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Emily Maynard’s last relationship failed in the most public, most sensational way possible.
So after calling off her engagement to Brad Womack – whom she met on his season of ABC’s “The Bachelor” in 2010 – the single mom from Charlotte responded last summer to rumors that she might star in the network’s “The Bachelorette” by politely declining.
Her breakup with Womack has lasted; her split with competitive reality dating game shows did not.
“I definitely said I’d never do it, but I was also a girl coming out of a heartbreak,” Maynard, 26, now says, “and the last thing I wanted to think about was going on dates, much less going through all of this again.
“But I came out of that and realized … it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – I’m never gonna be asked to do this again. If I didn’t do it this time, it’s not going to be here in a year or two. And I believe it can work as long as you’re open to it. I don’t have a whole lot of pressure on myself to make it work, but I’m a single girl, and dating’s hard. Why not try this?”
So at 9:30 Monday night, the new season of “The Bachelorette” airs its season premiere, with Maynard as the star and the city of Charlotte in a key supporting role: Production was moved here from Los Angeles to accommodate Maynard’s desire to avoid uprooting her 6-year-old daughter, Ricki.
“I just said to (the producers), kind of jokingly, ‘Yeah, I’ll do it if I can stay home and still be a mom,’ thinking they’d be like, ‘OK, um, no.’ ” But they agreed. “And I was shocked, but so thankful.”
ABC launched “The Bachelor” in 2002, and went on to produce 16 installments in the franchise along with two spin-offs: “The Bachelorette” (in 2003) and “Bachelor Pad” (in 2010).
Both “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are coming off of their lowest-rated season finales ever – 9.1 million in March and 9.5 million last August, respectively.
Yet “The Bachelorette” still was ABC’s most-watched series during summer 2011, and there’s good reason for the network to be optimistic about Maynard’s season: The March 2011 finale in which Womack proposed to her was watched by 13.8 million, and the fact that she is the first single mother to star on the show could compel even more viewers to tune in.
New view of Charlotte
For the uninitiated, “The Bachelorette” revolves around a young woman and a pool of 25 bachelors; Maynard will eliminate suitors following dates that will take the cast to exotic locales including Bermuda, London and Prague.
When not traveling, though, the men stayed in a 12,000-square-foot European-style mansion on Marvin Road in southeast Charlotte, and the first few episodes will feature dates at Osso Restaurant & Lounge, at Booth Playhouse in uptown, and the Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts.
It’s been an eye-opener for Maynard, a West Virginia native who moved here from Florida about seven years ago.
“I’m a homebody, so I stay within maybe a 10-mile radius – and 10 miles is being generous – around my house,” she says. Filming “The Bachelorette,” “I’ve gotten to see things around Charlotte I’ve never seen before, so I’m learning along with the guys just how cool this city really is.”
Maynard rose to fame on her way to receiving a proposal from Womack last year, sparking a tabloid frenzy that followed the couple through its June 2011 breakup. In January, she was named the new “Bachelorette.”
(An ABC spokesperson would not comment on how much Maynard is being paid, but Internet reports speculate star contestants receive as much as $100,000 for their participation. InTouch magazine quoted “a source close to Emily” as saying the network is paying her $250,000.)
What will Ricki think?
She had reservations about how returning to reality TV would affect Ricki. But while the kindergartener is aware her mom is on a TV show, she is being shielded from most of the action.
“She doesn’t know where I’m going whenever I leave the house, and she’s certainly not meeting any of the boys,” says Maynard, who was engaged to NASCAR driver Ricky Hendrick and learned soon after his death in a 2004 plane crash that she was pregnant. “When she’s old enough to know what love is and what dating’s like and everything, I’ll be proud to show her what I did and how I acted.”
What did she do, and how did she act? Millions of fans will soon find out.
Maynard, for her part, is just trying to brace herself for the days ahead: “Any of my friends will tell you … I do not like to be the center of attention. I don’t even like my birthday. I don’t even like people singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me. But I just try to remind myself, ‘This isn’t gonna be forever. You’re gonna be back scooping the cat’s litter box in no time. So just enjoy it while you can.’ ”