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Exclusive: Nikki Kaapke talks about her time on 'The Bachelor'

By John Bracchitta, 02/02/2009 

Nikki Kaapke should have just listened to the age-old adage to "be yourself."

Just weeks after receiving the initial cocktail reception's first Impression rose after impressing The Bachelor star Jason Mesnick with her stories of taking care of her nieces and nephews, the 29-year-old administrative assistant from Blue Island, IL found herself on the opposite end of the spectrum as her inability to open up and act relaxed around Jason led to her elimination during last Monday's broadcast of the ABC reality dating series.

On Friday, Nikki talked to Reality TV World about why she did not tell Jason about her prior relationships until their last date together, what initially worried her upon learning that she would be going on a two-on-one date with Stephanie, a 34-year-old medical marketing representative and single mom from Huntsville, AL, and what she would do differently if she could go back and to the show over.

Reality TV World: After Jason decided not to give you thetwo-on-one date rose, you said that you were "in shock" and "never saw this coming."  Does that mean that you hadn't gotten any inkling that you may not be receiving the date’s rose right up until Jason gave it to Stephanie?

Nikki: I'm shocked just because getting the first impression rose, every conversation that Jason and I had was really genuine, very easygoing. We talked about our families his step-parents, my step-parents. We talked about how we grew up, what our lives were like with out best friends, every [little] type of thing so we could know each other better. I felt really confident on our way to the date, we had a nice conversation including Stephanie. That [unintelligible] was awesome, as well as when we danced. It was so much fun because I did let my guard down and I did let myself have a lot of fun. I'm very clumsy, so the fact that stepped on Jason's toes and he both [laughed] was great.

It wasn't until our actual dinner with the three of us that we had our conversation that I feel insecure, because Stephanie was really talking up her southern charm, and she's a wonderful lady. But [she was] more and more Stephanie [tried to] outshine me, and that was my fault, I should've stepped up my personality as well, and when Jason and I had our conversation privately during our date there was no inclination that I would be going home. I did ask him if there were any questions or concerns that he had about the two of us, and he didn't imply that there were any. So I was up in the air thinking that there was a possibility of going home, but because of the genuine romantic connection that we had, I didn't foresee it coming.

Reality TV World: Just to move back just a little. Can you go into some details about what was going through your head when you found out that you would be going on the two-on-one date with Stephanie? You obviously had a pretty quick reaction to it.

Nikki: Yeah. When it came down to finding out the girls that were going on the group date, and Molly [a 24-year-old department store buyer from Grand Rapids, MI] already had her one-on-one date, that led to [Stephanie] and I being the two-on-one. It was disappointing just because it meant that Jason had concerns and questions about he and I, and I was also concerned because Stephanie is a wonderful girl, and they already did have a one-on-one date so there was a big connection between she and he. So, not only the fact of going against someone like Stephanie, who was so sweet and very nurturing and very friendly, she and I got along very, very well. So going against a friend was really sad because, like, I didn't want her to go home and I didn't want myself to go home either. 

Reality TV World: You said that you felt Stephanie had a big advantage over you because she was a mother while you were not...

Nikki: (Interrupting) Because Jason already saw what she was like as a mother in person with her daughter! Whereas he didn't get to see me with any relationship, whether it was with Ty or whether it was with my nieces and nephews.

Reality TV World: Going off of that a little. Do you think that Jason had been connecting better with the bachelorettes who had children?

Nikki: No. I don't think there was any difference as far as connecting with myself versus someone like Megan [a 25-year-old lacrosse coach and single mom from Sewickley, PA] or Stephanie, who did have children. It was just, with both girls their concerns were that's all that they felt they talked about, where that genuine connection that no one else in the house could have. I don't think it was a threat, but at the same time it was a bonus for them because it was a level that only Jason could understand what they have as well.

Reality TV World: So when you were [worried about] going on the date, it wasn't as much you going up against a mother in Stephanie as much as just going up against a friend who you know [Jason] had a connection with?

Nikki: No, not at all.

Reality TV World: Given only one woman gets to come back from a two-on-one date, it would seem to make sense [that one of the women] Jason would pick would be a woman that he felt he already wasn't feeling a connection with and probably wouldn't have made it past the next Rose Ceremony anyways.  Do you think that’s what happened in your case?

Nikki: In my case I think the reason I was sent home is because Jason didn't get to see the more fun side of me, the more [relaxed] side of me, which there is one. It's just in that type of environment it's very surreal, you're not really able to speak to your friends and family about the situation, you can't really vent and let go of your emotions. So it all builds up, you're in front of the cameras 24/7, you're around a bunch of girls you're not familiar with who you are becoming friends with, but at the same time you still have to kind of distance yourself so that you're able to have this relationship with Jason. So in my scenario it was quite difficult, but I think for what circumstances were at hand I could've made the best of, and I might have no regrets, just my going home is my fault and no one elses.

Reality TV World: When you were on the date, there was a clip of you -- and actually Stephanie said a similar thing too -- where you said you felt like a "third wheel" while Stephanie and Jason were dancing.

Nikki: Like a third wheel. Yeah.

Reality TV World: Could you elaborate on that a little more? Because you said that you thought that the dancing part [of the date] wasn't going well for you.

Nikki: Well the one thing Stephanie and I [liked about being grouped together with Jason was] we were so relieved that it was the two of us, because we knew that she and I would not out step one another or outshine or show any disrespect as far as being physically flirty with Jason. But at the same time, I have that mentality that if I don't do it, I don't expect other people to do it, and even though we had that conversation, Stephanie still brought on that extra charisma that I wasn't expecting to come out of her. So it was pretty unexpected, she definitely made it known that is was her date as far as attention goes with Jason.

Every time he and I spoke to each other Stephanie would chime in, and then unfortunately it felt like she was taking over the conversation. Whether she meant to do that or not I don't know, but it definitely caught me off guard, and I think that's what also deterred me from enjoying myself even more and it did feel like I was on their date rather than him and I plus her. Which is possible, but I didn't feel like it was on the reciprocating end for me.

Reality TV World: Okay, because she had also referenced the same "third wheel" comment to describe your presence at some point.

Nikki: Right.

Reality TV World: Had you consciously decided to not tell Jason about your 11-year relationship until the two-on-one date, or was it one of those things that just hadn't come up for one reason or another?

Nikki: No, there was just never an opportunity to do so. I didn't wanna bring it up the very first night we met, I mean that's just a little too much information, and I kinda wanted to get to know each other as Jason and as Nikki. But the one-on-one time we got was very limited, and you only have a very short amount of time to express as much as possible, and I wanted him to get to know me rather than talk about past relationships.

I didn't ask about his ex and their situation until maybe the third of fourth time that we saw each other, and in that situations there's always interruptions that pulled us away because there was a rose coming into the room. Like, we were at the pool and he and I were talking and then a rose came. So there was always something that deterred us from going into a further depth of conversation. But my intentions were not to not tell him, it's just there was no better opportunity than right before I left because I wanted him to know all about me before he decided to send either myself or Stephanie home.

Reality TV World: [Jason] was obviously kind of caught off guard by it, in retrospect would you do it any differently? Would you have tried to bring it up earlier, or not mentioned it at all and hoped for the best?

Nikki: I wouldn't have changed anything, again, because I just wanted him to learn more about me before [he learned about] my past relationships. It did help develop me as a person that I am now. But, at the same time, rather than telling him in the middle of dinner, I would've liked to have told him when it was just he and I and not [have] Stephanie there as well and just explain more in detail of what happened and why things ended up the way that they did and how the relationship was. We were so young and we grew up into two totally different people.
Reality TV World: Do you think it ended up playing any role in him not giving you the rose?

Nikki: No, I don't think so at all, because from his commentary his main concern was me not opening up, not being vulnerable. And one of the biggest vulnerabilities and insecurities you can share is a failed relationship, and I definitely let my guard down and I let him know about it with the time that I had. I don't think that determined it, I just think that in the long run he [knew] who would be a better fit for him, and the fact that he's very carefree and spontaneous basically [likes to have a lot of fun], me being a very responsible person and consider myself a role model in my community it's not easy for me to do that. So it's just two different ends of the pole that didn't meet. 

Reality TV World: In retrospect, do you think Jason had already made up his mind before the date began about who he was going to send home, or do you think that he was [still] undecided?

Nikki: I definitely believe he was torn because Stephanie and I -- even though she and I [were] the nurturing two in the house -- he got to see [Stephanie's] daughter, he got to see her everyday life and what it's like, and then he had me, who is very reserved -- more so than Stephanie. I mean, I'm from a big city, I'm from the mid-west -- and the only thing I have to worry about is me. He definitely had to [figure out] who would be a better fit for him and Ty. I just don't know what else he could have done other than really, really sit down and take care for himself and decide who was the better fit. I don't think he knew right off the bat, because that whole date was a very long process and he asked us a lot of very difficult questions that I think we both answered well. It's just who he felt more comfortable with.

Reality TV World: [In retrospect], is there anything you would've done differently on the date?

Nikki: I would've been more confident. What everyone was seeing is not really who I am. I'm very outgoing, I am very silly and fun with my friends. So when we're all watching it together they were like "Why weren't you yourself!?" I'm like "I was myself!" It's just [that] you don't know what's going to happen and you don't wanna make the wrong decision. Yes, I was myself the entire time, yet at the same time I was prohibiting myself from being more relaxed, because if I was too much of something I was afraid he wouldn't see the real me. Unfortunately it's my own fault that he didn't get to see the real me, so I was my worst enemy.

Reality TV World: After the elimination you had said that you had envisioned moving to Seattle and living with Jason and Ty. Is it safe to say that you had already fallen for Jason at that point?

Nikki: Yeah I definitely... (Pauses) I'm a professional girl, and I take all of the relationships in my life, whether it's personal or professional, and I take them all very seriously. I consider friends like family. So anyone that I'm gonna have involved in my life be a part of [either] my blood family or my friend family, so it's a big deal and I take things very slowly. There's a reason why I took things very slow with Jason, because I wanted to make sure that the feelings [I felt for him] were genuine, and I did start to fall for him. I did develop early feelings, not to the point I would say "I love you," but definitely to the point where I care about the person. So, had I gotten the rose and made it a step further I could definitely see myself with his family and Ty and definitely imagine myself with a ring on the finger walking down the aisle.
Reality TV World: And even now that a few months have passed and you've kind of disconnected from the situation, do you still think you would have been 100% committed to that?

Nikki: Definitely. Like I'm the type of person -- that's another thing about me -- I never step into anything without thinking of all the possibilities, pros and cons, and realizing the fact that being away from my friends and family, and stepping away from my job in a city that I'm completely comfortable and familiar with. It's an entirely new, unimaginable lifestyle, and I don't know anything about Seattle, or what life is like out there, or what Jason's dynamics are like in terms of family and friends until I meet them in person. So I was definitely up for the challenge, and with those months in between of everyone finding out, it's definitely a growing experience between, if it was Jason and I, and I would have stuck with it until the very end.
Reality TV World: We talked with Megan yesterday and she said that, given her own pre-Rose Ceremony conversation with Jason and the way the ceremony then ended up going went down, she had started questioning whether he was really there for love after all. What are your thoughts about that?

Nikki: I do believe Jason was there to find love, definitely. I mean, who would put themselves out on television, again, to possibly put their heart out there wholeheartedly and involve their child?

Had it been someone else that we'd never seen before, or the American audience has never developed a connection with, maybe that would be a different story. But having my conversations with Jason, and hearing what the other girls' experiences were like -- like talking to Melissa during the show, and Jillian on their dates -- they just felt like he was a normal guy who likes to watch sports and hang out with his friends and have barbeques with his family. There was never an inclination that we thought he was there to play the field, never.

Reality TV World:  You kind of alluded to this before, but the episodes seemed to show you doing quite a bit of worrying and crying while you were in the show.  Do you think that was an accurate portrayal [of yourself]? You had kind of said that there was more to you than...

Nikki: (Interrupting) Whoa. I don't think anyone [expected that] as far as [me] crying. Like, I am not a cryer. To see myself cry so much on television, that is just a very stressful environment, in a good way. We are limited to outside experiences and you're [seeing] the same people day after day, there's no escape. We worked out together, we ate breakfast together, we cooked, we played, we laughed, we fought. We were a group of girlfriends who are falling for the same guy, it's very, very difficult and it's not like you can be happy for your girlfriend because she came home from a date [saying] "Oh, I had a great time," and she wants to tell you that she had this intimate moment, but at the same time for your sanity's sake, when you have a relationship with that same person you kind of can't hear all that. So it's very hard to express your emotions and bottle them up at the same time.
Reality TV World: Going back again to when we talked to Megan yesterday, she said that, from her perception, that Jason seemed to be going for more outgoing women. You said you had a hard time "letting loose" and were something of a "control freak," do you agree with [Megan on that]?

Nikki: Um, I do in some way. Girls like Melissa [a 25-year-old sales representative from Dallas, TX], Jillian [a 29-year-old interior designer from Peace River, Alberta, Canada] and Megan were all very outgoing. They said what was on their mind without being hurtful to anyone and I think that Jason did lean toward that because that's more his personality. With myself, I was outgoing in the beginning, and once I saw the emotions start to develop in myself and between [Jason] and the other girls that's when I put my guard up because I didn't want to get hurt, but at the same time I wanted to still show him that I was interested.

So for Megan's note, she was very honest with him from the beginning, and you see that on camera as well. She never held back, which is who she was. She was a little skeptical because she also has a little child involved, but she was there to find love just like the rest of us were.

Reality TV World: On the first night, [it seemed] like you and Jason spent most of the time speaking about how you take care of your nieces and nephews.

Nikki: (Laughs) Yeah.

Reality TV World: Is that accurate? And is that what you think put you ahead of everybody else and led to you getting the first impression rose?

Nikki: You know, my goal is to let him know that I was ready to find "Mr. Right" and that I was ready to have a family, whether it was instant or later in the future. And I do have a very strong connection with my sister's children. My sister and I are, now that we're adults, we're very close. Whenever she needs me I'm there to be with the girls and her little boy and they're wonderful. There's four of them.

I know that Jason also has nieces and nephews at the same age as well as Ty. So I [wanted him to know] that I am relatable to children and that I've [had to take care of them] when they're very well behaved to the other [times] when they're throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of a store.

We did talk more about my hometown of Chicago, and I love the Cubs so we talked about sports and we talked about Seattle. We talked a lot more, other than about the kids.

Reality TV World: Were you surprised when you got the first impression rose?

Nikki: I was shocked, really. I just didn't have a game plan at all. Everyone was like "What are you gonna saw when you get out of the limo? What are you gonna do?" I was the last to get out of my limo and I'm watching girls like Sharon salsa-ing with him and Jackie coming out with these stories and jokes, and I'm just like, all I had planned was to say "Hi, my name's Nikki, I'm from Chicago. Nice to meet you." (Laughs)

So when I did get to meet him I just talked about how great it was to come out here and meet him, and watching him from [The Bachelorette] you really got to see who he was so that was great.

Getting the rose itself was just a shock because I was myself. I didn't have any tricks up me sleeve and I didn't have any gimmicks and I didn't have any gifts. It was just me getting to meet him and tell him what I'm like and getting to know him better. So when I got [the rose] I thought someone, like Megan who I thought was stunning or someone like Lauren who just has this sparkle to their eye. There were just so many girls who I thought would have gotten it over me for sure.

Reality TV World: Was there anything that you expected to make it on the show that didn't make it on the air?

Nikki: Yeah. I mean, our rose ceremonies last for, you know, well over ten hours. They're very, very long, they go until the next morning. So when we're in the middle of the rose ceremony I expected someone like Nicole [a 25-year-old menswear buyer from Calgary, Alberta, Canada] or someone like Stacia [a 24-year-old charity accountant and single mom from Orem, UT], who were just breathtakingly beautiful [and] very, very genuinely intelligent and sincere and charismatic. Talking to those girls I'm like "I can easily relate to these girl, they're very, very smart."

[So when I got] the first impression Rose, I kind of had a thought of who Jason was leaning towards, and I initially didn't have Erica in the mix just because she was so different from me. But as we got to be housemates I learned so much from her and she and I became very close throughout our time there.

Reality TV World: Aside from yourself of course, was there anyone that you were surprised to see Jason eliminate or give a rose to?

Nikki: Eliminate? Kari [a 27-year-old advertising executive from Lee's Summit, MO], definitely. When she went home I was very sad because she was like myself, very reserved, very traditional, wholesome all-American girl type. When she went home I was just thinking "What could she have done or not done with him to send her home," and the only thing I could think of was [that] she needed more time with him, and there was lots of times with Erica [a 25-year-old account executive from Monroe, CT] and I on our group date [told her] "You need to go talk to him. He needs to know you're here and that you wanna be with him," because she did. She wanted to get to know him more, and its just, there's so much limited time for all of us to share him, and some girls don't even get that. Unfortunately Kari was one of them   .

Reality TV World: After you got eliminated, was there any particular girl you began rooting for? [If so, why her?]

Nikki: Honestly, it's tough because we were in the house for so long, all we get to do is spend time together. You laugh, you fight, you're bickering, you're resolving problems with one another. It's just a bunch of friends getting together, and when you go... I told Jason before I left that there were girls in the house who I knew would make him happy, who would be a good fit for him, and that one of them could be his wife.

The girls that I imagined would be Melissa, because she is herself 24/7, whether she's upset or whether she's happy, she's Melissa. She's never holding anything back.

Jillian, I loved her, she was so sweet. She and I bonded a lot because we did a lot of cooking together and sharing recipes and laughing and talking about friends and family.

And Molly. Molly's from the mid-west. She also loves sports like I do. She's an athlete, but she's also very intelligent.

So those three girls are definitely in my Top 3 picks. And it's nothing against Naomi or Stephanie, I mean Naomi's exotic and intelligent and she's worldly traveled. She's a wonderful person. And Stephanie's a great mom. I mean, any one of them girls could be his wife. But my picks were Melissa, Jillian and Molly when I left.

Reality TV World: How did you end up on The Bachelor? What led to your decision to audition for it?

Nikki: It was actually a fluke! I saw something online that someone said that their friend was the casting director and that they were looking for a wholesome all-American girl, and I wasn't in a relationship and wanted to see what else is out there. I've already tried dating online and being set up on dates by friends and family and met great guys. I figured this was just another avenue to find love, so I went to an open casting call, and I got the call about a month-and-a-half later saying "Would you like to come and be in the second round?" and I just went through the process. And lo and behold I ended up meeting this great guy.
Reality TV World: Has being on the show affected your personal life in any way so far?

Nikki: It has, just in terms of people I probably haven't seen in years coming to talk to me, or trying to make contact, which is great because it's always nice to reconnect with people. My hometown is very, very proud because I know people in the community, like the mayor or the chief of police, and [people at] the high school. They're very proud to know that I handled myself as myself. I never changed. So it's not a negative in any way, I'm closer to my family now. I have no regrets.

Reality TV World: Last question, are you dating anyone now?

Nikki: No. I am very single. So if you know anybody really nice please send them my way!

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