Finally, he introduces the main act, fellow “Bachelor” franchise star Kaitlyn Bristowe, by plugging two of her brands. “Raise your hand if you have one of her scrunchies,” Horstmann says. The crowd becomes a sea of wrists sporting fabric-covered hair ties, which Bristowe sells for $15 each under her brand, Dew. “She also has a wine label" — Spade & Sparrows — "which all of you can enjoy tonight.”
Bristowe, wearing a neon-pink bodysuit under a denim jacket and jeans, struts onto the stage and yells, “Hello vinos!” She pronounces “vinos” as if it rhymes with “rhinos,” stretching out each vowel like an announcer at a boxing match. Bieber has his Beliebers, Swift has her Swifties and Bristowe, who is not known as a singer but does aspire to release a country pop album, has her vinos: the fiercely loyal fans of her podcast, “Off the Vine.” It garners about 500,000 downloads per episode, according to Bristowe’s publicist.
“I’m so out of breath right now. This tour is killing us,” says Bristowe, who is 34 and lives in Nashville with her boyfriend, Jason Tartick (also of “The Bachelorette,” though a different season) and her Instagram-famous golden retriever, Ramen. Bristowe is halfway through her nine-city “KB Fall Crawl” tour, a series of alcohol-fueled live podcast tapings that feature raunchy jokes and embarrassing “confessionals” from “Bachelor” franchise alumni and other guests. “The front row is always so lit, I love it. One girl puked the other night,” Bristowe gushes.
Plenty of Bachelor Nation stars score deals to promote brands and many create podcasts, including Nick Viall, whom Bristowe rejected on television but remains close with — he is the guest at tonight’s live L.A. show. Bristowe, who has frequently referred to herself as a “hot mess,” has emerged from the pack as an unlikely lifestyle guru for women who can relate. Peddling wine and scrunchies as a form of self-care, her brands are aspirational yet accessible, suggesting both indulgence and low maintenance. Products include a leopard-print headband called “party animal,” a red velvet scrunchie named “long stemmed frozé” and a 2017 cabernet sauvignon with a description that reads, “I’m about to flirt with you.” She’s attracted fans by doubling down on the fun-loving, wine-guzzling personality they met on television.
Caitlin Hanley, a self-identified “vino,” was first drawn to Bristowe on “The Bachelor” because they share the same first name and native province of Alberta, Canada. Plus, Hanley says, “She’s loud, she’s brash, and I don’t usually see people like that represented in any kind of positive way.”
Hanley, 36, began following Bristowe on Instagram, which led her to Bristowe’s podcast. The podcast led her to a private Facebook group, where more than 26,000 fans of “Off the Vine” have formed a tightknit community. Women in the group frequently solicit relationship and fashion advice, vent about family and work drama, and plan in-person meetups. Hanley credits it for serving as a support network when she was suffering from postpartum depression.
And then there is the “scrunchie gang,” an overlapping subset of fans who snatch up limited-edition lines — or “drops” — of scrunchies every few months. They can sell for upward of $150 each on eBay, according to Hanley, who says she and other friends anxiously gather in group chats to strategize their purchases right before a Dew drop. “It’s very intense. We all have anxiety,” she says. “Because they’re released once and that’s it.” (She now owns all of them, close to 100.)
Natalie Howard, 37, says she’s “obsessed” with the scrunchies and sees them as affordable collectors’ items. “We have three kids, so my hobbies can’t get too pricey,” she says.
For Howard, “Off the Vine” offers an intimate glimpse into Bristowe’s life. “She’s always drinking a glass of wine during the podcast and you can hear her actually pour it and it makes you feel like you’re actually there,” Howard says. “She’s just raw, really, and I think that’s intrigued me.”
The path from charismatic reality star to successful entrepreneur has been well charted outside “The Bachelor.” The stars of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” sell an array of goods, including jeans, shapewear, makeup and skin care products. From “The Real Housewives,” Bethenny Frankel created Skinnygirl Cocktails, and Lisa Vanderpump launched an eponymous wine label and several restaurants.
Still, “Bachelor” alumni strike a different chord. Most contestants started out as neither rich nor famous. Plus, fans see them at their most vulnerable as they compete to fall in love, which often leads to rejection. “I think they’re just more forgiving because they’ve seen you already break down and make out and share your deepest darkest secrets,” says Jillian Harris, who is, like Bristowe, an alumna of both “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” For Harris, 39, creating a lifestyle brand was a chance to reinvent herself. “I was like, ‘There’s so much more to me that I want you guys to know!’ ”
After her turns on those shows ended in 2015, Bristowe “wanted to quit and run away,” she recalls in an interview. She’d been the target of intense shaming on social media for openly having sex on “The Bachelorette.” She’d also come under fire for leaking the season’s winner on Snapchat, which she says was an accident. It wasn’t until she started hearing from women who told her she was inspiring that she saw an opportunity to build something bigger. That’s when she reached out to Harris, a fellow Canadian.
“She gave me advice: If you’re going to swear, swear. If you’re going to clap back, clap back. Just be who you are because that will attract the right audience to you,” Bristowe recalls Harris saying. “I wasn’t going to have it any other way. I was like, even if I make a complete fool of myself, I’m going to be 100 percent myself and just own it.”
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“Happy and grateful, but an emotional hot Mess” - A memoir by Kaitlyn Bristowe. These last few weeks have been an absolute whirlwind. Peaks and valleys. Learning curves, anxiety, and adrenaline. Feeling like my shows weren’t enough at times, (because lately I over think), to feeling proud and like I couldn’t have done any better. I cry happy tears sometimes thinking about the people I meet, and the meaningful words they say to me. I cry sad tears when I feel I’ve disappointed anyone. Sometimes I feel too much and sometimes I don’t feel enough. But what I feel right now is complete gratitude for the people who support this life of mine. Wether that’s the vinos, @cliodelallave and team, my family, friends, or Jason. I am one lucky woman. Every single person I met over the #kbfallcrawl tour touched me in different ways. Through words, small meaningful gifts, or just a real genuine hug. I’m home now cherishing all the memories, reflecting, and cuddling the shit out of Ramen and Jason. My support system means everything to me. Thank you everyone who is there for me. ❤️❤️ (cozy sweater is from @revolve and it is LIFE changing comfy).
But the same candidness — aided by alcohol — that has earned Bristowe fans has also garnered controversy. She removed a podcast episode that was taped during her tour earlier this year after quotes from it were picked up in the press. One such quote? “In five minutes, he picked my nose and gave me an orgasm,” she said of Tartick. “I don’t want my family reading that,” she explained on a subsequent episode.
Bristowe again raised eyebrows during the Life Is Beautiful festival in October, when she said “The Bachelor” creator Mike Fleiss “hates women.” She accused him of barring her from competing on “Dancing With the Stars,” which Fleiss has denied on Twitter.
“I am such an open book, and I’ve shared so much that I don’t regret any of that, and I don’t think I’d do anything differently,” says Bristowe. Still, she clearly has mixed feelings about the repercussions of her fame. “I hate being called an influencer because I’m like, what if there are young girls out there who really shouldn’t be following in my footsteps right now in their life or might be getting the wrong message from me?” She adds, “I can’t carry that weight of other people and what that might mean for them.”
Some fans of the podcast say perhaps Bristowe isn’t considering their feedback closely enough. Many reviews, for instance, cite a September episode that opened with a nearly 10-minute Botox ad disguised as an interview. Bristowe leaves it up to her manager to give her feedback and summarize what her listeners are saying about the podcast. “I just like to have such a positive mind-set with podcasting because I just love doing it and I don’t want it to get ruined” by negative feedback, she says.
Besides, she wants to create her own podcast network. And “get a tour bus with my face all over it.” And put out enough shows and products that eventually, she might start to get recognized outside Bachelor Nation. “A couple months ago maybe, someone said to me, ‘Oh you’re Kaitlyn Bristowe from ‘Off the Vine.’ And I was like, cool. I like that. I built that,” she says.
At the Palace Theatre in Los Angeles, Bristowe’s live show quickly descends into chaos, as it often does. The mischievous “Bachelor” alum Demi Burnett, a surprise guest, parades across the stage dancing to the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” which has become, inexplicably, an anthem for Bristowe’s live tours. Her dog, Ramen, gallops in circles, as does another golden retriever in a wheelchair who’s promoting a rescue shelter. Bristowe lies on the ground while Viall looks on in amusement. Tartick films the whole scene with his iPhone. And within a matter of days, the audio will become a new episode for thousands of vinos to devour.
Correction: This story has been corrected to state that “Off the Vine” gets 500,000 downloads per episode, according to Bristowe’s publicist, not 50,000. The story also has been corrected to state that wine was available for purchase at the Los Angeles tour stop — it initially stated that wine was not available.