TV | January 5, 2021 9:25 am

Checking in With the Harvard Man Who Ended Up on “The Bachelorette”

An interview with Bennett Jordan, the Ivy Leaguer turned reality TV sensation

Bennett Jordan on The Bachelorette season 16
How did Bennett Jordan, a 36-year-old Harvard grad, end up on "The Bachelorette"?

If you’re searching for the best and brightest of any generation, no one would suggest looking to reality dating shows. To keep audiences tuning in to the ever-popular TV genre, the conceits have become increasingly deranged (Love Is Blind keeps contestants in separate pods, Labor of Love ups the ante by not just trying to find a suitable lover, but a suitable father), and you can expect the participants who agree to enter these quasi-romantic gauntlets to be, to put it bluntly, “mindless hunks.”

Even The Bachelor, which started its 25th season on Monday, is not immune to this criticism. Despite being the longest running show of its kind, founded on the principle that the producers have tracked down the most eligible bachelor (or bachelorette, in its franchise counterpart), that hasn’t always been the case. For years, the rose of reality TV dating seemed to be prioritizing sex over substance to such a degree that outlets which cover this sort of thing started asking, “Why is The Bachelor full of bums?”

Then, on last year’s season of The Bachelorette — which was delayed due to the pandemic but soldiered on in a quarantined format — this all changed. In the first episode, when the men introduced themselves one-by-one from black stretch limousines, the procession was interrupted by a white Rolls-Royce from whence appeared the spitting image of Patrick Bateman, dressed to the nines in a tuxedo, white scarf and loafers without socks. His name is Bennett Jordan, and he went to Harvard.

Yes, Bennett Jordan, a man who attended the best known and most exclusive institution of higher learning in the world, whose undergrad coincided with such names as Mark Zuckerberg, Damien Chazelle and Pete Buttigieg, found himself competing with dozens of other men for the chance to marry someone he’d never met until the cameras started rolling. 

It was a return to form of sorts for ABC’s hit show, as the first ever Bachelor all the way back in 2002 was also a graduate of Harvard College. But that was in a different era, way before TikTok and Instagram, and even before Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, when the stars of reality TV could reasonably sink back into normal society (does anyone even remember the name of the first Bachelor?). For Jordan, a 36-year-old with a successful career at Whitney Partners in New York, his Harvard degree will follow him throughout his life, and so will his stint on The Bachelorette, in the form of memes, GIFs and fanmade wiki pages. 

What’s it like occupying both of these worlds, the highest of the highbrow and the most consumed of the lowbrow? We wanted to know, so we dialed up Jordan on Christmas Eve to figure out how he ended up at Harvard, on The Bachelorette, and what his college friends think of it all. 

Bennett Jordan on The Bachelorette After the Final Rose
Did Bennett Jordan find love on “The Bachelorette”? No. Did he outdress everyone? Obviously.

InsideHook: Hey Bennett, how are you this Christmas Eve?

Bennett Jordan: Pretty good, pretty good. It’s so funny, I was rushing to get ready and primped and proper for you. I’ve got a cashmere blazer and a tartan pocket square in, and I didn’t realize it’s just a call.

Yeah I’m never sure if people are sick of Zoom or not. So what are you up to for the holidays? Are you seeing family or friends or anything?

Yeah, I’m down in Atlanta. My family lives in the suburbs, Marietta, right outside of Atlanta actually. My brother is in, I guess, the city limits. This is where I’m from. This is the house I grew up in. I’m here with my mom and younger brother. My brother and his wife are coming over in a little bit. That’s the plan, just kind of low-key. Usually we see the extended family and such, but this year no one’s trying to risk anything.

It probably comes up a lot in conversation that you were on The Bachelorette, right? What do they think of how everything went down?

I think the family’s very tickled and just really excited about it. It’s one of those things that — it’s the last thing they ever thought, that I would go on a reality show. There was never a thought in anyone’s mind, myself included. I didn’t even know that my mom watched the show. That was funny. She had to admit that to me after the fact. “Oh, yeah” — she starts recounting the storylines of other seasons.

I think in terms of my character and the development there, and what was on the show, there were some unsettling things there, some things that they wish had maybe come out differently. But they knew what I was signing up for. I just told my family to keep positive and focus on all the good that’s coming from it, don’t worry about any of the trolls or anything like that. And honestly, there’s been so much more love and positive response to me than there has been negative.

Was there anything that surprised you watching it back, in how it was portrayed on TV, versus your personal experience?

Yes and no. I think you’re put in a lot of situations, and you know what you put out there, you know the events that transpired. I think you can’t get too caught up with soundbites and edits and stuff. That is the nature of the show. That’s what you’re getting into. You can’t really get too surprised. Some things, I think, for everyone, were funny in how they came out. But honestly, it is what it is. I would do it again tomorrow. I don’t have any regrets about it or anything like that. I don’t know, sorry, I’m trying to also answer things the way that I’m supposed to, and without disclosing anything. There’s kind of a fourth wall here.

Yeah, I understand. But you had a lot of standout moments in the show, like your entrance in the Rolls-Royce. Was that your idea, or was that something the producers planned? 

It was a bit of a combination. You kind of put your head together with how you want your entrance to go. I’m a pretty self-aware guy. I know you think: Harvard, New York guy, and I don’t think I’m uber wealthy or anything like that, but I live a comfortable life. You add the sum of those three parts up and I’m a pretty easily hateable guy, you know? You throw in my looks and the way that I carry myself, and I know it’s easily portrayed as a hateable character.

That being said, I absolutely was talking with production about how I wanted that entrance to go, and I thought the tuxedo with the scarf was going to probably be enough, and I could be a bit more understated. But they said, what can we do that’s going to make you pop more? I made a joke about one of the past seasons, where a former contestant came out in a minivan and won. And then he and the Bachelorette were awarded the minivan afterwards. I said, well, that was dumb. Why didn’t he pick an awesome car? Why didn’t he pick a sick ride? Then he could’ve had that when he was done. So we went with the Rolls-Royce.

Speaking of the perception people have of you, on social media people pretty quickly started equating you to Christian Bale’s character in American Psycho, with the style, the grooming, your physical resemblance. How do you feel about that?

You know, man, I’ll tell you what. Getting called Christian Bale, I’ll take that in stride. Any comparison to Christian Bale, or I got The Wolf of Wall Street with Leo — if you’re getting compared to Christian Bale and Leo, you’re going to say thank you and keep moving.

But in terms of the whole American Psycho thing, I think that’s an easy one for anyone that has coiffed hair and wears a suit to work in Manhattan, right? It’s not necessarily something against me. I think people would say that to me — “You look like Clark Kent,” “You look like American Psycho” — at CVS on any given day. So I think that’s sort of low-hanging fruit. It didn’t really surprise me. There’s absolutely nothing about me, other than the fact that I like skincare and I try to take care of myself and the face masks, that relate. I’m a normal guy through and through. I work in finance. I do live in New York. I see the analogy.

Since you never thought you’d end up on a reality show, how did you end up applying?

It’s been a year to remember for everyone. I didn’t want to come home and get stuck being here in Atlanta with the fam with the uncertainty of the world. I’d moved into a new apartment in New York, and had just gotten it situated, set up and even decorated right to my liking. I felt like it was a really tough time to come home. My grandmother had just died, and I’d been home for that right at the cusp of, you know, is this COVID thing real? I came back to New York and that very next week when I got back everything was shut down.

I went through this whole process. I was single. I was doing every possible quarantine project you can imagine, from DIY projects at home to perfecting my banana bread and lasagna recipes. I was working out a couple days. But it was bed to floor to desk to kitchen to living room, and it just got very, very monotonous. I wasn’t going out and meeting new women. I had a couple of friends that I would see on occasion, but you know, at 36, most of my friends have kids and they’re married. And everyone was taking it, as they should, very, very seriously in Manhattan.

It was one of those things. I just threw myself into my career and work, and I got to a very good point this year where I had been quite successful and was well positioned. I knew it was going to be ultimately really tough to bring in new clients during the summer, during the middle of the pandemic. You can’t get in front of people. It’s tough to develop those relationships over Zoom. I was looking at a summer in the concrete jungle. It wasn’t like I was going to be going out to friends’ families’ homes in the Hamptons or anything like that when you’ve got the single guy coming in from Manhattan. That’s not going to happen.

So I was thinking, what can I do that’s different? What can open up some doors, whether it be potentially finding a wife, to finding a side hustle, to just doing something to get me out of the apartment, of this monotony? Ultimately, I’d been recommended by friends and family to go on The Bachelorette a couple years ago, and even just this past year. It was one of those things that I took with a grain of salt. I never really took it seriously.

It was a function of all of those things combined. I was marinating on it one night and I decided to start an application. I sat on it for two weeks because I was doing a lot of soul-searching and getting my head — you know, if you’re really going to do this, what are you putting at risk? Doing the whole cost-benefit analysis. And late one night, 12 or 1 a.m., I clicked send on that application. The next day, less than 12 hours later, I had a call and things started there.

Wow. Marinating on it for a couple weeks, sending it in the middle of the night, and then it just happens.

I was a unique guy for the show. That’s not at all tooting my own horn. I’m a bit of a different profile than many of the stereotypical candidates and contestants. I had to get comfortable with the fact, if I was going to click send, I probably was going to hear back, and be ready to do this. So I had to take that time to really mentally prepare for it.

What was your knowledge of The Bachelor or Bachelorette before hitting send? Had you ever watched it or was it just these people recommending it?

Literally zero, man. I knew what the show was about. I knew it was a reality dating show, and there’s a lead, and there were all these contestants competing. But I had never seen one episode prior to hitting send. The second I hit send, I think I binged two seasons in the next two weeks, and then I was in Palm Springs.

I want to talk about your upbringing a little more. Going to Harvard, the Ivy League, was that something that was expected of you, or what was it about your upbringing that led to that experience?

Yeah, great question, and thank you for asking it. Similar to reality TV, it was the last thing I ever expected in a million years, the last thing my family expected. My mom was the first person, and only, actually, to go to college in her family. She went to a small school in North Georgia here and met my dad. Luckily, my family always valued education. I grew up in a very, very modest house. When I say modest, you know, money was tight.

I was lucky that they valued education so much that they wanted to put my younger brother and myself through private schools as soon as possible. I went to elementary school in public school, had a great experience there, and then went for 7th through 12th at a private school here in Atlanta that was fantastic in terms of preparation.

I was a kid that was always on extreme financial aid. I can remember times from elementary school counting pennies to come up with a dollar to roll to take and buy public school lunch. That’s what it cost back in the day — one buck. I remember being pretty insecure as a kid at a very good private school here in Atlanta, knowing that my family was paying $1,000 or $1,500 a year for me to go to school, and that was far, far, far from the tuition. I was lucky and happy to have a hand-me-down hooptie that was like a ’91 Chevrolet Caprice from my grandmother to get me from point A to point B, and a lot of kids are rolling around in Range Rovers.

That was life growing up. It wasn’t like I had a chip on my shoulder. I had a huge smile and was very grateful to be there. I just got involved in everything. I was a non-Catholic. I had a big “NC” stamped on my report card at the time that was a scarlet letter kind of thing. Maybe 20% of the kids were Protestant, the rest were Catholic. I played basketball, was captain of the basketball team, one of the captains on the football team, the president of my senior class. I led the religious retreats even though I was an “NC.” And I was doing the peer program, integrating the young students in. I was very involved in most aspects of the school.

I had a very in and out situation with Harvard, where I was playing sports and I was being recruited to play football. It’s a long-winded story, but I had a call, was told I was in. Three days later, I had a call telling me that I wasn’t in, and here are the options. You know, this is what we can do.

Ultimately, the option that I had no clue about, being a Southerner, it’s not something that you’d know a lot about, is prep school. They gave me two options: it was Andover and Exeter, and if you would be able to go to Andover or Exeter for a year and make the grades, then admissions looks really highly on that. We can’t give you a guarantee, but admissions will be assured that you can get in — and it all sort of worked out.

I went and did that for a year. Crushed it. Made some great relationships and great friends that are still good friends to this day. I value my time at Andover, even though it was one short year, a lot. You kind of get to do that postgraduate senior year again. It was the last thing I wanted. I had friends calling me up from their colleges at 3 a.m., “Hey, I’m out!” and all this stuff. Getting calls like that, and you’re a boarding school student who’s been signed into his dormitory at 8 p.m., and that’s your life.

It was a lot of discipline, but a great experience, and one that I was, again, fortunate that my family wanted to do, because it meant a lot to me to go to Harvard. I felt like I had done so much at my high school and had such a good time there and a really good progression, and I knew I was a great student. And I just thought, I can do anything for a year, I think it’s worth it, and I think in the end it’ll probably be in my best interest to go to the best school that I possibly can and feel good about that. So I was lucky and it worked out. Sorry for the long story.

Don’t be, I think this is not what a lot of people expect. But being on The Bachelorette and being labeled as “the guy from Harvard,” do you agree with that label? Do you personally feel that academic experience is one of the defining experiences of your life?

No, no. I mean, I value Harvard for all of the relationships and the network. Most of my best friends to this day are from college. I certainly don’t define myself with Harvard. I’m not rolling around in Harvard gear ever. If I am, it’s kind of a joke. I mean, I try to go back to the reunions. I’m very supportive of the school and I value it, don’t get me wrong. But I’m definitely not a Harvard guru or anything like that.

Bennett Jordan and Tayshia Adams on The Bachelorette
They couldn’t go on the typical globetrotting dates because of COVID, so they improvised.

Do you talk with your college friends about the show?

Oh, constantly.

How do they feel about it? What do you talk about when you do talk about it?

I mean, they were so thankful for me going on the show. Any one of them would tell you this is the best thing that’s happened to them all year. I say that hoping none of them had a child … But in terms of entertainment, for the majority of my friends, it was like, “The Last Dance was the best thing that happened all year, and then Bennett going on The Bachelorette? You’ve got to be kidding me. This is like a gift from God.”

Everyone has been so psyched about it. From the time I got back, they all wanted to hear about it, and of course I couldn’t spoil anything. Many of them have been like, “You’ve got to do something like this. The things that happen just walking around in Manhattan with you are so different than what happens to us. If there’s any way that you could have some sort of a breakout moment, that’s all you need.” And to be able to do it in COVID, when everyone’s got their head down and is getting super depressed, they were super supportive from that standpoint, and what doors it may open for me, but also just from selfishly having some phenomenal entertainment, to be able to laugh at one of their best friends on television.

When you say the things that happen to you when you’re just walking around New York, what do you mean?

Oh, I don’t know. You’re making me blush. I probably shouldn’t have said that. Just, like, with girls coming up to me, or people …

You’re tall, you’ve got a great jawline and all that. You’ve got striking features. I get it.

Yeah, that’s it. You said it. That’s it. Girls who are friends love snickering and poking fun and helping facilitate things like that whenever they get the chance.

So you have this Ivy League experience, and then you now have this experience being on a reality TV show. These are obviously very different worlds. How does it feel to have gone through both? 

I think it’s awesome. You have to tie in where I came from, and just think about — I’m a guy that wants to live life to the fullest. I know that’s super cliche, but my experiences are all over the place. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to spread my wings and get out of my very modest upbringing here in Atlanta, and was lucky enough to go to one of the best schools, if not the best school in the world, and then get to see the world and travel, and was fortunate enough to fall into a good career in something that I really enjoy doing. I think anyone can understand doing something out of your comfort zone. It stretches you. It helps you grow. And doing it in a year of COVID, in a global pandemic, and being in a safe place, of course, in the bubble that they created there at ABC, it’s like, why not? 

I wanted to be an architect, I wanted to be an engineer at one point. I wanted to be an NBA basketball player. I never wanted to be the entertainment. It was never even something that crossed my mind, but I really loved it. I had so much fun, not just meeting the guys and meeting Tayshia and meeting Clare, but being involved in the production and thinking about how things work, and the psychology of it. I found it so fascinating.

I think even from what I do in a professional sense, it’s a door opener. It’s something else to talk about. If anyone is a pretentious prick about it and doesn’t want to associate with me because they are on the polar opposite side, of the staunchy sort of Harvard I don’t want to be affiliated or have my company affiliated with a guy that went on reality TV or something like that, I don’t want to work with them either. Life is too short, and you don’t want to work with people who judge and write others off like that. So for me, hands down, net win, loved it, and would absolutely, like I keep saying, I’d do it again tomorrow.

You have this group of fans now who are saying “Bennett for Bachelor!” and want you as the lead in the next season. Is that something you would be interested in? Or do you feel like you had the experience you had and that was enough?

I would do The Bachelor tomorrow if that was an opportunity that was awarded to me. I think there are a ton of factors that go into it. For me, I’d be very flattered to do it. I had so much fun on the show. I’m still single. I figured out, as wild, as unbelievable as people probably think it is, that you can find love and meet someone on The Bachelorette or The Bachelor. I see it. I know how it works. I know how it’s set up and I get it and it does work.

Hopefully others who hear me say that aren’t just writing me off as some brainwashed airhead from Harvard. It’s more of, I actually lived it, and I was very thoughtful about it every single day. I do buy in. I know exactly how it works. And if you can meet someone at Publix or at Whole Foods, why can’t you meet someone on a television show? Obviously it’s happened. It’s worked.

For me, it’s not about, at all, the fame or exposure or anything that should come of being the Bachelor. I’m happy to meet that person at the grocery store when I go do a run here on Christmas Eve. But if it were to be happening on TV and could entertain people and put smiles on some of their faces as well, that’d be awesome. Of course. 

Interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.