"I like Krystal," my co-worker pinged me the morning after The Bachelor premiered on January 1. Krystal Nielson, a fitness coach from San Diego, had all the trappings of a Bachelor fave: She had long blonde waves, a love for burpees on the beach, and a heartbreaking intro package. And, when she emerged from the limousine, the cameras lingered, as if to tell us that this was the Cinderella we (or Arie Luyendyk Jr.) had been waiting for.
Krystal's Bachelor fate made a hairpin turn on the second episode of the season. Luyendyk took Krystal home with him to Scottsdale, where they hung out with his family. After their admittedly intimate first date, Krystal angered the rest of the girls in the house by being "cagey" with information about the date. It was at this point Krystal became the Bachelor villain. My coworker rescinded her earlier adoration of Krystal. Later, after an off-camera "explosion" on a bus ride, Krystal earned the villain crown, although her villain origins never seemed clear. In Paris, Krystal went on a two-on-one date, The Bachelor's scarlet letter for villains of the show. Luyendyk broke up with Krystal at the base of the Eiffel Tower, sending home the franchise's most confusing villain.
In an interview with Refinery29, Nielson, 30, revealed that she went into the show planning specifically not to be the villain — which may have been why her turn felt so sudden.
"I was so mindful of not wanting that label. It's so funny, because I just completely blew it," Nielsen said over the phone, laughing. When we spoke, she was joyful, pleased, and seemed far away from the tears and confusion of The Bachelor. She may still come back, too. When asked about her potential future with the franchise, she replied, "You'll have to watch and see."
Refinery29: So, it's all over. Ultimately, did you enjoy your time on The Bachelor?
Krystal Nielson: "It was such an experience. As a fan, I had watched, and being there was such a wild, surreal experience. I had highs and lows. I enjoyed it, but also found some things incredibly challenging. For instance, separating my real feelings from the surreal dating experience. That was really hard for me."
What do you mean by that?
"Well, just the accelerated process of dating a man who's dating 29 other women who you live with and who you want to be supportive of. However, supporting them to have a stronger relationship than you kind of defeats the purpose that you're there. You're there to date the guy. That was challenging."
You'd watched the show before, though.
"Yes, I knew. I knew the context of the show. However, being there — I really think what got to me [was] in Tahoe, we had our one-on-one, and I just felt such an amazing connection with him. Then, to see him, as I'm talking to him, grab another girl's hand, felt really disrespectful to me and our relationship. I understand that's the name of the game. However, I would never tolerate that in real life. But this show wasn't real life. It wasn't a real dating experience. That wasn't real, but my emotions were real. It was just finding that uncharted territory. It was a wild ride."
When you were in production, were you aware that you'd be getting the villain edit?
"When I was in Tahoe, I knew that I would be on a two-on-one. I knew that was going to happen. And then, when I got to Paris, or when I was in Fort Lauderdale, I knew that was the edit. I knew that's what I was gonna be. And I just didn't care anymore. I think I cared so much about how I'd be perceived that I really got in my head about it."
Do you still talk to anyone from the show?
"Yeah! Bekah M. and I have chatted. Kendall and I and Tia and I [have talked] and Bibi reached out and apologized to me, actually. And so did Bekah M. I've had a lot of girls reach out to me."
Were they all apologizing?
"Not all of them. I mean those two, Bibi and Bekah M. had, but I think having gone through it all, we all understand. It's hard to see in the middle of that. To step out of that bubble, but once you do, you have a compassion and understanding for the other women and what they were going through."
When you were on the show, you shared an Instagram post about the online bullying you were receiving. A lot of Bachelor contestants get trolls, but do you think yours were particularly bad?
"I wasn't really looking at anyone else's Instagram or reading their comments. I really just separated myself from the media. However, I had just been bombarded with messages and, like, bloggers about the kind of bullying that was happening on my page. My post was — I mean, this is a huge discussion that's happening right now. Radio stations where I'm at [were talking about it]. I had to say something. I wasn't just going to delete and pretend that it wasn't happening. I needed to say something."
There's been a lot of talk about your voice on the show. Bekah M. even made a comment that you had a different voice off-camera. What's the truth?
"It's funny that my voice has become such a focal point and an issue. I'm really surprised. Definitely [during] my time with Arie, I would be a little more quiet and soft and a little more sensual. I'm having an intimate moment with someone!"
You've watched the show now — do you think that your storyline as the villain heightened the show? Was it necessary?
"I think it added something controversial. It added an element of spice that was really needed. I remember filming it at the mansion, being with the girls, and saying, 'This is going to be [the] most boring season, because there is nothing going on.' [Laughs] We were all like, 'This is going to be bad.' We were concerned that there was nothing going on! It was boring. And then things changed very quickly."
At any point did production or a producer say you should be the villain?
"No. No, that never happened. I was only encouraged by production, I'd say, to really feel. And I came in, I wanted to feel. I wanted to be emotional. I really put my emotions out there. There were highs, there were lows. I poured myself [out], even in my interviews, I really gave a lot.
You don't see this side, but there's a really beautiful side to filming [The Bachelor]. It allows us and all the women involved [to] have so much time to be taken away from work, and shopping, and running errands, and just the busyness of life. Just to focus inward on your feelings and your connection with the guy, and your own journey. We all just had this beautiful process of self-discovery along the way. Having all those interviews really allowed us to introspect and really feel and think about what we want or what we don't want. How has everything in my life led up to this moment and how are we gonna handle it?"
Did you go to the show thinking it would be Peter?
"I was auditioning for a long time. And I would say for 95% of my audition process, I thought it was going to be Peter. Then, about 10 days before I left, Arie was announced. Of course, I was disappointed. I am looking for someone I'm compatible with, entrepreneurial, on the same schedule. I really connected with Peter. So, I was excited about that. But, when I met Arie, I was actually very surprised. He's really an eligible Bachelor. He's ready for that next step, and that was exciting."
What's next for you?
"Right now, something that's really important to me is my little brother, and as of two weeks ago, he's officially no longer homeless, and he's ready to get treatment and help. I'm working with my family on making that transition happen. This whole process was hard, and being the villain — I mean, I stumbled and I fell, but I grew, and I'm so much stronger because of it. And I've had such an outpouring of love and support and stories shared about bullying people have gone through and depression they've overcome through health and fitness or the coaching community. Just to use that platform to help and inspire lives. And my dogs."
This interview has been edited for style and length.
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