around the age of 30 and saw a close friend on “The Bachelor,” that he said he “wanted to do something. Do something crazy.”
Mesnick applied for “The Bachelor” online and a full year went by before he got a callback.
“The rest,” he said, “is just crazy.”
After making it to the final ceremony on “The Bachelorette,” Mesnick proposed and was denied by bachelorette DeAnna Pappas.
While Mesnick’s situation played out on camera, his family in Ohio was supporting him as they watched the show together.
Rachael Baum, a fourth-year in speech and hearing science at OSU, is Mesnick’s cousin and said the family watched the show almost every week. Although she said she and Mesnick aren’t very close, everything he said on the show was completely true.
“We were very impressed with him,” Baum said. “He held himself well and was a really good person.”
Zack Rosenberg, Mesnick’s cousin and OSU alumnus, watched the last episode of “The Bachelorette” as well.
“When he didn’t win I thought ‘I hope he’s not hurt again’ because he was hurt once, big-time,” he said.
After being the runner-up on “The Bachelorette,” Mesnick became the new bachelor on the following season. Baum said Mesnick was devastated after “The Bachelorette” and going on “The Bachelor” got him out of his slump.
In the midst of the excitement, there was one other person that he would have to think about, his son Tyler.
“That’s a touchy subject,” Mesnick said. “When you look at it retrospectively, you know, ‘You put your kid through that?’ There’s no right or wrong answer.”
He had many hesitations before going on the shows, especially about his son, but said he did as much as he could to protect him.
“If you asked Ty what ‘The Bachelor’ is, he’d have no idea, no clue,” Mesnick said.
While speaking to Ty’s classroom shortly after he was featured on television and in People Magazine, Mesnick said that Ty was confused about a peer asking why his dad had been on a magazine cover.
“It will be more interesting when he grows up and realizes what I went through and when he asks question,” Mesnick said. “Ty is not quite conscious of it yet.”
The time on his first show, “The Bachelorette,” was the longest Mesnick had been away from Ty. While he was gone for three weeks at a time, Ty stayed with Mesnick’s ex-wife and other family members.
During “The Bachelor,” Ty was with him for most of the taping.
“I’d come home from a date and he’d be sleeping in my bed,” he said.
When asked if he would ever let Ty become the next bachelor if he got the opportunity, Mesnick said he wouldn’t say no.
Mesnick said he would definitely talk to him about it and go into the details of his experience.
“I wish I could talk to any of the people who go on the show,” Mesnick said. “Specifically because they should be more conscious of what is going to happen to them.”
West said that all reality television shows are artfully constructed and provide an inaccurate description of real-life situations.
“The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are no exception, she said, but they are different than other reality shows on television.
“It’s different in the level to which it could affect people’s lives, ” West said. “It is not just for a finite period of time. It leads people to make serious lifetime commitments.”
Mesnick said that he spent 98 percent of his time with the camera people and producers of the show. He remembers spending a lot of time and being very good friends with those people and spending a lot less time with the girls.
Since the show Malaney moved to Washington state, he sold his house, she got a new job and they found a house together. Although he told People Magazine after the wedding they wanted more kids, he said Wednesday they really haven’t talked about it, but is sure that they will. After all of these big life changes and a crazy year, Mesnick said they just want to live life for right now.
From his experience on television, Mesnick said that there are two key things that he l
“The first is stick by your morals. Look what happened when I didn’t stick by my morals,” he said, referring to the final outcome of “The Bachelor.”
The second, he said, was to do things that you enjoy.
“You got one shot at this life. You might as well do what you love to do,” Mesnick said. “And if you don’t know what it is, try and figure it out.”