Oh dear. Look who’s back. Again.
It’s that poor, misguided young woman from those stupid reality dating shows. You know: The one who got engaged on national TV – twice – and wound up dumping the guy. Twice.
Does she really deserve yet another 15 minutes of fame? Does she truly have anything new to say?
Emily Maynard isn’t naive. She knows this is exactly what a lot of people will be thinking when they see her photo, when they read this story, and certainly when they learn she’s written a book (titled “I Said Yes” and released Tuesday) that’s based largely on her experiences as the star of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.”
But the SouthPark stay-at-home mom – who finally found a husband when the cameras weren’t looking, whose life finally had returned to something resembling normal here in Charlotte – says she didn’t step back into the spotlight this winter for fame.
Rather, she did it for God.
“I really did not want to put myself out there again,” Maynard said, her face glowing in the afternoon light that streamed through the large windows at Forest Hill Church off Park Road.
“But I just prayed about it, and I felt like this was God seeing something good out of ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Bachelorette.’ I always knew that there was a reason I did it. Obviously it wasn’t to meet my husband – shockingly enough – but I felt like maybe God gave me the platform so that I could help grow his kingdom.”
Her message in the book? “Nobody’s life has been perfect. Nobody’s made every right choice. And I wanted whoever was reading it to see themselves in me, whether it was thinking that the wrong guy was the one you’re going to marry and throwing yourself into that relationship, or just making everyday mistakes. I wanted them to know that that’s something that happens to everybody.”
From dating show to divinity
Before we go any further, a little background for the uninitiated.
“The Bachelor” is a popular reality dating show on which several women compete for the affections of some gorgeous hunk, and “The Bachelorette” a popular spinoff where the gender roles are reversed. Ladies get weeded out every episode, and in the finale, the man typically proposes to his favorite. The relationships almost never last.
Maynard was just 24 when she was cast on the series in 2010, and was memorable for being a single mom whose daughter’s dad was late NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick (her fiance at the time of his death in 2004), and for being the eventual winner. She got engaged to entrepreneur Brad Womack on the show... but they called it quits soon afterward.
She was 25 when she was cast as the star of “The Bachelorette’s” eighth installment, which was unique because production moved to Charlotte from L.A. in order to minimize disruption for her and daughter Ricki (although, yes, the whole thing still was terribly disruptive). She wound up choosing entrepreneur Jef Holm, who – against her wishes, you’ll learn in her new book – proposed to her in the finale. They split later that year.
In some ways, all of that seems like it was a lifetime ago. Maynard quietly entered her 30s last month, and she’s now a few months shy of celebrating her second anniversary with husband Tyler Johnson, a retail operations manager at Hendrick Lexus who has never been on a reality-dating show.
Daughter Ricki, 10, is a fourth-grader at Charlotte Christian School; last July the family welcomed baby boy Jennings, named for Maynard’s grandfather; and on Tuesday – the same day her new book was released – the couple announced that they are expecting another child.
But more than 3 1/2 years after her run on reality-TV ended, she says she is still trying to get the bad taste out of her mouth.
“I still feel a lot of shame and embarrassment about doing the show,” said the Morgantown, W.Va. native, “but that’s where my faith has to come in, too – that God doesn’t care about any of that, and I need to focus on what he has planned for my future.”
As for that faith, she reveals in her book that “church was an occasional event” when she was a child, that her relationship with God became stronger thanks to Ricky Hendrick, and that it was tested after he died.
“You’d think I’d turn to God, but I didn’t,” she writes. “Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or I just didn’t know how. Besides, I wanted personal companionship, real-life people I could talk to and do fun things with. Not knowing where to turn, I started hanging out with a fast crowd that liked to have a good time. And in the process of trying to divert attention away from feeling empty, I made some foolish decisions, ones I am not proud of.”
It wasn’t until after her breakup with Jef Holm – as she struggled with doubts, questions and confusion – that “I was finally letting God do His job,” Maynard writes. “And He was allowing me to start over.”
‘I’m not Jennifer Aniston’
Maynard met Tyler Johnson after she was on “The Bachelor” but before she went on “The Bachelorette.”
She was a new member of Forest Hill, and they were both volunteering as part of the church’s outreach program at Quail Hollow Middle School. (In the book, she writes, “I had seen him around church and knew he was an elder. He was very hard to miss because he was so, um, hot!”)
“Before I was scheduled to fly out to Los Angeles (for “The Bachelorette”),” Maynard writes, “Tyler and I were walking back to the car after our school clubs one Thursday night when I told him I was going on the show. He seemed taken aback. Before I drove off, Tyler said something like, “Well, let’s keep in touch as friends then, and if you’re not engaged when you get back, we can get together or something.”
Fast-forward about a year: About two months after she’d announced her split with Holm, Maynard got a text from Johnson. He asked if she would tweet about an event he was helping to organize to her 400,000-plus followers. “I agreed on one condition,” she says in the book. “ ‘You have to take me to dinner.’ ”
They were engaged one year later, in January 2014.
The following month, Maynard and Johnson were interviewed on stage at Forest Hill by pastor David Chadwick, as part of his sermon on sexual purity and the differences between Hollywood and biblical views of romance. A book agent who saw a video of the talk contacted Maynard and encouraged her to publish her story.
The book’s details were fleshed out thanks to her stacks of journals; the prose was punched up by ghostwriter A.J. Gregory, who also is credited with writing a book with Justin Bieber’s mom, Pattie Mallette; the most controversial stuff was expunged by lawyers responsible for making sure she doesn’t get sued by ABC; and the 214-page book was published by Thomas Nelson, a faith-based arm of HarperCollins.
Maynard is now among more than a dozen former “Bachelor”/“Bachelorette” contestants who have written books. But she insists fame isn’t important to her.
“I want to be very clear: My intentions with writing the book aren’t to further my career in any way,” she said. “I’m not looking to be on any more TV shows.”
And for what it’s worth, Forest Hill’s Chadwick said he believes that she’s genuine.
“Do I think there are skeptics out there who will doubt that? Absolutely. But I think her heart is pure in trying to take advantage of this window of opportunity to share her testimony, to influence as many people as she can toward the Lord, who has changed her life.”
“Time will tell whether this is sincere or not,” Chadwick said. “Personally, I think it is. I don’t think she’s going to seek more and more. If she does, it’ll either be the Lord opening the door, or her own ego. If it’s her own ego, she’ll pay the price one day.”
It certainly doesn’t sound like Maynard’s ego is much of an issue these days, though.
“I’m not Jennifer Aniston. I’m never going to be. This is very fleeting. I know I don’t have this platform because of any talents I have. I went on a dating show and that’s why this is happening.”
“If you look at the show as a whole,” she said, “how many people have you seen come out of it and become A-list celebrities? None. So if you’re trying to be famous, you should absolutely not go on ‘The Bachelor,’ because no one will ever take you seriously ever again.”
Emily Maynard’s ‘I Said Yes’
Thomas Nelson is pitching the book in promotional materials as a “tell-all,” but Maynard is quick to refute that claim: “I don’t want anybody to read this with the expectation that it’s going to be a ‘Bachelor’ tell-all. That was never my purpose in writing it. I don’t want to throw anybody under the bus. I don’t have ill will towards anybody. I didn’t spill any major secrets.”
Still, more than half of the book is about her time on the two shows, from her perspective; and fans might be surprised by what she divulges about how manipulative the producers can be and how artificial the finished product really is.
There are other surprises, too (spoiler alert):
▪ During a bout with insecurity, loneliness and academic pressure while attending a boarding school in Florida that she hated, Maynard told a counselor, “I just want to die” – and was promptly admitted to a local hospital. A few months later, the depressed teen intentionally overdosed on Prozac and wound up in the emergency room.
▪ Maynard – who has long contended that she stayed home and wasn’t with Ricky Hendrick when his plane went down because she was feeling ill – reveals in the book that “there was something else that kept me home, something I have never before shared publicly. Ricky and I had just gotten into a heated argument before he left the house...”
▪ And regarding her husband, Tyler Johnson: “In case you’re wondering, we waited to have sex with each other until after we were married,” she writes late in the book. “Best decision ever.”