Perhaps it’s no more bizarre than the usual Bachelorette and Bachelor scenarios.
In Season 11 of The Bachelorette, two women familiar from the last go-round of The Bachelor compete. The new season premieres over two nights on ABC beginning Monday, May 18, at 9pm ET/PT.
Britt Nilsson, 28, a Hollywood waitress, squares off against Kaitlyn Bristowe, 29, a Vancouver, British Columbia, dance instructor.
“Shock was the first reaction,” Nilsson recalls upon learning that there would be two women. “To me it was very positive. I was really, really excited.”
Bristowe acknowledges that the switch in rules, a first for The Bachelorette (The Bachelor has done this before), left her with “mixed emotions, a lot of fears and excitement at the same time.”
While both women say they were told before hearing it from host Chris Harrison at the end of The Bachelor, they’re confused as to how the show will work.
The 25 men will choose which one they want to vie for. Bristowe considers whether that strikes her as fair.
“Not really,” she says.
In a separate interview, Nilsson explains, “They didn’t really clue us in. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are open to the element of surprise. You can’t preplan your strategy, and Kaitlyn and I showed up and had no idea how it would work either.
“Are we both staying the whole season?” Nilsson continues. “Even on the staff end, even on the crew end, they were kind of figuring it out as we were doing it. There was never any conversation.”
Both women appreciate what the show offers: the chance to isolate themselves from life and concentrate on finding their soulmate in front of millions.
“Every other distraction in the world is taken away from you and you are fully focused on your relationships and finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with,” Bristowe says. “In the outside world, you take a week to text each other. And in this, right off the bat you are talking about marriage. And you are fully focused and immersed in your relationship.”
While that puts a laser focus on the quest for a husband, not having your usual support group makes it tough, both women say.
Participating in the show prohibits calls to family and friends. On The Bachelor, the other women, the competition, became their only support system, one inherently fraught with sabotage.
Nilsson knows this all too well. Her voice still breaks recounting the cattiness she experienced.
“For me, quite honestly, the season was an incredibly hard time in my life,” she says. “It was very trying on me emotionally. I had to lean on people who know who I am. I was friends with a lot of women in the house and the nature of the show is you are with these women 24/7.”
She was shocked when “they were saying hurtful things and kept escalating until I left the show,” Nilsson says.
Still, “I don’t think I could have changed anything,” she says. “Everyone would say I am fake. I am very joyful.”
Returning was a vindication, and, Nilsson acknowledges, “a relief. It made me feel like, ‘OK, at least 50 percent of America is seeing who I am!’ And that was very healing for me.”
Nilsson considers Bristowe a friend and is glad that, if she had to be paired with anyone, it was with her.
“Kaitlyn and I are similar in many ways,” Nilsson says. “Our values and what we want out of life are similar. Our personalities are quite different and that relieves us both from needing to strategize. I don’t think any of these men will have their minds easily changed. They will be a Kaitlyn kind of guy or a Britt kind of guy.”
Photos: Credit: ABC/Craig Sjodin