So close, yet so far. Nate Dern leaves the competition in the unenviable position of having gone the farthest without the cash prize for his troubles. And by having the most controversial “beauty” as his partner, he had his share of troubles. Ultimately, Nate lost to Scooter and Megan at his own request; but he gained a newfound awareness of his physical appearance and how he presents himself to the world. In this interview, he speaks about being put in the position of opting for the high road – as well as just how much he was crushing on Jennylee. Maybe it was a scheduling error, but when this interview was set up, it was for both members of the team; but only Nate was on hand to represent the second-place winners.
Thanks for speaking with me today, Nate. I actually thought I’d be talking to both of you today at the same time.
Oh no, it’s just me.
Just to warn you, I had a lot of questions for Cecille. We’ll just have to wing it.
Oh, that’s fine. I can answer them. I can tell you what I think she’d say.
First off, I wanted to congratulate you for doing so well in the competition, beating out all the other teams except for Megan and Scooter. Pretty much you guys powered through the competition.
Thank you very much! Yeah, it was a great experience.
In fact, many teams thought of you as the ones to beat.
Well, thanks. We are both competitive people and I think we went into every single challenge thinking that we had a chance to win it.
Were you expecting the twist that you wouldn’t have a quiz at the end?
No. I hadn’t seen the show before, but from talking to people I had heard that they changed it a little bit from Season 1 to Season 2, so I was expecting it to change in some way, but I thought it would just be that they changed how the quiz was going to go. So I was definitely surprised when they showed everyone else in the other room on the TV screen. I was definitely surprised. (laughs)
Do you think Megan and Scooter’s win was more about revenge against Cecille, or about their performance in the competition?
You know, that’s a great question. For some people, the vote might have been revenge against Cecille, but I really don’t think so. I think everyone came back into the house and tried to give Cecille a chance, and wanted to hear her out. I think it was more about --- I mean, you know, that was probably part of it, but I think a lot of it was also celebrating Megan and Scooter.
Since you probably know Cecille better than any of us, maybe you can tell us. If you guys had known that the final contest would be to win over everybody, say, like they do on Survivor – do you think she would have been any different?
Hmm. Like if she had known that from the beginning?
Well, that’s an interesting question. She would have been stupid not to be different. (laughs) You know, I’d like to think that she would have, but then on the other hand, actually, I would not have changed the way I acted. So ideally, she should have acted in a way that it wouldn’t have mattered that everybody was voting for us in the end. At one point on the last episode, Sanjay asked her, “Do you feel like you’re being yourself or are you putting on an act?” and she said that she felt like she was herself from day one. If that’s the way she really is, then maybe that’s the way she would have acted from the beginning, even knowing that this is the way things were going to turn out.
But again, with you standing that close to her, you would probably be the one to know. Time and time again this came up. Was that really her? Was she being genuine? Or was she very conscious that she was on television?
Right. Great question. I mean, there were times when I would be talking with Cecille late at night, and it was almost as if I were talking to a different person. Like, her voice would be different. When she puts on what some people call “the baby voice” and she pouts her lips, and that’s obviously her putting on a little act. But then her voice changes and she gets serious. So yeah, I think that there’s a certain amount of her putting on an act. I don’t think it’s for TV, though. I think that’s her “in front of other people” act. I don’t think it’s the TV act. But that is a part of her personality. She acts in a way that she thinks makes her attractive and that she thinks will get her what she wants.
So, moving on from Cecille – you poor thing, you probably have to answer a lot of questions about her.
Oh no, it’s okay. I’m happy to talk about it.
Well, were we watching true love blossom on national television?
(laughs) I think you were watching – you know, I um…I can’t – (gathering his thoughts)
It’s so hard for me to say what it looked like to other people. You were watching a very personal part of my life, something that was very important to me and that will always have a spot in my heart. And yeah, Jennylee was a really big part of my experience there, and it was a life-changing experience, so yeah, she’ll always have a special place in my heart. In the walls of that house, a romance between her and I made a lot of sense. If we would have stayed in that house, I think we’d still be together. (laughs)
You seemed smitten. I mean, you jumped out of a window.
(laughs) I did! I really did jump out of a window. On TV, it doesn’t come across, but I really did. I had to sneak out and jump out a window. They don’t show them getting mad at me. They don’t show that part.
Oh, you got in trouble for that, huh?
They should be thanking you, because that was good television.
Yeah, and all of that was like – if this is a show about doing things we don’t usually do, that was it. I am like the prototypical “follow the rules” and “listen to people in authority” person. I asked them if I could say goodbye to Jennylee again, and they told me, “Sorry Nate, those are the rules.” It might be one of the first times in my life that I went against the rules, you know. (laughs) So I think that’s a testament to my feelings for her, and also just, what a powerful experience it was.
So you are you guys going out or what?
We’re still close, we talk on the phone a few times a week, we send messages to each other online. But I think we both recognized the reality of our situations. Right when the show got done, I went and spent two months in Argentina doing research for my senior thesis, so it went to where I didn’t have phone access all the time and didn’t have email access. So we went from spending 24 hours a day with each other to not being able to talk at all. Now I’m on the east coast going to school, and she’s on the west coast working. We talk and stay close, but I think we’re going to stay good friends and if we ever end up in the same place again, we’ll see where we’re at, but for now we’re just going to stay good friends.
You’re not going to take the band to L.A.?
Actually, I’m going to visit her next week to watch the clip show with her.
In Las Vegas?
Yes, exactly. Also, I’m planning on visiting her again in March for my spring break. I’m planning on going out to L.A.
So I also wanted to ask you if you really fit the ‘geek’ category. Doesn’t being in a band disqualify you from being categorized a “geek”?
Yeah, people have definitely have told me that. There’s a website out there that has called me a big faker and a fraud. As I said, I wasn’t looking to be on this show. They came to me. I gave them my resume, and they knew everything about me. They want a variety of people on the show. They wanted the Star Trek geek, and a math geek, and a science geek, the comic book geek. Mario is one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met. Scooter knows a ton about wine and is very smooth, a very suave guy. We are all a different variety of geek, and I definitely have geeky qualities.
Even though I do the performance thing, I think I’m definitely an introvert in the sense that being in groups of people wears me out. I need to be by myself, otherwise I kind of shut down in big groups of people. It takes all kinds of geeks, or something.
It was just an extraordinary group of people, really.
That’s correct. I think sometimes also that just because the name of the show happens to be “Beauty and the Geek,” people get hung up on that. But the point of the show is to bring together 8 guys who otherwise would not meet these girls, and 8 girls who otherwise would never give these guys the time of day. And in the beginning, even Nadia, who is the biggest sweetheart, I remember watching the first or second episode where she calls me hairy and gross or something like that. I definitely was someone who, if passing on the street, all those girls would have said, “Oh, gross.” Even though I might not be a geek – but you know the point is to bring together two groups of people who have a lot to learn from each other, and in that sense, I 100% fit that.
What did you learn from this experience?
I think it was a life-changing experience. I’m going to look back on my life as before Beauty and the Geek and after Beauty and the Geek. In terms of what I learned, there’s the small changes I’ve made in my life; like, I wear deodorant now, I’m trying to stay clean-shaven even though I really hate shaving. I’m still not buying designer clothes, but I’m trying to synthesize my own style with trying to look respectable in a way that I don’t isolate people. I want to be someone that anyone would feel comfortable approaching and having a conversation with. So those are kind of smaller changes.
The bigger stuff is…you know, I think the show would like to say is that one of the changes is that it gives guys confidence to go talk to girls, and that was part of it; but it was more that it’s caused me to reevaluate what I think is important. Before I was different for the sake of being different, and now it’s made me realize that what is more important to me is connecting with people and helping people, and learning from people. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to do that. One of my roommates, Dustin, was telling me that he feels like I’m very different from the end of last spring to this year. I think I’m a lot more tempered, I’m not quite as goofy.
Early on, one of the things I said was that it’s easy for me to be a goofball and have a big beard and keep people at a distance. Since the show, I’ve been trying to maybe realize that I don’t have to be the goof, and I’m trying to figure out what my identity is then. It really has been a totally huge experience. It’s going to take me a while to keep reflecting on it.
(laughs) I told someone, the show felt like getting the wind knocked out of me, but in a really good way. But I’m still catching my breath. I haven’t quite recovered yet.
It seemed like when it got to the end of the show, and you were in that intense situation, cut off from the rest of the world, you made the decision that you felt like your team didn’t deserve to win over Megan and Scooter. Do you think that was a product of being in that environment? You’ve already said that you wouldn’t change anything you did, but what led you to that decision, to the point where you were actually telling people that they should really vote for the other team?
From the beginning, the money was never the most important thing to me. I definitely wanted to do well in the challenges only because I’m a competitive person and I like to work hard, so challenge-by-challenge I wanted to win just so I could stay in the house longer to continue the experience. But the money was never the most important thing. Then at the end, the experience was going to come to an end for all of us, so it wasn’t like I was going to get to stay in the house any longer. And just speaking with Cecille and hearing what she had to say, I realized that the best outcome was not for Cecille and me to win. I think everyone was probably leaning that way anyway, so I think I just confirmed what people were feeling and I just let them know that I agreed with them, and that they should make that choice and I would support them. That we would still be friends.
About Cecille, I was very surprised when she said that “Anyone who thinks this is a life-changing experience –“
“Is as stupid as they look,” I believe is what she said.
What was your reaction to that?
I was really surprised to hear her say that. I think part of it is she just had a houseful of people tell her that they didn’t like her. She’s in a really sensitive mood, she’s feeling defensive, and she’s feeling like people were just mean to her, she’s going to lash out at them. That was a terrible thing to say, but in the context, she was feeling hurt and wanted to hurt other people maybe.
Another comment by Cecille that stuck out in my mind was in a confessional. She said that she felt that you should be paying more attention to her, your partner, and that Jennylee was a distraction.
When you hear that, are you insulted?
Yeah, I am, actually. It’s funny, because we don’t hear those confessionals until we see the show. That hurt, and it goes along with Cecille being insensitive when Jennylee left and she said that inappropriate comment in the elimination room. It just sort of demonstrated that she was thinking of herself more than me or the other people in the house. Also, it’s just simply not true. I took all the challenges very seriously. I was up late studying for everything. If she thinks I wasn’t a good partner, then I, you know, I encourage her to go back in time and have a different partner in the house, and see how well she does.
I’m assuming because of the way the show is edited that she didn’t know that you had mentioned to a couple of people that you wouldn’t be offended if they voted for the other team. So do you think she knew that at the time?
I told her that I was going to tell people that we didn’t need to win. I told her that I was going to tell people that I was happy with my experience. And then, also, on the steps, I don’t know if they showed this on the show. When they were voting at the end, a few people mentioned specifically that I had told them not to vote for us. They said, “Nate said we don’t have to vote for them, so I’m not going to.” So I think she was aware of it to an extent. I think she probably was not aware to the degree that I campaigned against us. I don’t think it will be a total shock.
Does she give you any grief about that or anything?
Well, I talked to her on Thursday, and she actually hadn’t seen the show yet because she had been working, so…(laughs)
Maybe you’ll be getting a phone call.
She might be mad at me, but I’ll be her friend if she wants me to be, and we can support each other in any way we can. We’ll see.
Is there anything else you’d like the viewers to know?
I just hope people know that it really was a genuine experience for me. Hearing people say that I’m a faker, that hurts. But that’s fine. I know what the experience was for me.
And if people want to say hi, they can online on NateDern.com. They can come say hi.
Thanks to Nate for bringing us his insight into the show, and many thanks to CW for a rewarding season of interviews. Coming soon: Megan and Scooter!