ven if she wanted to, Ali Oetjen isn’t allowed to reveal whether or not she finds love at the end of her “journey” as The Bachelorette – which has finished filming and will air over the coming months. But her smile may be a clue. “I’m feeling extremely happy,” the 32-year-old tells Stellar. “Just really ecstatic. I’m glowing from the inside out.”
If a happy ending is in store, it can’t come soon enough for Oetjen given the negativity that has followed her since her turn on Bachelor In Paradise Australia earlier this year. After believing she had found love with fellow Paradise participant Grant Kemp on the reality TV show, which brings past contestants of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchises together, the two broke up not long after filming ended. And it’s been a break-up fraught with scandal, with Kemp alleging she cheated on him while Oetjen has cited distance as the main motivator of the relationship breakdown [Kemp lives in LA].
Since Kemp’s outspoken accusations, Oetjen has stayed quiet on the subject. “My major reason for not saying anything is that I don’t want to give him any ammunition or any reason to keep coming back in the limelight, which is what he wants. He wants to keep on grabbing those headlines. It speaks volumes for who he is really,” she says.
Her silence until now has led to a backlash, with some claiming that Oetjen doesn’t deserve to be The Bachelorette. “I just don’t think I have anything to prove to anyone. Everyone’s always going to have an opinion,” she says. “I think people who throw out these comments [on social media and online], they actually don’t realise the damage they’re doing.” She has relied on her family and friends to prop her up. “They are the most important people to me and their opinions matter. I have enough self-love and belief in who I am.”
It’s a different side to Oetjen than the one audiences first saw in the inaugural The Bachelor in 2013, where she famously tried to steal a kiss from Bachelor Tim Robards at the very first cocktail party. Given the chance, she wouldn’t alter a thing. “That’s who I was back then. I wouldn’t change who I was. That girl… was a girl. She hadn’t fully developed to what I am now,” she says. “I am a woman who knows exactly what she wants. I feel like now I’m empowered by the experiences I’ve had.”
Although she parted on good terms with Robards and Anna Heinrich, the woman he chose and his now wife, Oetjen doesn’t keep in contact with either of them beyond the odd socialmedia check-in. “I feel like your exes, whoever they are, you can feel good for them and know they’re happy, but you should let them go.”
When the chance to be Australia’s fourth Bachelorette came up, Oetjen took time to think it through. She’d been left heartbroken on both The Bachelor and Bachelor In Paradise, and questioned whether she’d find a man who wanted “to settle down and have kids”. Her mother was particularly worried. “My mum especially didn’t really want me to do it. Because she’s been there to pick up the pieces in the past. She was really scared it was going to happen again and couldn’t understand why I was going to put myself through it,” Oetjen says. “But once I explained to her that this was the right process for me, then [the whole family] were all supportive.”
Oetjen was resolved not to repeat the same mistakes this third – and, she insists, final – time on reality TV. “I definitely manifested and had lists of what I was looking for. It was really important for me to not waver from the qualities and values of what I wanted in a guy. I have wavered on them in the past,” she says. “I’ve always compromised for others. And I wasn’t willing to do that when I was in control of my own destiny.”
“I did think, ‘Is this going to be worth it? Is it going to be worth the challenge, the fear? Is it going to be worth the pain and the effort?’” And the more she thought, the more she realised the answer was yes. “I look to what my parents have and I want that. I love ‘love’ more than ever.”