In the several years since Ben Flajnik went through a particularly rough time on ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise, things have been going pretty well. He has multiple business ventures and a close circle of friends. He and his girlfriend recently decided to move in together. All is great.
Then his ex wrote a tell-all book about him.
Flajnik, raked over the tabloid coals in 2012 thanks to his stormy relationship with winner Courtney Robertson, illustrates one of the unspoken risks of going on a reality show. Even years later, even if you have clearly moved on and hope the rest of the world has, too, you’re only one publishing deal away from going through tabloid hell again.
To add insult to injury, it doesn’t even have to be your book. Robertson — one of the most reviled contestants in “Bachelor” history because she openly mocked her fellow castmates and infamously stole Flajnik away for late-night skinny dipping — is striking back. On Tuesday, she’s releasing an extremely detailed tell-all (“I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain”) about her experience on the series and her relationship with Flajnik, from their courtship to disastrous breakup after the show.
The most interesting part of all isn’t the actual book, which is chock-full of the expected lurid, behind-the-scenes details that “Bachelor” fans might admittedly love. Instead, this brings up the question from Flajnik’s perspective: How do you deal with life post-reality show in 2014, when things like this are completely out of your control and result in a new wave of unflattering headlines?
How do you move on when the notoriety never really fades?
Flajnik, understandably, does not want to — in his words — “relive the nightmare.” He declined to discuss the book, but agreed to talk to us about his life these days, years after what he recalls as an “unpleasant” experience.
So, when did things seem normal after having his every daily move captured by paparazzi? He and Robertson, neither of whom was portrayed in a super-flattering light, drew an unusual amount of nasty press during the season.
“It took a couple of years, honestly,” Flajnik says by phone. A Northern California native, he’s been very focused on his wine ventures, but that doesn’t stop curious fans from stopping by to glimpse a real-live reality star.
“I still go places and am recognized frequently, especially when I’m in or around my winery,” he says. “But outside of that, I don’t know. I grew a mustache and I look different. I keep my head down, keep my Giants hat on and continue to work on my projects.” Although yes, he still has the famous long haircut — “My hair wasn’t great on the show, I will admit,” he jokes. (The multiple Twitter accounts dedicated to it might beg to differ.)
In the meantime, Flajnik has been working on different brands for his winery; got involved in a vodka project; and is back in the tech space with a new Web site, Gracti.com. He tried to take advantage of his fame to promote the business, but eventually had to branch out into other ventures, as the wine business is both extremely competitive and very expensive.
Still, though he says he’s forgotten much of what happened on the show and has moved on — he says his friends know better than to bring it up — his Twitter profile still notes his “Bachelor” alum status. Why would he do that, especially in light of his less than positive experience? (Before the fallout with Robertson, he was also rejected by Ashley Hebert in the prior season of “The Bachelorette.”)
Flajnik acknowledges that despite it all, the show is still undeniably part of his identity. “I tried to avoid it for awhile,” he says. “And then a year and a half ago or something. I thought: ‘You know what? You might as well embrace it — you decided to do it.’ It is a part of your life, for better or worse.”
He admits that he still gets taken aback when the “worse” element of reality-TV stardom rears its ugly head. “Unfortunately, things like Courtney’s book and things you don’t expect are going to come out of the woodwork when you thought everything was said and done,” he says. “It’s disappointing, that’s all. You would expect people that you knew along the way to take the higher road, but I don’t know — everybody’s different.”
Flajnik says that although he didn’t verify anything that went into her book, he and his attorneys skimmed it “just to make sure there wasn’t anything crazy [libelous] in there.” Other than that, he’s aware he can’t really do much else. “At the end of the day, it’s kind of like, people are going to do what they want to do,” he says. “I’m not going to get into legal battles or something to draw more attention to it.”
Plus, he admits that he was surprised back in the day at the level of negative press, and how much everything blew up as he and Robertson ended their relationship. Flajnik doesn’t want to go through that again, especially considering the emotional toll it took on his family.
Overall, he characterizes the fuss around the book as “kind of silly and sad,” adding: “It happened awhile ago. … I’m a bit baffled at why [Courtney] would want to portray herself in this light.”
Most of all, he just wants everyone to just move on. “It’s unfortunate because I’m in such a great place in my life. I’ve got thriving businesses, I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend and my family’s wonderful. I’m great,” he adds. “I have no interest in re-living this nightmare.”
Any advice for avoiding the fray? Maybe one simple solution that’s easier said than done. According to Flajnik:
“You just block it out.”