Nick Viall is no quitter. If you’re a citizen of “Bachelor Nation” — the term for the 8.6 million viewers who faithfully watch a two-hour televised quest for love on Monday nights — you know just how true this is. His journey began in 2014 (see next page for the complete breakdown), and every week “Bachelor” aficionados watch as he narrows down the field of potential fiancés, from 30 to, as of last week, six.
But every love story has a beginning, so let’s back up to before he was ever known as “Bachelor Nick.”
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a business degree, Viall moved to Chicago in 2012 to work for Salesforce. He lived in the West Loop, had a serious girlfriend and frequented River North restaurants like Siena Tavern and coffee shops in Old Town. His life unfolded as expected, until he suddenly became single again and his friends signed him up for “The Bachelorette.” To his surprise, he got a call from the producers and went through the casting process in Chicago. “My first thought was, ‘There’s no way I’m going to do this,’ ” admits Viall, who is now working on a men’s grooming small business, Polished Gent, set to launch at the end of the month.
But his curiosity got the better of him — and his appearance on Andi Dorfman’s season of “The Bachelorette” was the beginning of a four-part televised quest for love. Despite his arduous rise to reality TV fame, he’s a popular catch: Season 21, which premiered Jan. 2, attracted twice as many applicants as previous seasons.
And while it’s made for entertaining Monday night TV, it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. His on-screen romance with villainess Corinne — who has been portrayed as entitled and brattish (at 24, she has a full-time nanny at home) — was blasted for being overly sexual. Before one rose ceremony, she showed up in a trench coat with a can of whipped cream; on a group date photoshoot, she went topless; and she’s responsible for cringe-worthy mini pep talks like, “Make America Corinne Again.” But Viall still has a soft spot for her. “[Corinne] certainly outshines [the others] in terms of ‘going for it,’ ” he laughs. “[It’s] a balancing act between not making her feel like she’s doing something wrong, but not getting herself or myself in trouble because there are other people involved. That can be a bit of a challenging thing and it can also make for some awkward situations.”
It’s this warped version of reality that he’s now become accustomed to in his search to find The One. “Even if it’s reality TV and even if it’s not scripted and for the most part accurate, there’s only so much you can learn about someone from watching them on TV,” Viall says. “Sometimes you have really good conversations with someone that might not be considered interesting TV. … There’s a lot more to get to know about people outside of the confines of a situation that’s focused on finding love.”
So with Valentine’s Day upon us (and Nick’s inability to say whether or not he is engaged before the finale March 13), we asked the longest-running Bachelor contestant in franchise history to give us the lowdown on his rules of love.
On dating apps: Nick approves, with a caveat. “There’s a difference between [using] a dating app and being the person who is on all the dating apps. It’s more important to be open to meeting people and putting yourself out there than desperately trying to find it.”
On first dates: Keep things low-key. “When you don’t know too much about the person you’re having a first date with, I like to keep the expectations at a minimum. I always want to enjoy the conversations over a cup of coffee or a drink — an atmosphere to have a good conversation and get to know one another.” His local faves: Cocoa + Co. (1651 N. Wells) and Intelligentsia (1233 N. Wells).
On his top Chicago spots: “Gilt Bar [230 W. Kinzie] was always a favorite of mine — it has cool drinks and is a really great restaurant. RPM Italian [52 W. Illinois] and Bar Siena [832 W. Randolph] are good, too. Nothing overly fancy!”
On his biggest turn-on: “I’ve always been attracted to genuine confidence. In my brief conversations talking to Rachel [an attorney from Dallas, Texas], I talk a lot about that with her. Sometimes being confident isn’t [about] not having insecurities; being confident is being able to admit that you [do].”
On running into your ex: Be friendly, but keep your distance. “My last serious girlfriend prior to being the Bachelor, we dated for two and a half years. We don’t actively talk anymore but we still share very close friends, so as a result, from time to time we’ll cross paths. We actually have a great amount of respect for one another. If we run into each other on the streets of Chicago, we maybe take 10 minutes and chat or grab a cup of coffee. But we wouldn’t actively hang out or keep in touch. She’s in another relationship and you have to be respectful of that.”
On moving on: “People have a habit of dwelling on past relationships. I think there’s always one sure thing: If you allow yourself to get over a relationship, you’ll always get over it, no matter how badly you fell for the person or how badly you might’ve been hurt. You just have to allow yourself to do that. Even though dating can have challenges and it can have horror stories, it’s also meant to be fun. So you have to take the good with the bad.”
On words to live (and love) by: Be patient. “When you think about it, in your entire life, if you’re really, really lucky, you’ll only have one relationship that never fails. Only one. Relationships are hard, so when you have that perspective, it allows you to not get down on yourself.”
‘The Bachelorette’ Season 10
In the spring, Viall made his reality TV debut as a contestant on “The Bachelorette.” Andi Dorfman gave him the coveted first impression rose and from then on, he had the proverbial target on his back, cementing himself as the front-runner and subsequently, the house villain. “I’m a competitive guy and it is a competitive environment,” Viall says. “Whether I agree with [the show’s portrayal of me] or not, I definitely rubbed some of the guys the wrong way.” When it came down to him and Josh Murray in the finale, Dorfman chose Murray (for what it’s worth, they’re no longer together).
‘The Bachelorette’ Season 11
Four episodes into “The Bachelorette,” Viall entered the competition for Kaitlyn Bristowe, saying they sparked a social media romance before she became the Bachelorette. “I was breaking all these ‘Bachelor’ unwritten rules of coming on [the show] again and coming in late,” he says. “I was coming in six feet under.” Once again, he made it to the final two, but Bristowe ultimately gave her final rose to Shawn Booth, to whom she’s still engaged. “I was more happy with how things [were portrayed] in Kaitlyn’s season in the sense that while some people saw me as a ‘villain’ I was more polarizing, where a lot of people didn’t like me but a lot of people did like me,” he says. “It was kind of an evolution.”
‘Bachelor in Paradise’
After two very public rejections, Viall joined the cast of “Bachelor in Paradise,” a spinoff in which former contestants from various seasons of the show search for love at a resort in Mexico. His appearance shifted Bachelor Nation’s opinion, and this time, he was the heartbreaker, turning down Jen Saviano in the finale. “I think ‘Paradise’ showed, I don’t want to say a different side of me, but more of me,” he says. “I think it allows for more comedic commentary and playfulness and joking and showing one’s sense of humor.”
‘The Bachelor’ Season 21
Viall debuts as the Bachelor, but reveals being chosen was a surprise even to him. There was a long stretch of time between “Paradise” and when ABC announced he’d be “The Bachelor” last August. “I was announced on a Monday,” he says. “The Sunday before that, I got a text and [the producers and I] had coffee that Monday. And that’s when they first asked me [if] I’d be interested. Up until that point, there were no preliminary conversations; they didn’t even float the idea. I had no plans of being the Bachelor. It definitely came out of left field.”
Photos by Mitch Haaseth/ABC