Four times before, a castoff from "The Bachelor" has gotten her day and her say.
Now Jillian Harris becomes ABC's fifth "Bachelorette" as a new round of the unscripted series begins Monday, May 18. After finishing as second runner-up when recent "Bachelor" Jason Mesnick whittled his choices down to two other women -- choosing one as his match, then controversially changing his mind and picking the other--the lively, sassy Harris gets her own field of romantic prospects, 30 this time (instead of the usual 25).
"The experience has been way more positive than I expected," the Vancouver interior designer says. "There definitely are times that are tougher, but I'm having a really great time overall. I went into it with the mind-set that I was the very first 'Bachelorette,' or even 'Bachelor,' ever. Everybody goes through ups and downs, and whatever anyone else's experience has been with this, I'm going to take it for what it's worth for me."
That attitude, added to having been through the "Bachelor" process, is helping Harris in her new role.
"I think it gave me more of an open mind for how possible it is to find love this way," she says, "and it also has allowed me to be a little more relaxed. I was just myself the whole time (on 'The Bachelor'), but I was stressed out about how it actually was going to look. I became confident that if I came here and did the same thing, I would be more prepared for the whole situation."
Assisting each "Bachelorette" or "Bachelor" is the amiable host of the two shows, Chris Harrison, who knows to expect the unexpected while on the job.
"I've probably learned as much about myself and my own relationships as anything," he says. "It's been a great study in human behavior to go through this with everybody. I go home and apply it to my own life. In an odd way, it's probably made me a much better husband, and a much better man, in the long run."
The long-married Harrison admits he approaches "The Bachelorette" differently from "The Bachelor," due to the gender reversal. "Put 30 guys together, competing for one woman, and they just don't know how to act," he maintains. "It's really awkward for them.
"I find myself being a lot more protective of Jillian. One night, we were having this discussion, and someone threw (a comment) at Jillian, and I found myself sticking up for her. With the women, I'm more of a gentleman; maybe that's kind of a sexist thing, but I was brought up in the South, and that's just the way I am."
Harris has gotten to know Harrison to the degree she'll say, "Chris Harrison is a lot less cheesy in person than he is on TV. That's actually the first thing I told him! I said, 'You're actually a pretty cool guy.'He has grown to be a really sincere and good friend. When I'm having tough days, he's the first one to make me laugh. He knows how to cheer me up, so I'm very grateful for having him around."
Knowing what the public reaction was to her last time, Harris hopes people will stay on her side through her latest amorous adventure.
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"I was just overwhelmed by their support," she says. "It made me very proud of myself, and I don't know how many times in my life I've felt that.
"After I got 'junked'--for lack of a better word --last season, my mom and dad wanted me to be the next 'Bachelorette' so bad. When it became a reality, they were a little bit nervous about me possibly getting my heart broken again. Once I made the decision, though, my friends and family were so behind me. Even ex-boyfriends.
"They all know I'm a unique sort of girl," Harris notes, "and I do things a little bit differently. I can't wait to find 'that person,' so many of them have said, 'Jill, if anybody we know was going to do this, it would be you. Just go for it, have a great time, and bring home a great guy.' "
Earlier, Harris believed her uniqueness might cost her the "Bachelorette" slot.
"I thought I was this short, quirky, hyper Canadian who wasn't really descriptive of what the last 'Bachelorettes' have been," she says. "I didn't give it a thought that they would even ask me, so when they did, I was like, 'Seriously? You want me to do this?' I think I'm a great person, but at the same time, I didn't think I would make a good fit for this."
A native of Peace River, Alberta, Harris is the first Canadian "Bachelorette," which she doesn't take lightly.
"I am so nervous about that," she confirms. "Finding love is my priority, but I also want Canada to be proud of me. Honestly, all I can do is be true to myself. If people don't understand, they're entitled to that and hopefully, they'll respect me for my decisions. This is about me finding my soul mate."
There's no guarantee Harris will get back in a hot tub during "The Bachelorette," but the bubbly session she shared with Mesnick on "The Bachelor" was memorably steamy in more ways than one.
She hasn't spoken with him while she's "The Bachelorette," reasoning that she "really needed to go into this with a clear mind. I had to close that relationship off, at least for the time being. I think he's a great person, and after this is over, I can't wait to be in touch with him again and to see how our stories match up. Or don't."