Jaimi King has nothing to hide. The New Orleans-based chef appeared as a contestant on the 21st season of The Bachelor. She was kicked off the show while filming in her hometown, but that wasn't what made her unique. King had previously dated a woman, and opened up about it on the show. It was the first time a contestant on the show had admitted to being queer.
King was quickly labeled bisexual, although she tells Refinery29 that that's not necessarily the label she'd use today. For a show that pretty much bread-and-butter traditional, King's revelation wasn't treated with huge amounts of fanfare or judgment. Nick Viall, the Bachelor at the time, was receptive to it, though he said goodbye to her soon after. It was a nice moment for liberal patrons of the show: We got to witness a queer contestant being treated like every other contestant.
When King appeared on Bachelor in Paradise this summer, she was once again "the bisexual contestant." Her appearance on the show wasn't as dramatic as the show teased; she briefly dated Diggy Moreland, and they broke up at the end of their time in Paradise.
As should be self-evident, King is a lot more than her highly publicized sexual fluidity. The 29-year-old is a pastry chef at the Ace Hotel in New Orleans. She was a caterer in Los Angeles for years; she says she provided food for the Twilight premiere, and even catered the Oscars. The Bachelor, really, was just one item on a long list of things King wanted to try. (Right now, she has her eye on setting up a churro pop-up at a local bar in New Orleans. If you operate such a joint, give her a call! She's game.)
We spoke to King, who was driving back to New Orleans after volunteering for Hurricane Harvey survivors in Houston, about the show, sexual fluidity, and whether or not all this hoopla was worth it.
Refinery29: So, what made you decide to go on The Bachelor?
Jaimi King: "I think what made me decide was that I'm so into fate, and whatever's meant to be will make it happen and stuff. That was the deciding factor. I was like, you know what? Why is this decision so hard? Why am I kind of scared? I always try to do things that are scary just to get me out of my comfort zone. So I was like, you know what? I'll just do it."
Wait, but how did you end up auditioning?
"My roommate! That's how my roommate comes into play! She was like, 'You know [The Bachelor] is coming to New Orleans. It'll be so fun if we go to auditions, get dressed up, and be all girly, and invite all of our girlfriends, and drink and have fun and people-watch!' I thought that sounded amazing — the girls who go out for this show are pretty crazy or extreme or desperate. I thought it would be fun.
"It ended up being the day after a party, so none of our other friends wanted to go. And [my best friend] was like, 'You still want to go?' And I was like, 'Of course I'll go!' I'm not the type of person to just flake like that. We got dressed up, we had a couple of mimosas, and we got on our bikes, cause we live super-close to Harrah's [the casino where the auditions were held]. That's how I started the whole process."
Did they ask about your sexuality in the audition?
"No, actually. They ask for everything — all your medical history, your roommate or your living situation history, or where you've lived, if you had any roommates. Your relationship past — so, I think that's where I put down that I'd had a girlfriend. I don't think it went that far back that I could state every girlfriend or boyfriend I'd ever had, but within the years they asked for, I was like, 'Yeah, you know, there's my girlfriend.
"Then, during one of my interviews, one of the producers brought up her experiences and I think that was her way of bringing [my sexuality] up with me, which I'm fine with. I'll definitely talk about anything.
"I was like, 'I get you with these girls. Girls are crazy! I've dated 'em.' And it just went out from there, and they realized I was comfortable talking about it. I don't care — my past is out there for everyone to know. I'm not ashamed."
It seems that fans have defined you as "bisexual." Is that how you define yourself?
"I never liked labels — well, okay, it's funny. I started listening to Nico Tortorella's podcast The Love Bomb. And he talks about sexuality and stuff, and I don't know all there is to know. I know about me and a couple of my friends. But he brought up a good point of hetero and homo romanticism. I realized that I think I am a homo-romantic, because I feel like I could fall in love with anyone, and I have. And sexually, I go homosexual as well. I guess it basically is bisexual. But I don't want to narrow myself down to two sexes or genders. 'Fluid' would be more open to everything — not just male or female.
"'Bisexual' is fine, though, and I think everyone in the LBGTQIA community is trying to bring bisexual back to a positive connotation, so I will definitely keep going with the bisexual label and try to bring it back to a positive light as much as I can!"
Was it clear from the beginning the producers would want you to talk about it on camera?
"No! I don't think I realized that... the reason I brought it up to Nick was because he asked me for my most interesting relationship that I'd been in. I immediately thought, 'Oh! I've dated a girl.' Which is so funny, because I think now if I had more time to think, I would have said, 'I dated the mayor of the city I lived in!'"
Were you aware that it would be highlighted?
"No, I did not think it would be the center of my being. My focus was like, 'Oh, shit! I just told this guy I'm dating that I also date girls. And then I was like, I don't want him being threatened by that at all. So, whenever I had the chance to speak to him, I would say, 'Just so you know, I wasn't trying to catch your attention or throw my sexuality out there to lure you in in any way. I was just being honest.'"
There's so much talk now about how producers "fashion" a narrative for certain contestants. Did you have a different storyline planned out?
"I didn't have a storyline in mind at all. I thought maybe I would bring up my ex and how my relationship was really unfair. He would never take me on dates. And it was fun, going on dates! I know I brought it up to Nick, I was like, 'I just wanna show my appreciation for the process and for us all hanging out and going on dates together. I still appreciate it, even though I'm not on a 1-on-1.' Other than that, I didn't have a storyline for myself."
Did you have a sense of how the show worked?
"Yes, but not to the extent as when you're on the show. When you're on the show, it's like, wow. This is a lot. It's so different from watching it. You don't know the ins and outs. I guess, like you said, you should have a story to catch the producer's attention or something. I was just going on the show! I wanted to date and have fun."
The show feels very conservative, even in 2017. Do you get the sense that the people behind the show want it to be more progressive?
"I guess I would say they're less conservative. I wouldn't say they cared about my sexuality like that. They probably wanted to take advantage of it. Like, hey, we should probably highlight this because we do want to move in a more progressive way."
Do you think the people on the show are aware that it needs to move into more progressive territory?
"It was never brought up, but they definitely hopped on that train. They were like, hey! This is great — we have this girl who is super-open despite anyone's feelings about coming out on the show. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who kissed a girl. I might be the only one who has actually fallen in love with a woman. Probably. But I don't know. I think people do have that idea of Okay, I'm going on a show. This is for marriage. I need to be prim and proper. I think people are more conservative going onto the show. They have this idea that they have to be a certain way to make it."
Do you think other women on the show have had queer experience or even are queer but just don't bring it up?
"I don't know! There were definitely women who were like, 'Oh my god! I've never kissed a girl.' And that was something that came up, but I was like, 'Don't worry, I'm not here for you. Calm down, you can change in front of me. I don't hit on my friends.' When I go into dating someone, I'm pretty narrow-minded. I have blinders on. I was just looking at Nick, thinking this could be something. I wasn't going to try to date one of the girls."
Did you have chemistry with Nick Viall?
"I don't know. I think at the beginning it was really playful. But I kind of saw a bit of my ex-boyfriend in him. In certain situations he was cocky or immature, and I was just like, 'Eh, I don't know if I like this guy.' I think I realized that in New Orleans [before I got kicked off]."
Do you think the show is culturally important?
"Value? I don't think so. I mean, it's definitely entertaining. I feel like with all the social media stuff, and all the ads that girls are getting to do. It's this whole — I feel like it's kind of lost its touch... I think if [money and social media influence] weren't tied into it, the show might be more successful in terms of people finding love. 'Cause you don't know what you're going to get! They might want exposure. Which isn't to say they're not there to find love, too.
"I like how the show's evolving. It's a lot more diverse, and I think that's great. But there's still a lot more time. It needs to evolve a little more before it's more real. I think they're trying to dabble and play around with things. Slowly but surely, it'll get there, hopefully."
What do you mean by "dabbling"?
"Just like, you know, with race and getting women who aren't just blonde Barbie dolls. They're reaching out to different types of women. And not everyone is a blonde Barbie doll. Not everyone is picture-perfect or perfect on paper. There are different girls out there and they're perfect, too!"
Do you think the show would ever have a queer Bachelor or Bachelorette?
"A lot of my fans were bringing that up. Like, 'Oh my god, you could be the first one! You could date both guys and girls!' But I don't know if they're ready. Not right now. But when the time comes, find me."
I think America's more ready than the show gives them credit for.
"Yeah! Everyone's so scared of making one person uncomfortable. Maybe one out of 10 viewers might be uncomfortable. But I think the viewers are pretty ready. "
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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