By KELLY B. SOUTH firstname.lastname@example.org
She didn't get the fairy tale ending millions had hoped for, but Sarah Stone says, if asked, she'd do it all over again.
Sarah, a Jackson native, made headlines last year when Nashville emergency room doctor Travis Stork gave her the final rose during ABC-TV's "The Bachelor: Paris."
Sarah was one of 25 women who competed against one another to win the heart of the hunky bachelor.
The Bachelor, Dr. Travis Stork
On the final episode, on Feb. 27, 2006, Travis presented Sarah a rose, along with a $90,000 Chopard ring with setting (that's being kept in a bank) and a "promise" to pursue a relationship.
And that's exactly what they're doing - as friends.
Travis moved to Colorado in July, according to Sarah. But they still talk. She confidently said that he's not dating anyone, and she doesn't think Travis is interested in pursuing a serious relationship right now because he's too focused on his job. Sarah, on the other hand, has been seriously dating someone. She met him through business about a month ago.
Just as Carrie confided in Mr. Big on "Sex and the City," Sarah said she told Travis about her new beau.
"It wasn't just about love and falling in love and breaking up," Sarah said about her relationship with Travis. "It wasn't like that. We got there and immediately clicked. Travis and I had an immediate connection. We had an amazing time in Paris, and just to come back, it all kind of just fell apart."
It actually worked out for the best, she said.
"We really needed one another after the show, during the show, while it was airing."
They really relied on each other as friends, she said.
"We were really excited about coming back and starting a relationship," she said. "I just don't think we realized how many people would actually care."
After returning from Paris, Sarah and Travis were not allowed to see each other, to avoid giving away the ending of the show before it aired.
Filming for "The Bachelor: Paris" took place in October and November 2005. The show aired in January and February 2006. Those appearing on the show signed $5 million contracts agreeing not to disclose any information.
It was hard for Sarah and Travis to pursue a relationship when they couldn't see - and weren't supposed to speak - to each other, she said.
Prior participants on the reality television show have cited the separation immediately following filming as one of the reasons for their own failed relationships.
Sarah and Travis will, however, be friends forever, she said.
"He and I share a wonderful experience together. ... I don't know how I can get rid of him. Everywhere I go, everyone's like, 'Where's Travis?'"
The two hope to catch up with one each other when he visits Nashville in a few months.
Although Travis never made it to Jackson, he did have something to say about Sarah's hometown.
"While the show was airing, he would say, 'I can't believe how supportive your hometown is,'" Sarah said. "He had good things to say about Jacksonians."
Appearing on 'The Bachelor: Paris'
If you're interested in auditioning for the next "Bachelor," then listen to Sarah's advice: "They're looking for the girl who doesn't want to be on the show," she said. "Although they probably look for the crazy girls, too." (That explains the oncologist from Florida who said her eggs were rotting!)
Producers spotted Sarah in Nashville while she was with a friend. After she told them she wasn't interested, a free trip to Paris changed her mind.
"I was stuck in that rut. Stuck in that routine of teaching every day - kind of dating but not too interested in anyone. When this opportunity presented itself, I just jumped on it. ... Not really thinking that I would actually win."
With the support of her family, friends, school and kindergarten students' parents, Sarah headed for the city of love.
"It's the true experience that I'm taking with me," she said. "The stuff people didn't get to see on TV."
The final four girls were provided their own apartment, complete with a live-in assistant. Sarah lived there for four and a half weeks and left feeling very Parisian, she said.
For the most part, she felt the girls on the show were portrayed fairly.
"Some of the things were a little exaggerated," she said. "Like the looks we would give one another. So, they were a little out of context in that way."
As the first episodes aired, Sarah said she read some of the message boards.
"Some of the things were true. And other things were so outlandish."
Her good friend Lindsey Homra Siroky called her one day and described to her what Sarah was doing and what she was wearing. Someone, who had seen Sarah while she was running, had posted it on an online message board.
That was weird, she said. "Plus, it's hard to read things that are bad."
So she stopped.
But Sarah also heard her fair share of very positive things, too.
One viewer told her, "You represented the South so well, and you made me proud to be a Southern lady. I let my teenage daughters watch this because of you."
About eight of the bachelorettes remain friends, Sarah said. She was closest to Jehan, a vitamin sales representative from Chicago. She came to visit Sarah in Nashville last summer.
It should come as no surprise that Moana is the only girl Sarah hasn't spoken to.
Moana and Sarah were the final two women remaining on the show.
Sarah has tried to contact her, she said, but Moana hasn't responded.
"I don't think it's anything personal because she and I actually got along very well on the show. We were really tight," Sarah said.
"I think it's probably more the way she was portrayed and the things that she had said that they actually showed. It's hard to be so vulnerable and put yourself out there. It was hard for me to see the way they portrayed her because we all have that side of us. It was hard to watch her on TV - break down like that - when it could have been me."
Reality TV star
Appearing on the show has changed Sarah's life in more ways than she could say, she said.
The 1997 University School of Jackson graduate was at her parents' home on Wednesday to visit family and friends. Until recently, a contract prevented her from talking to media about her reality TV experience.
"My life went from being just your average school teacher to someone who can barely walk through the airport. ... My whole life has completely changed."
She's no longer a kindergarten teacher and is now a real estate agent for French Christianson Patterson & Associates in Nashville. Sarah resigned from her teaching position in order to appear on "The Bachelor: Paris" in 2005.
She's met and hung out with country music superstar Kenny Chesney and attended her first red carpet event as a VIP last year at the Country Music Television Awards.
Producers haven't contacted her - yet - about becoming the next "Bachelorette," but she says she'd probably do it again.
"I'd want to pick the guys, though," she said.
Her mom, Vernita Stone, said she wouldn't mind if Sarah wanted to do it all over again.
"It was a good experience," Vernita said. "It was just kind of different."
"I think overall, it was the best thing I have ever done in my life," Sarah said.
She's not opposed to appearing on other reality TV shows.
"Amazing Race, so I could travel around," she said.
So, who would she choose as her partner?
"Maybe, Travis," she said.
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