However, despite a memorable one-on-one date with Jason to celebrate her daughter Sophia's fourth birthday -- a date that Jason later maintained was his favorite show date so far -- as well as the survival of a two-on-one date only one week prior, Stephanie was the lone bachelorette eliminated from the ABC reality dating series during Monday's broadcast.
During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Stephanie talked to Reality TV World about what made her one-on-one date with Jason so special to her, how she reacted to Jason's thoughtful goodbye to her following her elimination, and how she hopes to inspire others with the difficult story of her life.
Reality TV World: How did it feel when Jason made a point to speak so highly of you in front of everyone after the elimination? Did you appreciate the gesture?
Stephanie: You know what, what really overwhelmed me. I was just very thankful, I guess I was surprised and I think I could... You know that feeling where you feel your heart beating outta your chest? It was like "Wow, I certainly didn't know that he felt that way. I thought the girls liked me, I had a good feeling about that, but I didn't [know] that they would be so emotional.
And from my understanding... I've not been one who's watchedThe Bachelor or The Bachelorette a whole lot. I mean I didn't even know what a two-on-one date was! They told me I was going to have to go one and I was like "Really? What's that" and they were like "Somebody goes home," and I was like "Oh, ouch..."
But I just was overwhelmed at that last thing because from my understanding no one's ever left the show like that, as far as saying something in front of [everyone].
Reality TV World: Was there any point when you felt that you may be the one being eliminated [during] the course of that week?
Stephanie: Yeah, I had my reservations just because I felt Jason and I connected on emotional levels and mentally and with our children, but as far as passion of like (pauses) when you walk in the room and he just absolutely overwhelms [you], do I think I did that for him? No.
You have to have that! You just gotta say "Oh my God I just want to be with you forever." We were just more [like] friends.
Reality TV World: I know the show has covered it pretty extensively, but could you talk about your one-on-one date with Jason when you celebrated Sophia's birthday?
Stephanie: Oh, can I talk about the date?
Reality TV World: Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. Oh my goodness. First of all, it was just breathtaking. I was just so overwhelmed that he would have brought my daughter there on her birthday because I had thought [about her] all day, [and] while I was in the limousine and they were taking me and I had no idea where I was going.The date card had said "Will you come play with me?" and I thought "Okay, lets see. What can we be doing today?" I had no idea it would be like bringing Sophia there.
I tried to call Sophia and she wasn't at home, and nobody answered. One thing about me is I try to be optimistic, and so I thought "Oh, well I'll probably get to talk with her later."
But when she just came running down that beach I [just] about fainted. My knees buckled and she came at me with all her force and just ran over me. I remember having sand from head-to-toe and they were like "Do you need to change? You're soaking wet." I was like "No, I don't need to change, I'm used to being dirty."
We just went all day and had a relaxing, fun, fun time. I think he got to see a side of me that... You know I've grown up as a ballet dancer so I can have an appearance, I think, of looking like I'm... I don't know, just being held up straight. You know how a dancer's stance is? I feel like [Sophia and I] got to show him a side of us that was really [relaxed].
At one point we had a picnic and I stuffed, like, 20 grapes in my mouth, and Sophia starts stuffing them in her mouth [too]. They didn't show that.
But it was just fun. Sophia, her eyes just... there were moments when I was on the rides with her and I just held her and she was just wet in her swimsuit and I just held her on my lap and just loved on her. I couldn't ask for anything more. If this is all I get from this, if I walk home without love, that was a positive and magnificent experience for the both of us.
Reality TV World: You had said many times that you envisioned starting a family with Jason, how would you have dealt with that if it had become a reality, with having to move Sophia to Seattle?
Stephanie: Well I just think you would have to adjust, and I am used to the south, but I appreciate all parts of the country. I have traveled a lot and, of course, been up north and I can appreciate people in the north and so I would just move my family there. It's not where you are, it's how you live with your family.
Reality TV World: You were definitely one of the more mature contestants on the show, and at one point you said that you thought that [Naomi, a 24-year-old flight attendant from Carlsbad, CA] might not be on "the same maturity level" as some of the other [girls]. Could you tell about why you thought that?
Stephanie: Um. I guess it's... (Pauses) I'm just trying to think of the best way to put it... I just seemed to think at that point that, and it's not a bad thing on Naomi, I thought she was really a cute girl. I was just thinking of Jason as far as having a child and what stage he was in. (Pauses) I saw her maturity level as not as mature as some of the other girls. I can't really get into anything else.
Reality TV World: You had said after your elimination that you hoped your story would reach people and inspire them. Since your elimination have you talked to people whom you have affected by your story?
Stephanie: Yeah. I actually have. As a matter of fact I talked to a guy -- he did not even know that I was on the show -- but you wonder why you're put in situations, and when I was on the way back from Seattle I sat next to a guy who was just distraught. I mean, he had such a difficult time, and we got to talking and I told him that I had lost my husband. And he said -- and I could tell he was at the point of tears -- then he did start crying and he said "Well, I'm going through a divorce and I have three children. I just spent Halloween up here with my three children in Seattle and I have to go to Atlanta and be without them for several months."
And he said "How am I gonna get through this?" and I fell like right then I was in a moment to just build him up and kinda give him some advice and just tell him to look for positive things and take each day, and you'll be a little bit stronger. [I told him to] surround yourself with people who won't tear you down, but can bring you up and make you not see the negative stuff.
I mean, that is what I will continue to do, but I've seen several people [while I'm out at a store] and they'll just come up to me and give me a big hug and say "You know, I lost my husband, and I'm just so proud of you for going out and doing something like this." And they'll say "I' m happily remarried and I have another two children from the man I just married, and you'll have that again." That's a big encouragement to me too! I mean I so want that, and here I sit with three dogs and hold my little doggies and say this is the closest thing to a baby I can do right now.
Reality TV World: Can you talk about what you thought when you found out you'd be going on that two-on-one date with [Nikki, a 29-year-old administrative assistant from Blue Island, IL]? She clearly had a strong reaction to it so I wanted to know what you were thinking when you heard about it?
Stephanie: Well, I mean I thought "Whoa, somebody goes home!?" And then I thought, "Well that could be me or you, so I guess we better get prepared." It almost hurt my feelings because I thought [Nikki] was upset because that I'd been picked to go on the date with her. I'm one who likes for people to like me, and that kinda hurt my feelings. I thought "If anything I'm one of the least catty people [who could] go on the two-on-one with you."
I was excited to go on it because it [involved] dancing. I'm a dance major, [so] that was right down my alley and I was thrilled. My husband used to take me and we would waltz, we waltzed our wedding night [for] the entire night. I love dancing with a man, I was so excited.
And the place we went, incredible. I would say it's hands down the most beautiful place I've ever been. I've been to a lot of pretty places. [It was called] The Inn of the Seventh Ray, and it was just gorgeous.
Reality TV World: Why did you decide to apply for The Bachelor?
Stephanie: Actually what happened is my sister and her friends watched The Bachelorette and they saw that Jason seemed that he was a lot like my ex-husband, thought that he would be a match for me. So I wrote a detailed letter and I got his information.
And actually, I thought it may be a little stalker-ish to send it to him, so I sent the information to his father, and I sent him a really pretty gold four-leaf-clover-paperweight [for] the best of luck. I thought [that] he was a businessman, he works, [so] I wanted to send him something classy that he would remember, and write him a letter telling him I was looking for love and I had been hurt and I understood his pain too, because pain is pain no matter if it's death or divorce or rejection or whatever.
So I just talked to his dad for like 30 minutes on the phone and I said [I was going to send the information to him] and if you feel like it, because you know best [and] if you feel like we would be a match for each other, just [to] Fed-Ex it to him.
So next thing I knew I was sitting in registration for pre-school with my little girl and my phone rang and it was [the show's producers] wanting em to come and audition for the show. That's the way it all came down.
Also in the call, Stephanie talked about why she hopes to stay in touch with Jason, under what circumstances she would want to become the next The Bachelorette star, and what she would have done with Jason if she had survived another week and taken him on a hometown date.
Do you think you'll stay in touch with Jason?
Stephanie: I think we will, no doubt. I mean, because I had such a bond with Jason and I just think that he's an incredible man and even though we didn't have that physical chemistry I still think out friendship will remain strong. Who knows, there's many avenues that we could possible connect on, especially with us both being single parents and having children the same age.
Stephanie: I think a this point in my life, well, first of all I think it would probably be a few months before they would ask me, and nobody said anything about that. But I would probably evaluate that and see where I am in my life. I would hope that I'll have maybe some good fellas come outta this, I could be dating somebody at that time and if there's something to it than I'd wanna honor his wishes and remain with him and not do it.
But if I was single than I'd probably say yeah, I'd do it. I'd give it a shot.
Who are you rooting for?
Stephanie: Um,(Pauses). You know, I think I'm gonna have to just watch, honestly, for the hometown dates and see how he connects with the families. Because I did say one thing to Jason, and that is "You do marry the family [too]." He asked for one piece of advice, which was off-camera, [just as he was putting me in the limousine] and we were saying "Bye" and he said "What is one piece of advice you could give me? I mean, I trust you and I value your opinion."
I said "Just remember when you make those hometown dates that [you should] really evaluate that, and you do marry into the family. Just be where you fit in," and all of that. "[Try and see] if a family is too demanding of you or if they're gonna be overbearing, or if they seem to mesh perfectly with you. Look at all those things."
What would you have done for your hometown date?
Stephanie: Oh, I think we would've just probably hung out around my home. I think we would have maybe barbequed out back, I have a pool out back and a hot tub. We probably just would've cranked the music up and had some margaritas and let the kids run around and just show him what I do like to do and what I am like at home.
How did you deal with connecting with younger women who seemed to be at a different stage of life?
Stephanie: I can honestly say that I did connect with the other girls very well. I think it's because I allowed them to be themselves and took them for what they were, whether they were 24-years-old or... I mean I know how I was at 24 and I'm sure there were some things where I was like "Whoa! Why did I say that?" So I could appreciate that.
But, like [Molly,a 24-year-old department store buyer from Grand Rapids, MI]. She's 24 and we worked out a lot and I was like "You do not act [like you're] 24." I mean, I woulda thought her maturity level was much like a 34-year-old.
There were some girls in the house who were probably a little bit more mature, but because that was their age bracket, or maybe hadn't been through quite as many experiences. It's all about what you experience in life that kinda puts you there and makes you react to things differently. I said it the other night, it was like, Okay, walking down the aisle with my 10-week old after just sealing the casket, that to me was something to hit the panic button about and be distraught and completely broken-hearted over. This was not something like that, because I look at the opportunity and I say "Wow, I can get a wonderful man out of this."
Did you ever feel like you were ever in it, like you would ever be the one that Jason chose? Did you get the feeling early on that it wasn't going to end up like that?
Stephanie: As far as the physical connection, I felt like, and I think it's because of me being in acting and different things, I kinda looked for signals from him like that eye connection and that direct [contact] for him to touch my hand. I didn't necessarily see that.
I initially thought "Well, maybe he's just not that way." I remember the man I was married to and he would touch me on the face and my hands and run his fingers through my hair and Jason wasn't doing that. I had my reservations.
Do you think, knowing Jason, that he would be better off with a single mom or can he make it work with someone without kids?
Stephanie: I think he can make it work. I think as long as the love and the passion is there. Ty has a mommy, and if they're there in Seattle, then all that they've gotta do is make sure that the girl is willing [to split time with him with Ty] and that she is willing to be adaptable and needs to support his needs too and little Ty's needs as well. We all know that children, they get sick and we can't go to the party, or we can't go to the dinner we're supposed to.
Did you have any feeling that -- and no offense to you -- he may have kept you around longer because of a bond between him and Sophia?
Stephanie: I don't think so. I think that he saw the way I mothered Sophia and he was attracted to that. I really do, because [with] a child you can tell if they're extroverted, or you can tell if they're timid and they're scared. You can tell about their manners, you can tell if they're appreciative and tell if they're kinda bratty.
You can really tell, I think, how [hands on] a mother or father is with their children that they take time to teach them how to treat people.
Stephanie: Yes. I do. Call me a hopeless romantic but I do think you can if you go into it with the right intentions.
Do you believe the experience has opened you up to find love in the future?
Stephanie: I do. I think it put my story out there more than I ever could have imagined just living my day-to-day life. So I think it did give me a chance and I hope it will be maybe through a sister or a cousin or somebody like a girl watching TV who goes "Oh my gosh, my cousin would love to go out with her!" and just kinda play matchmaker. That is my hope for it.
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