Every Friday this summer, Refinery29 explores at the passionate, rollicking world of fandom. We’ll take a look at how we organize, create, debate and show our passion for the things we love — the good, the bad, and the loud.
We're at the point in The Bachelorette when things are starting to heat up. Men are leaving, spoilers are leaking, and secrets are getting exposed. The most damning moment from the last week belonged to Jed Wyatt, Bachelorette contestant and, according to 26-year-old musician Haley Stevens, professional ghoster.
The singer, one half of the duo Sweet Leah, told People magazine that she was dating Wyatt when he started filming the show back in March, and that the fellow musician claimed he would come back to her after he got far enough to stir up enough publicity for his career. Then, she never heard from him again.
While Stevens' bombshell caused a severe backlash in the fandom against the frontrunner, he had already admitted on the show that he initially auditioned to give his music a better platform. Now, Stevens had placed herself in the crossfire. Since telling her story, she's experienced an onslaught of hate from the Bachelor community which, as Stevens now knows, has a rabid fanbase.
Those passionate Bachelor Nation fans, now fluent in social media, have been around for a long time. The Bachelor first began airing in 2002, with The Bachelorette kicking off a year later in 2003. Since then, the franchise has also spun into the successful Bachelor In Paradise, as well as the most recent Bachelor Winter Games. While current ratings are no match for the show's initial numbers, Monday's episode of The Bachelorette was its season high, with 5.53 million total viewers. And in 2019, there's an even better rating system: followers.
After over 15 years of contestants, winners, exes, and villains, a sitcom-esque cast of characters have maintained their fame thanks to their online platforms gained during their time on the franchise. Jed's story, however, is still being written. Despite the show's "reality" genre, it is fans on social media who determine which contestants will have a life after the show by driving their follower counts up and down and pushing demand (or a lack thereof) for their post-Bachelor ventures.
Stevens spoke to Refinery29 while in the midst of her now-public breakup, to answer some questions Bachelor Nation has had for her since her story dropped and talk about how she's moving forward from this hurtful moment with the help of music.
Refinery29: Have you spoken to Hannah or Bacehlorette production?
Haley Stevens: "Obviously that's been one of the things that has come up. 'Why didn't you reach out to Hannah while they're filming?' Well, they're in Scotland. Somebody in an interview was like, 'Why didn't you call production? And I'm like, at what? 1-800-I-Have-A-Boyfriend? Even now people are like, 'Why didn't you go to her first?' Well, once again, I have journalists and bloggers coming to me telling me they're going to tell my story — one that I never even wanted told."
What would you say to Hannah now?
"I feel for her. This is most definitely hurtful no matter what the outcome is — if they're engaged, whatever it is. I have no clue. This is someone that she developed feelings for as well. To feel like I hurt somebody else the way that I have been hurting is like another knife in the gut."
Somebody in an interview was like, 'Why didn't you just call production? And I'm like, at what? 1-800-I-Have-A-Boyfriend?
Why did you decide to go public?
"All of this started because I fell in love with a person who felt like [going on the show] was the best thing for their career, a career that I also pursue. So coming from that perspective, when someone that you love thinks it's the best move for their career, you support them. I just started having [news outlets] reaching out to me, basically hinting at, 'We're going to tell the story with or without you.' If I don't say something, then whatever comes out could be true, could not be true, can paint me in any light, and can tell whatever story.
"We've all seen the episodes where the crazy, disgruntled ex-girlfriend comes out. I know how that gets painted. I prepared myself that this might have a negative impact on me or people might hate me. I was specific even in speaking to them in the first place [that] I don't want this to be a negative message. It doesn't feel good to feel like I'm hurting other people by telling the story."
How have people responded to you going public?
"I've heard everything from 'you look like a 50-year-old bodybuilder' to 'Jed upgraded.' People are skeptical of me in a lot of ways. I'm not shocked at all by the negative comments that people are making because, if I were in their shoes and if this wasn't my real life story, then I would probably be thinking, 'maybe, maybe not.'"
I've been honestly overwhelmed at the number of people that have come forward and reached out with direct messages on Instagram or emails and said, 'I've been in a similar situation where I felt like I couldn't speak up.' That makes me feel like maybe it wasn't the worst decision I've ever made."
Were you aware of how big Bachelor Nation is when you came forward?
"Prior to this season I had watched it, so I've seen the show, but I was never an avid social media follower. Really, the first time that I became familiar with Bachelor Nation was following these spoiler accounts, trying to keep up with where they were while they're filming. But then I saw thousands and thousands of people following and sharing this story. They're so invested in the guys, they know everything about them, post about them, and know everything about their lives and their parents...That was the first time that I started seeing the comments that they're making about Hannah — brutal, horribly mean things. I'm just thinking, 'I've had 36 hours of this and she has dealt with this for months and months and months and has to keep her head high.'"
Is there anything you're doing to protect yourself from a lot of the negativity?
"I'm trying to filter it. My close friends are reading every single thing and standing up for me. I'm trying to stay off my comments, stay off of Twitter, and [ignore] what people are saying. I know that people want me to bash him or talk negatively about him, her, or their relationship. That was never the goal. I don't think anyone involved here is a bad person."
How has this affected your music?
"Talk about writing content. I journaled the whole time that he was gone, all the things I wished I could text him or say to him. While he was gone, I was writing love songs about my feelings for him, 'I trust you' type things. Then, he came back and the songs have shifted a little."
Do you think this will become a song?
"I think it will become a record. I have one song I started writing based on the girls that were reaching out to me. It's called 'Here's To The Boys,' and it is not calling out necessarily, but almost a cheers to all the guys that we've all met and who worked for us or let us down. To all the people that relate to this heartbreak, hopefully we can do something to help them heal or feel like they're not alone in what they're going through."
And do you think you'll be tuning in to the rest of the season of The Bachelorette?
"No, absolutely not."