Last year Joelle “JoJo” Fletcher stole hearts on TV’s “The Bachelor.” She made it all the way to the dramatic finale of Season 20 only to be dumped by dreamy beau-to-be Ben Higgins.
But the Big D-born beauty with a down-to-earth style recovered quickly, taking an encore turn on “The Bachelorette.”
Season 12 was among the popular ABC program’s most memorable series of shows. And JoJo was at the center of the action. After wading through controversy and drama, sending five hunky bachelors packing in two of program’s most unforgettable rose ceremonies, ultimately she chose former NFL QB Jordan Rodgers as her main man for life.
With her good humor, low tolerance for drama and winning smile, now that the show is in the rear view mirror some critics predict she could go down as one of the program’s best participants of all time.
At press time the happy, storybook couple had reportedly moved into a comfortable Lakewood neighborhood in East Dallas, and were openly discussing wedding plans.
If you think she’s just another diva with a pretty face, you don’t know JoJo. Spunky, sassy and Lone Star proud, we caught up with the sparkling 25-year-old Dallas sweetheart, for her take on love lost and gained, mostly in front of glaring spotlights, cameras rolling and off as well as on-stage shenanigans.
HHM: During your appearance on “The Bachelor,” you were left heartbroken in Jamaica when Ben Higgins made the difficult decision to let you go. It was a punch to the gut finale for viewers: was it as tough as it appeared for you?
JJ: Absolutely. That was an extremely heartbreaking day for me. It’s difficult to put into words all the different emotions I was feeling … certainly shock, confusion, sadness … but the real heartache didn’t set in until a couple days later once I realize how final that moment and decision was.
HMH: Was it a difficult decision to return as the latest version of “The Bachelorette”?
JJ: Not difficult, but I definitely thought long and hard about it. I was so excited at the idea of potentially finding love again; however putting your life and heart out there for a second time around, especially on this sort of platform, was something I was cautious about.
At the end of the day — I was more ready than ever to find my person. And I went into this season so excited and hopeful that he could possibly be there.
HHM: Prior to appearing on the show, were you a fan? What was your take on the “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” as a viewer?
JJ: I loved the show! I would watch every season and think how perfect and romantic everything was. I remember saying to my girlfriends on one season, “I want a love like that!”
And sure enough, I found it in the very same place. It’s still so crazy that I was the bachelorette! Like how did I get here?
HHM: Between the bright lights, cameras rolling and all the action, there is so much happening behind-the-scenes that most viewers never see. Can you tell us a few things that might surprise the average TV viewer when it comes to “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”?
JJ: Hmm … one thing I didn’t know before coming onto the show is that the lead bachelor or bachelorette doesn’t travel with the cast.
The group of guys always flew on different flights, and we never saw each other until the day of the date. They don’t like anything to happen off-camera. Oh, and what everyone, I’m sure, is dying to know … you can eat the food at dinner … we just eat before the dates so that when we are together, we can actually talk and not stuff our faces the entire time.
HHM: Chris Harrison was born and raised in Dallas too. Were you acquainted with him before taping the show?
JJ: I had never met Chris until (Season 20). While on “The Bachelor,” we would chat briefly here and there. However on my season as “The Bachelorette,” Chris was always around and definitely turned into a confidant for me.
HHM: To some viewers, his role seems minimal, however, for contestants it’s likely another story. Tell us about Chris’ involvement in the show?
JJ: We traveled together, ate together, would sometimes hang out during hair and makeup, therapy sessions — you name it. He truly cares about each person that comes onto this show and is the type of person that — when he cares — he will have your back forever. Love him.
HHM: During Season 12 of “The Bachelorette,” there were a number of men from the Lone Star State in your group. Did the Texas bachelors have any special advantage over the other guys?
JJ: I certainly love my home state, that’s for sure! But I didn’t let that affect any of my decision-making when figuring out who was the right guy for me.
HHM: One of the bachelors in your group of guys wore a kilt, while another donned a big red Santa Claus suit complete with a flowing white beard: how did that strike you?
JJ: (Laughs). You know what — I loved it. I can appreciate anyone who comes onto national television and can make fun of themselves … it’s endearing. Oh, and the fact that I wore a unicorn mask on my first night with Ben … I don’t have much room for judgment.
HHM: There seemed to more testosterone than usual flowing on the program your season as “The Bachelorette.” Looking back on it all, tell us how you felt about the fighting between the guys?
JJ: Well, it seemed like the testosterone overload came mostly from one individual rather than the group as a whole … but as far as the fighting, I didn’t realize it was as bad as it was! I thought it was a bit much.
HHM: There’s also been a lot of conversation about one bacheelor in particular, Chad Johnson, and his behavior on the show. Looking back on the experience, what’s your take on him?
JJ: Chad is Chad. I don’t even have the energy to get into that … I’m definitely over the Chad drama.
HHM: So far, there has not been a mixed race couple on the show. Why do you think that’s the case, and do you believe it’ll change at some point?
JJ: I’m not sure. I don’t believe it comes down to race, but rather there being a connection or not with certain individuals. I certainly foresee that happening though.
HHM: Between “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” quite a deep alumni base has developed since ABC began producing the program in 2002. Have you remained friends with some of the cast and/ or crew you met while shooting the two shows?
JJ: Of course … I found such a close group of girlfriends from Ben’s season … we all keep in touch and talk often. Becca (Tilley) has become one of my best friends! And the crew is amazing; they are like family to me now.
HHM: You’re a successful real-estate developer in North Texas; can you talk about your career and how you got to where you are today?
JJ: Real estate kind of just happened … I was a Pre-Med major in college (at Baylor University) so I didn’t necessarily foresee this happening.
HHM: And your family?
JJ: My family has always (been involved in) real estate on the side; my mom owned apartment complexes; my brothers were always were involved in different real estate ventures.
When I was in college, I decided to build a house, with the help of my parents, to live in and lease out to my friends so that we had a cool place.
After I graduated, I wanted to expand on my own. So took out a loan, and began building my next student housing. It eventually got to the point where I knew the market, loved what I was doing, and just wanted to keep going. Then the idea of flipping houses came to mind. I’m still learning the ins and outs of that process. But I love the hands-on creative aspect/vision of that.
HHM: You have three older brothers and a sister. Your mom and dad (they are both physicians) live in North Texas. Tell us about your family and the role they play in your life?
JJ: My family is everything to me. I am so incredibly lucky to have them in my life. Not only are they my best friends and my support system, but they also all inspire and motivate me. My entire family is full of the hardest workers I have ever seen. It’s amazing. Not to mention incredibly smart, loving, and kindhearted. I’m very proud.
HHM: Were they good “sounding boards” during the show?
JJ: Unfortunately I wasn’t able to talk to any of my family (while the shows were being shot). But having them there, in Thailand during those final days, meant so much.
HHM: You are a Baylor Bear, graduating with a B.A. in Medical Humanities. Did you want to follow in your parents’ footsteps?
JJ: I did! I grew up wanting to become a doctor. I spent a lot of my time in high school shadowing dermatologists and plastic surgeons — it fascinated me. But by the end of my senior year, I knew I had lost the passion for it. That’s the type of field you have to love what you do in order to make it out alive. I didn’t have that anymore.
HHM: What’s in the Waco water system that’s spawned so many recent TV careers such as Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s hit show, “Fixer Upper”?
JJ: For me, it made sense to do it in Waco because as a student, I noticed the demand for houses that made you feel more at home as opposed to the typical student apartment complexes. That’s how it (first) started. I also think Waco initially was a little behind in development and therefore made for a great market to start. Plus there are so many cute little homes that are perfect for remodeling. I love Chip and Joanna!
HHM: Get our your crystal ball and tell us where you see yourself five, or maybe even 10 years down the road?
JJ: It’s funny because I was never the type of girl to have a five-year plan, etc. I love letting life take me wherever it goes, and the unexpected surprises that come along with that (i.e. falling in love and meeting my fiancé on a TV show). My career is important to me so continuing to grow professionally is something I always am working towards. I definitely see myself still being so happily in love, in a beautiful marriage and even some babies crawling around. We will see!