Reality TV — Tenley Molzahn talks about her plans after coming in a close second on ‘The Bachelor’
Newberg native Tenley Molzahn won the hearts of millions but not the final rose on ABC’s recently concluded season of “The Bachelor.” In an exclusive interview with her hometown paper, the runner-up talked about why she went on the reality television show, what really happened and what she plans to do next.
Actually, she said, she’s glad bachelor Jake Pavelka chose to propose to Vienna.
Tenley was encouraged to go on the show by her sister, Karley, and friend Kayla. “It’s really Karley who got me out of bed one day and got me to go to this open call that I thought was like a joke,” Tenley said.
When she was actually selected as a candidate, she began to hesitate — what if the show portrayed her differently than she was? Did she really want that? But Kayla told her that these doors were being opened for her for a reason, and she could leave at any moment if it didn’t feel right.
Her parents were also supportive. Tenley said she talked to her parents, sister and best friend nearly every day leading up to the show, discussing what she should do and what she should pack. “I did a lot of praying,” she added. “I just wanted to make sure my heart was in the right place (and) I was going for the right reasons.”
But she wasn’t ready to give up everything to go. When she found out, shortly before leaving for the show, that her job in admissions for California’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising could be in jeopardy because she was hadn’t worked there quite long enough to take a leave of absence, she decided it was a no go.
She would already be giving up two months’ salary if she lasted on the show, (“The Bachelor” offers no direct compensation, other than perks such as the final trip to the island of St. Lucia), and she needed to be able to count on a job when she returned. But her boss was “so supportive” and told her she had to go, even writing up a contract saying he would rehire her if FIDM let her go.
Tenley wasn’t originally looking for love on the show, although she did keep herself open to the possibility. “I was very skeptical of it in the beginning, but thinking, ‘If this door is open, I should see,’” she explained. When she met Jake, she thought he “was the kind of man I could fall in love with.”
But she didn’t expect to make it to the end of the show. “I didn’t have any expectations of going forward with it, so I could just relax,” she said. She mentioned a scene in the season where she was briefly shown jumping on a couch the first night, and said, “I remember bouncing on the couch thinking, ‘This could be my one night in the Bachelor mansion — I’m going to make the most of it!’”
Despite the drama caught on camera, Tenley said life in the mansion was pretty laid back. She spent a lot of time hanging out by the pool, and when she wanted some exercise, the former Disneyland dancer began running circles in the cul de sac — she even got some other girls to join in.
“I honestly had a blast. I think it was the women I was associating with,” she said. She roomed with Kathryn and Ella, and said, “those positive girls I was with made it really easy.” In fact, when drama did come up, “most of the time I had no idea what was going on.”
Tenley said it was difficult knowing there were cameras always watching — the girls did their own hair and makeup for all but the final episode, and it could be “stressful” knowing your appearance would be seen by millions ... especially when you have 15 minutes to prepare for a date and don’t know what you’ll be doing. But she adapted quickly, and didn’t mind being constantly interviewed about her thoughts.
“With someone sitting there and asking me questions, I felt like I was in counseling!” she laughed. About the way she bared her soul, opening up about her recent divorce and her ex-husband’s infidelity, she said, “Performing helps me to be vulnerable to strangers ... I also thought ... if my story comes across the right way and gives any message of hope, then it’s going to be worth it.”
She said the show’s depiction of her was accurate, although in real life she is “very joyful.” She said that out of hours of filming, the show would use the few minutes where she talked about her ex, making it seem like she was upset and bringing him up often. “There’s so much that the viewers didn’t get to see.”
But, she added, “I don’t think I would change a thing, because I was being exactly who I am. I didn’t want to win a guy by doing anything different.”
When Jake picked Vienna over her, she was sad and upset, initially. But “now, as I reflect back and see how Jake and Vienna are together, I couldn’t be more happy,” she said, adding that she was glad Jake was honest with himself about what he wanted. “I’m glad I’m not in that situation ... I’m glad he made that choice.”
When she returned from the show, she had to keep the outcome a secret from everyone, which was difficult but kind of fun, she said. “Only very few people know how to read me deeply,” she said, mentioning her parents and sister. “Even though they thought they had figured it out, they sometimes hadn’t.”
She said it was difficult watching the show at times — “Sometimes I had to close my eyes and hold my sister’s hand real tight, because you’re your own biggest critic.”
And now, she’s faced with a life and fame she “never expected.” People come up to hug her in the grocery store, and she has some stalkers, she said with a laugh. “People are very, very sweet,” she said, but added that her office has almost had to call the police on fans who won’t leave her alone. “I am touched that so many people felt they could relate to me ... that means a lot to me.”
And what’s next? Tenley would love to be invited to compete on “Dancing With the Stars,” but for now her life has mostly returned to normal. “With this newfound exposure, I want to use my influence for good,” she said, referencing Live Love, an organization founded by former Newberg pastor Paul Gunther. She plans to be involved in the organization’s work.
Tenley said she wouldn’t necessarily encourage others to go on “The Bachelor,” but she feels the show helped her.
“I learned so much about myself,” she said. “It was honestly the best experience of my life. I walked away with just a new way of looking at life.”