However, The Bachelorette bachelor later received a second shot at finding love on television when The Bachelor producers selected him to serve as the star of the show's sixteenth edition, which filmed this fall and will premiere Monday, January 2 at 8PM ET/PT on ABC.
During a Wednesday conference call with reporters, Ben, 29-year-old winemaker from Sonoma, CA, talked to Reality TV World about his The Bachelor experience -- including whether Ashley's rejection of his proposal made him hesitant to propose to one of his 25 bachelorettes, how much importance he put on a bachelorette's ability to get along with her fellow bachelorettes, and what he thought about the producers' apparent decision to surprise him with a visit from a former girlfriend.
Reality TV World: We saw Brad Womack eliminate girls early on who started drama, while Jake Pavelka was dismissive of Vienna Girardi's behavior with the other women in the house only to seem to see some of those same type of issues surface in his own relationship with her after the show. How much weight do you put on how the girls interact with and get along with each other when deciding who to keep around?
Ben Flajnik: That's interesting. That's a good question, actually. I think that women are very different around each other and big groups than they are with me and in any case, if there was something that I thought was pressing or so serious, I would address it.
If it was something that continued to be an issue, that person probably wasn't going to be around much longer. I thought that I did a pretty good job of that, handling myself. It's hard to compare me to the last couple guys, because we're all very different.
Reality TV World: ABC put out a preview video last week and it looked like there was a point in the season in which the producers kind of blindsided you with the return of an ex-girlfriend or something. What was your reaction when that happened? Does it frustrate or bother you when the producers do something like that or do you feel like that's just part of the show and it should be considered fair game?
Ben Flajnik: Those are difficult moments and difficult situations to be put in, and I understand that it's a part of the show and I understand it's what I signed up for, but it helps kind of exercise relationships and everything that is encompassing of that, then I understand that now.
Reality TV World: Your proposal to Ashley Hebert obviously didn't work out the way you were hoping unfortunately, so going into this season, do you feel it had an impact on you and you were hesitant to do the same thing again? If so, did you overcome that during the course of the season?
Ben Flajnik: I don't know if I was hesitant. I said to production before I went on, "I'm not going on this show to propose. If it just so happens that I meet someone that strikes that chord and I can see myself with, then there's a strong possibility." But I was still open to it going into the experience.
Reality TV World: Your final conversation with Ashley on The Bachelorette was pretty memorable. So when you cut girls during your own season, did you feel the need to "sugarcoat" things when you were talking with them afterwards or were you more direct?
Ben Flajnik: No, I do a little bit more sugarcoating. I mean, obviously it's a different position, you know? Like someone asked earlier, there's this stigma of being in a power position, so you have to be sweet about it and it's difficult. No one wants to be sent home or not be given the chance to spend anymore time with you. So, I was on the other side, so my heart goes out to the women that I had to say goodbye to.
Reality TV World: Did any of the girls kind of react as strongly as you did when Ashley rejected you, and if so, what was your reaction? Were you understanding or as upset as Ashley was?
Ben Flajnik: I don't remember anyone getting all that -- I don't remember anyone getting that upset. Obviously there's plenty of crying, and a lot of it, I unfortunately don't see. They're kind of out of there pretty quick and I'm -- I guess I'll find out when you guys do too while watching them after the fact.
Also in the call, Ben told reporters how he was "happy" with his The Bachelor experience and decision to do the show, whether he regrets any of his actions during the season, and if he can better relate to Ashley's situations now that he's walked in her shoes.
Ben Flajnik: I obviously can't tell you that, but I'm happy with my decision in doing the show -- another good experience, another cathartic, therapeutic adventure for me.
What was your favorite date of the season?
Ben Flajnik: I can't reveal too much, I mean they're all -- you know how they are. They're all kind of over the top and outlandish, but I kind of found the ones to be the most normal to be my favorite -- the ones that were closest to everyday life.
Looking back, do you think you were really in love with Ashley or just caught up in the moment of being on a reality TV show?
Ben Flajnik: No, I had genuine feelings for Ashley. I worked through a lot of stuff on my own. I think that my self-discovery was something that I didn't expect and Ashley was there for support to help me kind of get through all that. So, I don't take anything away from it.
Did you change your process of picking as the season went along?
Ben Flajnik: Did I change my process? No, I just went in open, honest and ready for a new experience. That's about all I took into it. Obviously some things changed along the way, but it seemed to work out just like The Bachelorette -- in the same way that I approached the situation.
What were you thinking and feeling when the first limo pulled up?
Ben Flajnik: Normally I'm very cool, calm and collected, but when that first limo pulled up, sheer panic and terror kind of set in. (Laughs) It took the first few ladies and meeting them for me to really kind of settle it, but your heart's racing. It's nerve-wracking on both sides.
Would you say that your first impressions of a lot of the ladies were pretty accurate based on how they acted throughout the season or were you surprised about what you learned about some of them as time went on?
Ben Flajnik: Well, obviously you're surprised about what you learn. You don't get to learn too much about them in that first moment, but yeah. You need more time to make those decisions.
Was it hard to let girls go whom you felt like you didn't really get to know all that well that first night?
Ben Flajnik: Well, you know, I have no regrets about anything that I did. I felt like all my decisions were well thought out and yeah. I will kind of leave it at that.
After going through the same process that Ashley did, do you understand how it may be possible to fall in love with more than just one person like she did?
Ben Flajnik: Yeah I do! I mean, you're obviously trying to figure out a lot of things along the way and it's a difficult situation. It was easily the hardest thing that I have had to do in my entire life. The hours are long and you're always thinking about the relationships that you have -- each individual relationship, where it's going, where it's not going, and I don't know. It's difficult.
I know you can't reveal much, but would you say you are happy with the outcome of the season?
Ben Flajnik: I can't tell you that. I'm happy with the experience. I'm happy that I decided to become The Bachelor again -- to make it more personal.
What was it like to be in control this season, when on The Bachelorette, you were basically helpless when it came to Ashley making all the decisions?
Ben Flajnik: The control thing is interesting because I liked -- what I tried to do from the first night was just be an equal and be on that level and not be on a high horse and pretend like I was in control. I wanted to stress to the women that I was going to be open and honest and if they had questions to come to me, because I was in their shoes before, and that hopefully, we could all get through this together.
There are a lot of women in the cast who have some type of medical profession. Was that something that the producers came up with or did you have any input into what careers you would like the bachelorettes to have?
Ben Flajnik: It wasn't so much the actual specific jobs that they had, but I asked for a professional woman -- a working woman that was experienced and worldly. Those are things I find very valuable in a woman and in a relationship. So, they did a really good job in selecting the women this time.
What other qualities did you look for in a woman and did you find those expectations changing as the season went on?
Ben Flajnik: No, I mean I kind of stuck to my guns in what I was looking for. It's important for me to be with someone who's well-rounded, cultured and flexible -- not someone that is so used to routine, because my life is very sporadic. Being in the wine industry, no two days are ever the same. So, those are the rather hard qualities that I look for.
When a senior citizen stepped out of the limo, did you take her seriously?
Ben Flajnik: I wasn't sure what to make of it. She was there the first night and I won't go into too much detail, but she is there for a specific reason.
Did you reach out to any of the formerThe Bachelor stars for advice?
Ben Flajnik: No, I didn't actually. I kind of wanted to make this my own and I spoke to friends and family more than Bachelor family. I tried to kind of separate myself from the whole Hollywood, [Los Angeles] thing, and I just haven't had a chance to get their phone numbers or emails or whatever. I'm sure they're nice guys. I just want to make this my own thing.
What did you learn about yourself this season that you didn't realize beforehand?
Ben Flajnik: I think the biggest thing I learned this time around was patience. The last time was really kind of refining my relationship skills and when you're in the driver seat, you have to be very, very patient.
Did you go on any dates after The Bachelorette's finale aired and before The Bachelor began filming or did you appear on the show with a totally clean slate?
Ben Flajnik: I wasn't dating anyone serious by any means. It was mostly when I got home from The Bachelorette. I just threw myself back into work and was around friends and family and back in my same old routine. It was really nice and then they approached me to be the Bachelor and I thought long and hard about it.
How did the exposure you had gained from The Bachelorette impact your wine-making business?
Ben Flajnik: We don't have an actual physical location. We have a facility where we produce wine from. We don't allow people in there, unfortunately. It just logistically doesn't work for us, but we've always sold really well. We score really well.
We just scored 90 points on our Pino last week, so we've always made really nice wines and I think the majority of purchases because of the show are novelty purchases -- one bottle at a time so they're not serious wine consumers. And so, we really try to differentiate business from Bachelor and Bachelorette-related things, because we do take our business and our wines very seriously.
How did you convince yourself that the show's process was going to work for you when the odds aren't really in your favor considering The Bachelor's poor track record of long-lasting relationships? For example, Bachelorette couple Ali Fedotowsky and Roberto Martinez just broke up.
Ben Flajnik: That's interesting. I don't know Roberto and Ali personally. It's hard because relationships end whether you're on a TV show or not, and so, it's tough to say. It's really hard to say because you look at the pool of people and it's a very small, small number, and unfortunately, some haven't worked out and some have.
There are some celebrated relationships that end up from the show. And for me, I'm an opportunist and optimist, and I feel like you really can find someone in any way, shape or form. It doesn't matter if it's on a TV show or on an airplane or at a restaurant. It comes in many forms.
Ben Flajnik: (Laughs) What makes me different? I don't know, I keep it pretty real. I'm pretty honest and open and at times, maybe a bit too open I suppose, but yeah. I had a good time with this too. I take it seriously, but in the moment, I'm having fun. I'm having fun and I'm goofing around. I'm kind of a jokester.
So unfortunately, I haven't watched many of the other seasons, so I don't really know all that much about them except for what producers have told me in the past. So, I don't know. It should be a fun season.
What would fans be surprised to know that they may not get to see on the show?
Ben Flajnik: I don't know. I think the show does a pretty good job of encompassing me and my life. So far, America has seen my bare butt and I have no problem with male nudity. (Laughs) And I'm a bit of a jokester, but I am serious and I took this process very seriously too.
After The Bachelorette wrapped, there were reports that surfaced claiming Jennifer Love Hewitt was getting in touch with you and visited your winery. What was that all about?
Ben Flajnik: Yeah, she reached out and wanted to come up to the winery with some of her friends, which she did. So, my business partner and I showed her around the winery and they tasted some wines and we went out to dinner and just kind of chatted about life and the experience and all that kind of stuff.
She's a nice girl, but it was right in the middle of the time where I was deciding whether I was doing The Bachelor or not, and I don't really -- After all this is said and done, I just want to go back to my life in northern California. Most people don't really know who I am and I prefer it that way. So, ending up with a Hollywood celebrity is not something that I ever imagined doing.
What do your friends and family think about you being the Bachelor? Do they think the fact you are a reality star is really exciting or anything like that?
Ben Flajnik: You know, there's not that much of a reaction. I've surrounded myself with really down to earth people my entire life, so we talk about it every now and again. I get the occasional, "Man, that's pretty cool." But other than that, it's weird.
I block it all out and I maintain the integrity that I had before all of this. And so, I don't know. It doesn't really affect me oddly enough. I don't know how I do it to be honest with you. (Laughs) It's probably because I don't see it and really, when I'm not in Los Angeles, it goes away. It really goes away.
You didn't have any problem taking all your clothes off on the beach while cameras were rolling?
Ben Flajnik: No, I mean, here's the thing my friend. When a beautiful woman asks you to go skinny dipping on a beach, (laughs) you don't say no, and that's kind of -- I think any guy would be crazy not to. Granted there were cameras around and I realize that, but it's not the end of the world. It's not that big of a deal to me.
Weren't you worried though that doing something like skinny dipping would cause a lot of drama and anger amongst the other girls in the house? Would you say it was important to stay a little reserved?
Ben Flajnik: Yeah. Yeah, at times. But you know, (laughs) at the same time, I treated my relationships individually. And so, I kind of let them do that and if one wanted to move faster than the other, then that's the point. You have to kind of be open to self-discovery, really.
So you just allowed the girls to take the lead basically, right?
Ben Flajnik: Yeah, it wasn't my idea, but you know what? I was glad to oblige.
Are you looking forward to watching the show unfold from week to week or are you nervous and apprehensive about watching yourself and your whole journey play out publicly?
Ben Flajnik: I'm not nervous about it. I really feel good about the way I conducted myself and handled myself. Obviously it was difficult at times, but all in all, another good experience.