Nick Viall Reflects on How ‘The Bachelor’ Changed His Life as Franchise Hits 20-Year Milestone

Nick Viall
Courtesy of Dexter Brown

Nick Viall is one of the most notable alums to come from “The Bachelor” through its two decades on the air.

First introduced into America’s living rooms in 2014 as a suitor on Andi Dorfman’s season of “The Bachelorette,” Viall left the show heartbroken when he was not chosen to receive the final rose — and not without controversy. In 2015, Viall returned, once again, as a contestant on “The Bachelorette,” this time on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s season, and once again, he was the rejected runner-up. Viall then joined the cast of the third season of “Bachelor in Paradise,” before being selected as the star of “The Bachelor” for its 21st season in 2016. His engagement to contestant Vanessa Grimaldi ended, but his career in reality television did not. In 2017, Viall joined “Dancing With the Stars,” officially cementing his status as one of ABC’s cross-network mainstays. Today, Viall has left his reality dating stardom behind, but he still frequently appears in cameos on “The Bachelor” franchise, as a friend of the show.

While many reality stars fail to translate their Instagram fame into Hollywood success, Viall has proven to be one of the most savvy cast members to come from “The Bachelor” franchise with a passionate social media following, guest roles on network sitcoms, a book due later this year and a popular podcast that was nominated for a People’s Choice Award. One of the most known faces within Bachelor Nation, Viall has figured out how to parlay his notoriety into a noteworthy media career, without alienating the show that made him — which turns 20 years old today, hitting a major milestone from its premiere on March 25, 2002.

Here, Viall reflects on the ups and downs that came after his time on “The Bachelor” 

I get asked all the time how being on “The Bachelor” changed by life. Before I was on the show, I was content working in software sales in the Midwest. Now, I am a homeowner in Los Angeles, hosting my own podcast, developing others, writing books, hosting and acting. So yeah, I would say it’s changed my life. A lot.

I often get asked for advice from alumni recently coming off the show, hoping to make something of their experience. Whatever their goals are — if they have any — I am quick to tell them it’s very important to understand what the show really gives you and what it costs you: What it gives you is access. Incredible access.

“The Bachelor” is a cultural phenomenon. After 20 years on the air, it has become an iconic brand. All kinds of people have been fans of the shows over the years. Some of the biggest celebrities, athletes, politicians and business leaders are fans of the show, and many of us alums have found ourselves in rooms, hanging out with people we once would have paid money to see and waited hours in line to do it. That’s access, and access is the most valuable thing the show gives you. People say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” and being a member of Bachelor Nation can open up the door to knowing very important and influential people you might have never had the chance to meet.

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Nick Viall proposes to Vanessa Grimaldi on the Season 21 finale of “The Bachelor” in 2017 ABC

The reason many of us are given access is because of the fascination the fans have with the show, and subsequently, its cast. How does the show work? How did you live through such a crazy experience? Those are the topics with which people are most fascinated. The thing about fascination, though, is that it doesn’t require respect. People don’t respect serial killers, but the fascination with them is nevertheless intense. That is something I am quick to remind my peers when they come to me for advice.

“The Bachelor” franchise cast all sorts of types of people: smart, dumb, kind, cruel, talented, good and bad people have all walked out of the limo and onto your TV screen Monday nights. There are many personalities, but one thing we all have in common is we don’t hate attention. If there is a chance to make something of this crazy experience, we are all in. So, it can be a sobering realization to consider that, despite the attention and social media follows and heart-eyes emojis we receive while on the show, most of the new influential people we have access to aren’t all that interested in what we have to say about things that don’t pertain to our experience on the show. They aren’t all interested in what we hope to make of this experience, and it’s certainly not a priority for them to make sure we are successful after the show. Why should they, anyway? The people we are excited to suddenly have access to are people who put in the time and work to be in rooms that we suddenly found ourselves in. We are in these rooms because we were crazy or adventurous enough to be vulnerable in a staged environment for the world to watch.

I remind my peers that whatever credibility you think you had before the show doesn’t really exist with the new people you have access to. As you can imagine, this kind of feedback doesn’t always go over well with everyone who asks. For the ones who follow up with questions about how to proceed, I tell them their ability to gain respect and credibility while maintaining your access will be what determines whether they have sustained success outside of their time on the show. I’ll tell them to first figure out what they are passionate about. Then, I remind them that it will take time. They should focus on surprising people with humility, a desire to do the work and an ability to be an independent thinker.

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Nick Viall partnered with pro dancer Peta Murgatroyd on “Dancing With the Stars” Season 24 in 2017. ABC

The hype that comes from being on the show is almost as predictable as a clock. The first few months after the show are wild. They are filled with exciting invites to events and attention from fans. And then, a new season premieres with 30 new names and the fleeting feeling of relevancy is very noticeable. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, even if you told yourself that you knew it was going to happen.

When alums come to me wondering how to keep it all going, I tell them to get to work. I remind them that it’s been almost six years since I was last on the show, and I am only now feeling like I’ve settled into a career of my own. Anyone who has had notoriety on the show has hopes of separating themselves from the show that gave them the platform they now enjoy. I am no different. It’s something we’ve all struggled with, especially if it’s respect we are seeking, after realizing that is one of the things the show does not give you.

It’s been a series of trials and errors for me, but I have found a nice balance. I have always been passionate and interested in social dynamics, and I have always been the friend who other friends come to for advice when they want direct and honest feedback. When thinking about what I am good at and what I am passionate about, I always felt like I could be someone who would surprise you with sound advice on dealing with adversity when it came to love and dating. As you might imagine, that wasn’t an easy task, especially for myself, who was best known as unlucky with love when it came to my time on the show. Nevertheless, I still believed I could build respect and trust with my audience, and I willing to take the time and accept the criticism that came along the way.

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Nick Viall will publish his first book, “Don’t Text Your Ex Happy Birthday,” this October. Courtesy of Abrams Image

I just got done recording my 400th episode for my podcast, “The Viall Files,” which is a mix of offering relationship advice to callers, breaking down everything that currently happens in “The Bachelor” world and interviewing some incredible people and some of your favorite celebrities. With more than 80 million downloads and a handful of accolades, I finally feel like I have made something that is my own.

When I am asked to reflect on my time on the show and sum up my experience, I have always said that it’s nothing I’m proud of, but I’m not embarrassed of it either. What I am is grateful — grateful for all the great friends I’ve made, the experiences I have enjoyed (and survived) and most importantly, the opportunity to wake up every day and know that my work is my passion. It’s been almost eight years since I left a life that I was content with, selling software to businesses in need of better managing operations. Everything I am currently doing in my professional life wouldn’t have happened, had I not gone on the show. It wasn’t without many challenges, emotional anguish and plenty of self-doubt, but it was all worth it. For that, I will be forever thankful.

This interview has been edited and condensed.