Viewers first met Hannah Brown during Colton Underwood’s season of “The Bachelor” in 2019. Garnering a wide fanbase and capturing America’s heart on the dating show, the spunky, faith-based pageant queen eventually landed the lead role of “The Bachelorette” in Season 15.
“I don’t think I ever felt worthy enough to be ‘The Bachelorette,'” Brown tells Variety, in a recent conservation over Zoom, conducted from her L.A. apartment.
After finding reality television fame in 2019, the Alabama native moved to the west coast where she permanently resides. As one of the most popular Bachelor Nation alums with more than 2.5 million followers on Instagram, Brown has kept busy in the years since she starred on the dating franchise and she has continued her relationship with ABC, competing and winning the 28th season of “Dancing with the Stars.”
When she led “The Bachelorette,” ratings soared. The season ended with one of the most dramatic finales in recent memory when Brown accepted an on-camera proposal from contestant Jed Wyatt, only to find out he was in a relationship before the show, calling off the engagement by the time the final episode aired on national TV.
Despite her popularity, Brown faced the consequences and responsibility of having the spotlight on her when she became embroiled in controversy in 2020 for using the N-word while singing a song on social media.
“It was my own white fragility that was the issue,” Brown says.
Now, Brown is reflecting on all of these experiences in her new book, “God Bless This Mess,” published by HarperCollins, which is out today. In the memoir, Brown dives into trauma, toxic relationships, mental health, the men she dated on “The Bachelorette,” sex, shame and her Christian faith.
Here, Hannah Brown opens up to Variety about the most revealing parts of her book…
She knew that none of the contestants on her season were “the one”
After the limo entrances on night one of her season of “The Bachelorette,” Brown says she knew her future husband “was not here,” saying that she was looking for a sign that she never received. But, she still tried to trust the process.
“I’ve lived a life where I want to be the good girl,” Brown says. “The right thing on that show is to find a person. I wasn’t grounded enough to listen to that immediate instinct that was true all along.”
Brown didn’t expect for so much of her sex life with Peter Weber to air on national TV
With her faith on full display, Brown’s sex life became a major talking point during her season of “The Bachelorette.” At the time, when doing interviews, she spoke about wanting to normalize faith and sex.
During the in-studio finale of her season in 2019, Brown made major headlines for exclaiming that she and Weber had a lot of sex. “I was a little dishonest about something,” Brown said in front of the studio audience, before she added: “I did say there’s something that Peter and I did twice. It was actually four times.”
But now, reflecting back, Brown admits she wasn’t prepared to take the weight on her shoulders of publicly leaning into sex and religion.
“I think the show has always eluded to the fact that people were getting intimate, but never explicitly saying with who. And that is what I believed it would be,” Brown says. “To be so publicly exposed and to have to take a stance was hard. I was proud that I stood up for myself, but in the same breath, I don’t know if I was ready to take this, ‘I’m sex positive and I have sex’ take.”
She adds, “I feel a little hurt from it all.”
Brown was shamed by the Christian community for premarital sex
The biggest themes in Brown’s season of “The Bachelorette” stemmed from religion and sex, with Brown sharing details of her Christian faith. When it was revealed she had premarital sex with Wyatt and Weber on the show, she faced swift backlash.
“That was one of the biggest things that I had to heal from, just the shame of it all,” Brown says. “I’m having people tell me I’m a bad representative of Christianity and calling me all these names — it really made me question my faith a lot, but it was all part of the journey that God had for me.”
She felt like she was Tyler Cameron’s “bench girl”
Brown is best friends with former star of “The Bachelor,” Matt James, who was introduced to Bachelor Nation through his good friend, Tyler Cameron, the runner-up from Brown’s season of “Bachelorette.”
In the book, Brown opens up about her relationship directly after the show with the runner-up, admitting that she and Cameron tried to see if a relationship was possible.
“With a lot of these men — with Peter and Tyler — I thought that they loved me, but then when it came to real life, I don’t know if anybody loved me,” Brown says. “It was all bull-crap and that really hurt. When these men could finally have me, it felt like they didn’t want to anymore in real life. I thought, ‘Did they just want ‘The Bachelorette’ and not Hannah?'”
She adds, “Tyler would always say, ‘We’ll figure it out.’ As a woman, you want somebody to choose you and not just feel like you’re waiting. And I allowed that to happen for a little while, and that’s why I call myself the bench girl.”
Brown’s aunt and cousins were murdered when she was young
In Brown’s book, she opens up for the first time about the trauma of losing family members at a young age. Tragically, her aunt and cousins were murdered during her childhood.
“There were moments when I tried to talk about it. When people didn’t receive it, I saw it as, ‘Oh, they can’t handle it,'” Brown says. “Because of that, I repressed it for so long and I am now finally allowing myself to talk about how scared I’ve been my entire life from that.”
She learned from her N-word social media controversy
After a video went viral of Brown singing the N-word on her Instagram Live to DaBaby’s “Rockstar,” social media went into a frenzy, and Brown lost all of her endorsements at the time.
“I take full accountability for what I did and the hurt I caused,” Brown now says. “I always knew what I did was wrong…saying the N-word in any capacity, I knew was wrong.”
Brown struggled with how to address the situation. She explains, “I wasn’t really able to have this conversation because I would be the white girl that is crying and that’s not what needed to be done in that moment.”
Brown continues: “Some people will still be upset with me and I understand. I just have to continue transforming as a person and learning on my own.”