'The Bachelorette' bachelor West Lee: "I have no skeletons to hide"
By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 06/16/2011
The Bachelorette bachelor West Lee's televised search for love came to an end during Monday night's broadcast of the ABC reality dating series' seventh season.
The Bachelorette star Ashley Hebert opted to give out an extra rose and keep 11 of her 12 remaining suitors, however West was the sole man left out and eliminated at the fourth episode's Rose Ceremony.
During a conference call with reporters on Thursday, West discussed his The Bachelorette experience with Reality TV World -- including whether he agrees with fellow eliminated suitor Jeff Medolla's claim that only three or four of the season's bachelors were really into Ashley, his feelings about his former mother-in-law's recent comments that she believes he had something to do with his former wife's death, whether he thinks his tragic history played a significant role in Ashley's decision to eliminate him, and who else he felt may have been in danger at the fourth Rose Ceremony.
Reality TV World: So when we talked to Jeff Medolla last week, he said that Bentley wasn't the only bachelor that wasn't really that into Ashley and that there were only about three or four guys in the house that had said they were really into her. Did you see that as well or would you agree with that? What was your take on that?
West Lee: Well, I think part of the nature of the experience is at first when there's so many guys competing for such limited time with her, you're only going to get a fraction of your time with Ashley and the rest is going to be spent with the guys. So, at first as long as Jeff was around -- by the time he had left, some people were able to establish a connection or whatever.
At first, you're spending so much time with the guys that obviously your connections are going to be stronger with them than they are going to be with her. It's got nothing to do with her. It's just the nature of the process. As more people get eliminated, you get more time with her and your connection with her gets stronger and stronger and stronger.
So, I definitely had that same experience where it was like, 'I made great friends with these guys and I've spent such little time with Ashley, that my connection was stronger with them.' It's got nothing to do with the guys liking her or not thinking she was a good catch or anything like that.
Reality TV World: There's been some recent media coverage of your wife's death beyond what you told Ashley on the show. The police have said there's no evidence that you were involved, but even before the season premiered, your former mother-in-law did an interview in which she said she believed you had something to do with Sarah's death and accused you of being her enabler. Do you have any comment on that, and what was your reaction when that came out? Had you anticipated something like that happening when you decided to go on the show, and was that a factor you had weighed at the time?
West Lee: Well, when I went on the show, I knew that my past would be there again. I mean, I knew that was a possibility and that might be brought up, and I'm okay with that. I have no problem discussing any problem that I might have or I have no skeletons to hide, per se.
So that wasn't a big deal, but I was shocked that they -- her own mother and stepfather -- would drag their own daughter's name through the mud like that. They -- I don't want to say too much because obviously it's just been talked about and talked about and talked about, and I would just prefer that Sarah's name be allowed to rest in peace at this point, but they were never really involved in her life.
Her mom left her at an early age and a lot of issues that she had were directly as a result of their actions. So, I don't know. Maybe it was just a thing where they're trying to pass off blame or deal with their own sense of regret. It's natural when you lose someone, especially a daughter, that you're going to wonder what you could have done more -- wonder what you could have done differently to save her.
It's another natural thing to feel guilt and wonder what you could have done differently or didn't do. So, I don't know if that has something to do with it, if maybe they're trying to ease their own sense of loss by passing the blame off to me or what, but I know I loved Sarah.
Sarah knows I loved Sarah, and I never would have done anything to hurt her. God bless her soul, may she rest in peace. Anyone that knows me and my family and anyone that knew us knows how much I loved her, and I never would have done anything to hurt her. So, I'm not going to worry about anything that her mom or her stepdad might say.
I know that her real father knows that I loved her and I always did my best to take care of her, and I know that he knew I loved her. So, I'm not too worried about what they have to say or what people who aren't in my situation think. It's a tragic situation and I hate that it's gotten to be what it was. I really do feel bad about that, but it is what it is.
Reality TV World: When you had your little one-on-one time with Ashley before you were eliminated, she had mentioned how she was concerned about your wife's death, which some viewers compared to fifteenth-season The Bachelor bachelorette Emily Maynard's situation with her former fiance and whether she was truly ready for another relationship. How big a role do you think that played in her decision to let you go? Did you get that impression that it was a significant role, or did you think it was just other factors?
West Lee: I mean, obviously that's what she told me. She said that she had some concerns about it and that she wasn't sure that I was ready to move on. I think that that was a legitimate concern for her. I've dated some women in the past who had that same concern.
So, it was not surprising to me that she would bring it up. I have no reason not to believe that was one of the big reasons that she let me go, but I also think that there was a lack of chemistry there. I don't necessarily think that she was feeling that chemistry with me, so I think that played a role in it too.
Reality TV World: Do you think there was anything that could have changed her mind, because it sounds like it was just a chemistry issue, and I know you mentioned you were disappointed you didn't get a one-on-one date. Do you think [your elimination] might have changed [like it seemed to with Ames Brown] if you had gotten a one-on-one date or do you think you guys just weren't meant to be?
West Lee: It's tough to say. I mean, without having had the one-on-one date, I can't really answer for sure if it would have changed anything. But yeah, going from minutes at a time with her to having several hours, lots of things could change. We found that we really enjoyed each other's company, and that just wouldn't have been apparent in the limited conversations that we could have.
I think I started out with a disadvantage because I had this sort of situation with my past that I needed to get off my chest with her before I could fully be myself, because I felt like with the limited time that we had together, there were some things that she needed to know about me before I could really let loose and just be the sort of jovial person that I usually am -- the laid back, fun loving guy.
I felt it would have been disingenuous had I been really laughing all the time and just being super excited about everything at first and then step back and have been like, 'But hey, also this,' you know? I just really wanted to be upfront with her from the outset so she would know where I'm coming from.
I think that level of seriousness that went on in the early conversations put me at a disadvantage, because a lot of the other guys were just having fun with it and I wasn't able to jump right into that. So, had we had more time together, I think she definitely would have seen a different aspect of my personality. But again, there's no way to say that it definitely would have changed anything.
Reality TV World: So based on your prior comments, it sounds like when you were eliminated, it wasn't that big of a surprise or shock?
West Lee: No, it wasn't. I knew I was one of the few people that was on the chopping block that night, and I would have liked to have another opportunity, but no, I definitely wasn't shocked.
Reality TV World: Who else did you think was on the chopping block?
West Lee: Well I think based on some of what you've seen on the show, [William Holman] had a bit of a meltdown on the group date with the roast, and he was worried. I mean, when I saw him come into the house -- we actually roomed together -- he was worried that he was going to be on the chopping block.
So I thought he was there, and then there were some other guys that just happened to not get a lot of time with her. There were just, understandably, some guys that I thought -- along with myself -- were on the outside looking in type of connection.
There were guys who had a lot more one-on-one time, and William being one of those guys. Then you have [J.P. Rosenbaum] and [Mickey McLean] or [Ben Castoriano]. She had gotten to see a lot more of them than she had of me at that point, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
Also in the call, West told reporters if being the only bachelor eliminated at the Rose Ceremony made his ouster worse, what he thought of controversial suitor Bentley Williams, and who he felt Ashley was going to select as her final bachelor.
Did knowing that you were the only guy eliminated during the Rose Ceremony worsen the blow at all?
West Lee: Well, obviously beforehand I didn't know that I was going to go home, but yeah. Once I got kicked off, it was -- it hurt a little that I was the only one she chose to leave, definitely.
Did you feel like you were making a connection with Ashley?
West Lee: I didn't really have a lot of time with Ashley. In the four episodes that I was in, I went on two group dates. So, I ended up spending the larger share of my time with the guys, and I was fortunate to have built connections with them. But I probably couldn't put a number on how much time I had with her, but it wasn't a lot.
So, there were definitely some qualities that I saw in her that I thought were attractive qualities that would be good to have in a partner, but I don't know if I would say there was a connection per se on the same level as there was between her and say, J.P. or some of the other guys.
When host Chris Harrison announced that one more rose was going to be added before the Rose Ceremony commenced, what was your reaction?
West Lee: Well, when Chris said there was going to be an extra rose, I was definitely a little more hopeful that I would stick around for another week. I really was hoping to at some point get a one-on-one with Ashley, because while there wasn't a lot of opportunities to form a connection.
If there was more time, if we had some significant one-on-one time together, then maybe there would be something there. It was just hard to tell without having that time yet. So, when there was another one added, I was hopeful that I could stick around another week, but unfortunately that wasn't the case.
When you did have conversations with her, did you feel like they went well?
West Lee: Yeah, well the thing about Ashley is she is a really easy girl to talk to. She's nice, she's sweet. So, I think all her conversations were going to go well regardless of who you are just because that's the kind of person she is, but again, watching the season and how it played out so far, I think it was evident that there wasn't as much of a connection or maybe she didn't feel a chemistry between her and I as much as she did with one of the other guys.
When Ashley asked you if you were ready to love again, it seemed like you hesitated before you answered. Looking back at the show, do you really think you were ready at that time and are you ready now?
West Lee: I think I was ready. I think I paused a little bit when she asked because I thought by me going out there, I was putting myself out there. That situation was sort of evidence that I was ready to put myself back out there and find love again.
It was kind of a surprise that she maybe didn't see that or didn't think I was. So, I kind of took a second to pause and collected my thoughts before answering, because I really wanted to give her the proper answer that I thought she deserved. But yeah, I definitely think that I was ready to move on and find love and I do think I am now.
Would you consider becoming the next Bachelor?
West Lee: (Laughs) I think that The Bachelor presents a great opportunity to find love and a set of amazing experiences... So, being the Bachelor is definitely something that I would have to think about, because it is such an incredible offer.
But again, I'd just really have to sit down and talk with my family and loved ones and consider it, because it's an amazing offer and anybody that's ready to find love would have to consider it.
What were your impressions of Bentley Williams while you were on the show and how have they changed since you've been watching at home and have seen some of the horrible things he said about Ashley and all the guys? Did anything surprise you about any of the other bachelors?
West Lee: Well, when I came on the show I thought from casting that the other guys would be -- that our personalities would clash. I don't know why I had that thought process about it coming in, but that's what I was expecting.
So, the thing that surprised me the most when I got there was how well everyone came to get along. All the guys for the most part just really enjoyed each other's company but it was hard at times because the guys were all developing the same feelings for Ashley, so that comradery went away a little bit.
So, in general, I was just really excited about how cool everyone and how easy they were to get along with. Bentley, it's tough to say really, because I really liked Bentley. The way he cared about his daughter, he seemed really nice, he seemed genuine.
He talked about his daughter all the time, so I thought that him missing her and his love for her was very genuine. Then of course to see all this stuff on the show was a surprise. I don't know if maybe the truth was somewhere in the middle, but at least in my experience with Bentley, he was a good guy. I like him.
Who would you pick if you were Ashley?
West Lee: Based on my gut and interacting with people, I really thought that J.P. was going to be one that she picked just because they have that natural chemistry. You could see whenever we were on a group date together, she tended to gravitate towards him, and there was just an easy kind of connection that was evident. So, I think he might be the best pick.
As far as another person, probably [Ben Flajnik]. He's just a really easy to get along with guy, super fun. He's just always so laid back no matter what the situation is. I thought that was really cool.
Taking from what you gathered about Ryan Park while you were on the show and how he seemed to get on many of the bachelors' nerves, do you think things are going to escalate and form some bigger issues?
West Lee: I think it's funny how Ryan has been coming across -- not how he's being portrayed, because that is very much him -- but I like Ryan a lot. I think he's a really nice guy. He's solid, he's sweet, he's smart, and I think he just means really well.
The thing about him is, is he's sort of the human equivalent to a puppy. He's just got high energy all the time and he's got this joy for life. He's just so happy about everything, and puppies like people, you love that quality 95% percent of the time, you know?
But when it's eight in the morning or 11:30 at night and all you want to do is sleep or something like that and the puppy needs to go outside or something like that, or it still has super high energy, that's the time when it starts to wear on you a little bit.
But the thing is, we've been together in such tight quarters for several weeks straight at that point. There was no diversion, no TV, no nothing. So, it was just like we had all reached that 5% percent mode, and it has nothing against Ryan.
Ryan's a great guy. It's just, it had more to do with us just being tired. We were kind of sleep deprived all over the place, and we were just getting kind of cranky at that point. So, it wasn't Ryan. Ryan's a great dude.
What are you looking for in your next relationship and did being on The Bachelorette influence that at all?
West Lee: Yeah, absolutely. I think that the most important part about a relationship is chemistry -- not necessarily physical chemistry -- I mean, obviously that's important, but I mean sort of a deep connection that you can kind of see on the show between Ashley and J.P. There's just this ease to the relationship and you just naturally have this give or take kind of deal.
It's just never forced or anything like that, and I think that's sort of what I took away from this. I think Ashley is an amazing person and she has all these great qualities, and I'm sure Ashley thought that I had some good qualities as well, but she just didn't feel possibly that chemistry between us.
That's the difference. That's why I went home, because when two people meet each other, depending on time -- timing's everything. If there's no chemistry, it just doesn't work out. But I think the biggest thing that I'm looking for is chemistry. I don't have a checklist or anything like that. I just want to be happy and comfortable.
Since you did lose a loved one, was it hard for you to go on the show and open up or had you passed that point and you were ready?
West Lee: Right after Sarah passed away, I probably tried to start dating again a little too quickly, and not because I was ready to date but because I sort of had this void inside of me, and I was hoping to either distract myself from it or [fill] it with something. And so, I just started trying to date a little too quickly, and that just did not work.
There was no way it could have because I had these strong feelings for Sarah. Ultimately, I took a long time for myself just to be alone and close myself off. I was not emotionally available to people for better or worse. I just needed to kind of let go of my life because I was not able to put myself out there, because I felt like I had all that hurt inside of me.
So, I ended up taking a lot of time just to myself and finally, I think I reached a point where I was able to put myself back out there. So, I think I went on the show at a good place. It had been over three years and I had taken time to myself and really got to a place where I was happy in my own life again.
I picked myself up off the ground and passed the bar and got a good job and had my own home and began doing great things. I'm just so happy on an individual level and that's what made me think I was ready to share it with someone else. So yeah, I think when I went on the show I was definitely ready.