Frisky Q&A: DeAnna Pappas On Finding Love, For Real This Time

DeAnna Pappas has had a long, strange ride on “The Bachelor.” First, she fell for Brad Womack, only for him to walk away without proposing to either woman at his final rose ceremony. Next, she came back as “The Bachelorette” and fell in love with quirky snowboarder Jesse Csincak, only to find out they weren’t compatible after all. Finally, she met the twin brother of a guy from Jillian Harris’ season of “The Bachelorette,” and fell in love—this time for real. And while she’s in the midst of planning her wedding, she had the surreal experience of sitting back on the couch and watching Brad get a second shot at “Bachelor”-dom.

On April 9th and 10th, DeAnna will be one of the guests of honor at the Reality Rocks Expo, a two-day conference celebrating the phenomenon of reality TV. To get ready, she sat down with The Frisky to talk about her upcoming wedding, what reality TV auditions are really like, and, of course, whether Brad and Emily will make it.

Brad would call periodically and say, “I miss you. Come see me.” I was like, “Listen. We can be friends eventually, but not now. I’m still sad and angry and I can’t get over you if you continue to confuse me like this.”

How did you hear about “The Bachelor?”

I had nooo intentions of going on “The Bachelor.” I had never even seen the show. I dated this guy off and on for three years and a few months before the auditions, he dumped me. I was completely heartbroken. I had this friend who was an avid fan of the show and she called me one day and said, “Oh my gosh, they’re doing auditions for ‘The Bachelor’ in Atlanta. Will you please go?” I said, “No way. I don’t want to do a reality show—no thank you.” I had a bad taste in my mouth after watching Flava Flav and whatnot. She was like, “Please go. I’m living vicariously through you. I’ll buy you dinner.” I was like, “Food? Okay, sure.” She bribed me with dinner in Atlanta. I went and auditioned. I never thought in a million years they would choose me. So I was just my silly self when I went in. They asked, “Why do you think you’re still single?” My answer was, “I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.” I didn’t take it seriously. I honestly never thought they’d choose me. I’m just a normal girl from outside Atlanta. I lived in a normal house, I had a normal job, I have a normal body—I’m not 5’9″ and blonde with big boobs. When they kept calling and calling and said, “Guess what? You’re going to be on this season of ‘The Bachelor,'” I was like, “Ooooh. Shoot. I don’t think this is something I want to do.” My sister made me go. She said, “Just go. If you don’t like it, come home. If you don’t fall in love, come home.”

What were the qualities that really struck you about Brad when you were on the show?

I’m from the South, so the fact that he is a true Southern gentleman—very polite, very manly, always ‘yes ma’am,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘how are you doing.’ He always cares so much more about others. Of course those qualities attracted me. That was always the kind of guy I was looking for—someone who would put a woman first. That’s the kind of guy Brad is.

How did you recover from the shock after the final episode?

I didn’t recover until the show finished airing. I didn’t tell anybody about the outcome of the show besides my sister and my brother and my father. My sister lived with me in my house in Georgia, so she saw me cry every single day. It was tough. The whole time the show was on, I held onto the idea, “Maybe Brad is seeing that he made a mistake.” See, I didn’t get any answers. There was no explanation. We spent the last night together before the final rose ceremony. He put me in the limo and said, “I’ll see you tomorrow … Don’t worry. It’s going to be a good day.” I truly thought he was going to choose me. He said that off camera—no one forced him to say that. When he didn’t choose me, there was no closure. It was just like—flipped script. This person I’d trusted betrayed me. When the show was airing, I was so upset and confused. I was really hanging onto something until I saw him at “After the Final Rose” and he was like, “No, my decision still stands.” At that point, he was back together with his ex-girlfriend so a lot of things came to be clear to me. I didn’t start the healing process until that point. I went home and thought, “That’s it. I’m not wasting anymore tears on this butthole.” I came home and picked up with my life and put myself together and resolved that I’m not gonna be that girl anymore.

When you were asked to be “The Bachelorette,” what initially ran through your head?

[The producers] kept calling and checking in on me. Of course, I thought they were genuinely asking but they were calling to see if I was still single. They were mentioning, “Are you dating anyone? How would you feel if we gave you this opportunity?” I was like, “I believe in the show. If you offer it to me, I would love to do it.” I didn’t know they’d picked me to be “The Bachelorette” until they told me on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show.” I was super excited. I had put Brad long behind me. Before, he called periodically and would say, “I miss you. Come see me.” I was like, “Listen. We can be friends eventually, but not now. I’m still sad and angry and I can’t get over you if you continue to confuse me like this.” After that, there was a long period we didn’t talk. Eventually, we became great friends. He really is a wonderful person.

What was your strategy for being on the show?

I’d never dated more than one person at a time, so it was hard for me to date 25 guys. I could not figure out how to make it work. My strategy was to have an open heart and an open mind and try to decipher between love and lust because those are two very different things.

A lot of people on reality shows say that they were edited unfairly? How far is what viewers see from what actually happened?

I think what people see is exactly what happened. I don’t care what situation you were in—you did it or you said it. Whether they clip it or leave out a certain thing—unfortunately you knew what you were getting into. You gave them enough to run off of. Sometimes I hate it when people blame the editing, though I do understand the frustration of it. They can’t edit who you are—you hand fed the show and the producers what they needed. I think it’s a cop out when people say, “They edited me that way.” No—they can’t go in there and rebuild the things you say.

What was the most surprising thing you learned about reality TV being on the series?

That first and foremost it’s a television show. They don’t care about you—your feelings, your wants, your needs—it’s about ratings. They would like the happy ending, but that’s not what it’s about for them. It’s unfortunate. No one sat me down and explained that to me. It took me by surprise a bit.

Also, no one told me how much my life was going to change. That I would not be able to move back to Newnan, Georgia, and be a normal human being selling real estate like I was before. All I had was crazy people calling and booking appointments and lying and saying that they wanted to see houses when really they just wanted to hang out with me for the day. It became creepy for a while. One person, I had to threaten with a restraining order because they wouldn’t stop coming to my office, they wouldn’t stop sending emails, and flowers and candy and leaving voicemails. It was so strange. No one prepared me—or my family—for that at all. People were calling my brother’s phone and leaving messages on his answering machine. People were mailing hateful letters because I chose Jesse and not Jason and they didn’t like that. I didn’t expect to get so much flack. No one likes to go on blogs and read nasty things about themselves or read how fat they look in one dress. No one fully prepares you for that part of the show.

Has that died down at this point or do you still feel like isn’t normal?

The best advice I got was from Trista and Ryan and they said, “Try to live a normal life.” Unfortunately, that didn’t work with Jesse. He wanted to be on television just as much as I did. It just became hard for me and him. The beginning of the relationship was based on lies, so in the end it was never going to work. With Stephen [Stagliano], it’s totally different. I got engaged last May and we’re getting married this October, and it is real. I do want to continue to pursue my hosting career and we do live in LA, but he has a completely normal job and we live a completely normal life. We go to parties and red carpet events, but we live normally. That’s what’s really important.

How did you and Stephen meet?

We met through his twin brother, Michael Stagliano, who was on Jillian Harris’ season of “The Bachelorette.” Michael and I became friends and he was at the time dating a friend of mine. He thought, “Oh my gosh. It would be so much fun if you were dating my brother.” He introduced us and it was all history after that, I guess.

What are the pros and cons of dating a twin?

Michael and Stephen are so different and yet so alike. I don’t have anything negative to say about it—we have so much fun. Michael is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met and Stephen is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. You put the two of them together and it’s just bound to be a good time. I’ve never thought they look identical even though they are. I feel like they look totally different, though I can see how strangers get confused. They’re both just so wonderful and come from such a great family. I think the world of Michael—I love him as if he’s my brother and I have for a long time.

Do you hang out as a group a lot?

Yeah. For the last year of our single lives, Stephen and I decided to move in with Michael. We are sharing an apartment until we get married. Honestly, it’s the most fun I’ve had ever. Imagine being able to live with two of your best friends ever. There’s tons of laughing going on. Sometimes I get annoyed when I come home and the boys are playing video games, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s been wonderful. I’m so glad to have this time not only for me and Michael to be able to bond as family, but for Stephen and Michael as well.

Is it still a double wedding?

No. Unfortunately, Michael and Holly [Durst, from “The Bachelor: London Calling”] will not be getting married.

What are you most excited about for your wedding?

The moment when I walk down the aisle and Stephen sees me for the first time in my wedding gown. I really want that moment—that first look on his face. I also look forward to having so many family members, and friends, and people that we love in one room just filled with happiness. That’s the best part of a wedding.

What are you feeling nervous about?

The guest list. We really wanted a small wedding and it’s just impossible. I have a huge family and so does Stephen. We’re being crazy about the guest list and only inviting the closest friends and family—and we’re already at 240 people. I’m worried about hurting other people’s feelings. It’s hard. I don’t think people realize how expensive weddings are. I’m not rich and my father’s not rich and I can’t justify spending $25,000 on one day.

How did it feel watching this season of “The Bachelor?”

I had tons of fun with it. We would have girl’s night every Monday night and watch the show together and it was cool to have the inside opinion on Brad because we’re friends. It was fun to get to know a new Brad. I was so proud to see him open up and experience it way more than he ever did last time. It was good to see him have an open heart and open mind, especially knowing who Brad was before.

Were you surprised to see that he and Emily weren’t happy, happy, happy on “After the Final Rose?”

I don’t think my opinion matters. But I hope they can make it work. I really do. I rooted for Emily from day one. She seems like a great girl, a great mother, and someone who can balance Brad out. I’m hoping they can pull through. They’re trying. Brad was there last week with her and her daughter, and I think that’s wonderful. I think we were all taken aback on “After the Final Rose” by how cold they seemed to be to each other. But I was happy to see that in a way because that’s real. When the couples come on and act like everything is honky dory and it’s all roses and butterflies—it’s not. We’re frustrated because we’ve been locked in a closet for eight weeks while the show is airing. It’s tough. On top of the tabloids and blogs and all the articles bashing everyone, it is tough to make a relationship from that show. I hope they can do it.

Why do you think “The Bachelor” so rarely leads to successful matches in the long run?

It’s a number of things. People go on the show for different reasons—sometimes for the right ones and sometimes to become famous. People can slide through and make it all the way to the end. It’s the pressure of Hollywood, the pressure of the tabloids, the pressure of the fans. It all makes it very hard to make a relationship work. In this situation, you fall in love with someone that you don’t know. When the show is done airing, here you are standing in front of this person that you love—but you don’t know them at all. You really have to take the time to get to know that person. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. In my case—it definitely did not. I found out Jesse and I are two totally different people. I think that happens a lot in this case. It’s just such an awkward thing when you love someone that you don’t know at all.

Why do you think the show has been so popular? What makes it so engaging for people to watch?

Everyone loves to see the happy ending. We all have our own issues in life—we’re arguing with someone, we’re jobless, we have the best job in the world but still aren’t happy at home. Watching the show gives us that two hours of a fairy tale. And romance happening with all these over-the-top dates that—let’s be honest—most of the world will never experience. I mean, who really takes a helicopter to a rooftop dinner? That’s not real life. People get caught up in that for the two hours it’s airing. I think it’s easy to invest the time in the contestants on the show and get to know the bachelor and bachelorette, and then root for someone to “win” in the end.

In an ideal world, where would you and Stephen like to be in 10 years?

Our children will be 7, 8, and 9-years-old. I want to have kids right away. Stephen wants to wait. I’m like, “Why? By the time we get married we’ll have been together two years. Who needs any more time together?” He’s like, “Well, let’s plan this out a little.” So, yeah, we’ll already have three kids. I’m hoping to have our own house. And for him to be so happy and successful in his career. And the same for me—I would love to have a hosting job that I just love. And I want three beautiful, happy babies. And that’s it—Stephen, the family, and the heaven above. That’s all that matters to me.

What piece of advice would you most like to pass on to single women?

My biggest advice to single men and women is to be honest and be yourself and never settle. I pride myself on never settling—I could have done it at many different points in my life. I had the opportunity to marry Jesse for a few hundred thousand dollars. I couldn’t do that—that was a sellout to me. People settle too quickly in fear of getting too old and in fear of letting life passing them by. My advice is be strong. Know who you are and know what you want. If you have faith, everything will come in due time. I’m a prime example of that. I can remember sitting on a plane three months before I met Stephen face-to-face, crying on my father’s shoulder saying, “I’m gonna be single forever. It’s never going to happen for me.” I got off the plane and had a voicemail from Stephen and spent half an hour talking to him. It’s funny how life comes full circle. We just all have to be patient.