If you’re an avid fan of ABC’s The Bachelor, you might know the name Ashley Spivey. You may have been familiar with her as a contender on the 2011 season, Brad Womack‘s second go as Bachelor (he had already been in the starring role in 2007, but left without a leading lady). Or, she may have only recently come to your attention due to her unique social media activity and interviews on Reality Steve‘s podcast. This is because Spivey has unintentionally become a sort of whistleblower, calling out injustices and controversial aspects of The Bachelor franchise.
Spivey truly didn’t set out to become this person, but as the moderator of a subreddit forum about the franchise, and as a survivor of sexual assault, she’s passionate about how today’s contestants should be treated, represented and protected.
Early on in the process during her season, Spivey detected her brand of ardent feminism wasn’t a match for Womack. “I saw him as wanting to be more in the ‘traditional’ role as a man,” she relates. Spivey had applied for the show after catching her ex boyfriend – who had left a career in finance to pursue one in acting – in bed with another woman. She thought it would be poetic justice to star on television before he ever got the chance. Her father had just passed away and her mood was glum, but she was ready to take a chance on something new and out of character. She completed the lengthy application despite being someone who “doesn’t love being on camera.”
Of course, producers loved the New York based nanny’s feisty backstory. “I think they called me 30 minutes after reviewing my application,” she half jokes.
Her employers at the time weren’t so keen about their child’s caretaker starring on a reality dating show, so once dismissed of these responsibilities (“I thought I was done with nannying and at that point, didn’t envision going back to it like I eventually did.”), Spivey was free to meet the man whose affections two dozen other women would be vying for.
Had producers not followed up regularly with her, she probably would have dropped the ball, she concedes.
Like her friend Sharleen Joynt (Juan Pablo’s season), Spivey homed in on the antiquated aspects of The Bachelor process early on. She recognized and internally recoiled from the reactionary. She was a “one and done” in her mind as far as being on reality TV, but after her season, joined the millions of viewers to opine on social media. There she became a shrewd and critical observer. Now happily married, Spivey remains committed to bettering the process for the singles of Bachelor Nation.
In the years leading up to #MeToo, #TimesUp and women calling out men for bad behavior, more eyeballs landed on Spivey’s Twitter timeline. Social media platforms hadn’t been as popular when she was a contestant back in 2011, but now people were weighing in with alacrity. Like other critics of the ABC franchise, she was not a fan of the public’s shaming of the first Bachelorette to have sex before fantasy suite dates and made that viewpoint known. This resonated with others who replied and responded. Bloggers and reporters focused on the flaws within the franchise as a direct result. Spivey’s tweets took the position of: People seem to take it easy on the men, so why are women being slammed?
She posted and blogged about these types of injustices and her following continued to amass, even more so after pointing public attention to the bad behaviors of The Bachelorette contenders hoping Becca Kufrin would choose them.
As a former contestant, “Bachelor Nation” was paying attention to Spivey, though she was met with polarizing reaction due to the political diversity of that audience. Some of the more conservative viewers were upset when after following a tip, she looked into and verified the strange Instagram activity of Bachelorette contender Garrett Yrigoyen (comprised of “likes” on offensive and racist posts and memes).
When blogger Reality Steve got word of Lincoln Adim‘s battery assault conviction, Spivey arranged for her sister in law to pick up the court documents in person. “Because I manage a Bachelor Subreddit forum, I need to make sure the conversations there don’t get out of hand and that false information isn’t being spread,” she explains, “I also feel that these contestants deserve the very best and it upsets me that there wasn’t a better vetting process in place to protect Becca.”
Spivey’s successful efforts obtaining proof from the courtroom had a greater impact: Adim did not attend The Men Tell All episode.
“They could have done much better than that,” Spivey insists. “Becca should not have been placed in a position where she’d have to choose between controversial men. Producers could also have chosen to address the Lincoln scandal and discuss what is not acceptable during The Men Tell All…They also could have edited out a handful of Lincoln’s earlier scenes.”
Producer Elan Gale did reach out to Spivey to let her know the franchise had a pretty solid selection process. With regard to Yrigoyen, he expressed, there is no way to determine what a person is “liking” unless one follows that person and goes through every single post. Spivey understands how difficult and tedious it is, but something she tells me about herself should be modeled by production: “I always double and triple check things – it’s something I hear from multiple people that you’ll eventually end up reading about – before addressing it.”
Spivey adds that there was another missed opportunity by the franchise during 2017’s nearly-canceled season of Bachelor in Paradise. After allegations of sexual impropriety were investigated, the show reconvened with a post hiatus episode featuring a conversation between Chris Harrison and cast mates. “A professional should have been called in to address the issue of ‘Consent’ and clearly define what it means. In a way, this huge issue was somewhat glossed over following a public controversy. In my opinion, they fumbled the ball by not having a psychologist there. This was an opportunity to educate properly.”
While Spivey expects certain things from the franchise in 2018, it’s amazing that she still watches the show after what she experienced in 2011:
“I spoke about being a victim of sexual assault and rape in a prior relationship that was abusive. I knew there were other women that would be able to relate to my experience and I wanted to be authentic about real life issues. All of that was cut out of the show.”
With a social climate that is changing for victims of sexual assault, Spivey has been able to note progress made by the franchise more recently, but perhaps it is her own scarring past experience that keeps her fighting. By highlighting issues with contestants, it is inevitable that producers are tuned in and making changes –even if some regard her as a troublemaker or fail to credit her.
After exploring claims that a contestant of The Proposal (a spinoff show of the franchise’s) had once drugged and sexually assaulted a woman, Spivey was instrumental in bringing the information to light. Although no one from the network contacted Spivey, ABC promptly pulled the episode and it never aired. “That indicates they’re responding, but there’s still a long way to go.”
There are many viewers who see The Bachelor as a safe entertainment haven, one away from politics. As a result, that contingent would not want to be lurking on Ashley Spivey’s timeline. She tells me she was pleasantly surprised when Bekkah Martinez’s Trump reference wasn’t edited out of Arie’s season of The Bachelor.
“The reality is that there are viewers in Middle America that the franchise doesn’t want to alienate, so you’re not going to hear much political discussion. I believe that Rachel and Nick’s fantasy suite date was on election night, but producers know how polarizing these types of conversations can be. I think contestants are also highly aware of this and as a result, reluctant to discuss politics. Michael Garofola brought up Trump a lot during Bachelor Winter Games – Know that, despite the fact that you didn’t get to see it on the show.”
A more recent controversy Spivey has spotlighted is the one surrounding Leo Dottavio from Becca’s season of The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise.
“I had seen mumblings about Leo sending dick pics and inappropriate messages to women. Bekkah Martinez had Instagram stories about people coming forward to her regarding unwanted advances from Leo. He claimed it was all photo- shopped and fabricated, but there were multiple people coming forward to back Bekkah up. Then Amanda Stanton posted about him and Leo responded by sending threats.”
(Ironically, Spivey and I spoke right before Amanda Stanton’s arrest following a physical altercation with her boyfriend. Stanton’s lawyer issued a statement acknowledging that any violence is wrong and conveying Stanton’s regrets about her actions.)
Spivey would like to see more progress from the franchise, including more inclusiveness and diversity. She is currently disgruntled by the demographics. “Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, is also the only Bachelorette to not reach a million followers. That shows you how racist viewers still are.”
Spivey would have also liked to see the first black Bachelor this upcoming season. There were some great candidates, she notes, including Wills Reid and Eric Bigger. However, Spivey sees the selection of Colton Underwood as a response to a call for change and proactively safer casting choices.
“There are lots of crazy stories out there about contestants, but there is nothing bad on Colton,” she emphasizes. “Colton is a good person. I think that raising awareness about what’s problematic really did have an impact. You see that with the choice of Colton as the next Bachelor.”
Spivey is quick to add: “On the other hand, if the whole season is ragging on Colton for being a virgin…that would be a complete step backwards…”
“If they don’t make significant changes, it will be hard for me to continue watching.”
(Photos, from left to right, courtesy of Wet Paint and Brides.com. Spivey has said that during her season of The Bachelor, she was more in love with fellow content Ashley Hebert than Bachelor Brad Womack.)