Four years after fans watched Hannah Brown accept (and quickly return) a Neil Lane ring, the season 15 Bachelorette is happily engaged to boyfriend Adam Woolard — and is more than OK with the idea that their proposal wasn't exactly up to Bachelor "standards."
"We went back and forth, I was like, 'Are you OK with us sharing our engagement story this way?' Because if you've listened to the episode [of my 'Better Tomorrow' podcast], it is complicated," Brown, 28, explained during an exclusive interview with Us Weekly. "I kind of felt like, 'Oh, my gosh, are people going to judge our relationship because it wasn't this smooth, fairy-tale thing?' And that's what everybody seems to look like on social media when you see these posts. But it's been so cool to be able to see the messages that I'm getting of, 'This is how people actually feel.' Most people who have gotten engaged are, like, not fully the way it always looks. There is some fear [and] there is some anxiety that goes on."
After dating for more than two years, Woolard prepared to pop the question in front of the couple's family and friends on a Friday in August. Days before the planned proposal, however, Brown had a therapy session that ended with her therapist advising her not to make any "big decisions."
"[My therapist and I] had kind of gotten down to [the fact that] I struggle with even loving and liking myself sometimes, so how can I accept loving and liking me fully if I have a hard time doing that for myself," she explained to Woolard on her SiriusXM's Stitcher Studios podcast earlier this month.
Shortly after Brown filled in Woolard on her therapist’s advice, he confessed to his plans.Brown was upset that the surprise had been ruined and subsequently had a "panic attack," which prompted her to sendan "emergency" email to her therapist with the subject line "I NEED COUNSEL.” Woolard (seemingly) agreed to postpone the engagement. Brown then made it clear to Woolard that she wanted to get engaged, she just didn't want to "know" in advance. He ended up popping the question the Thursday before his planned proposal.
While Brown told Us that she was "a little bit nervous about putting [the real story] out," she noted that it feels "really good" to get messages from her listeners thanking her for her — and Woolard's — candidness.
"I'm just really thankful that Adam, honestly, is not just so controlled by his ego and what other people think that he was able to honestly also share his side of the story," she explained. "I don't think either one of us planned for me to be the way that I was during what's supposed to be just an exciting moment that goes off without any type of mishaps, but that was just not the case and that's just not the case with most things in our life. So it's definitely a funny story now."
Bachelor Nation met Brown on season 23 of The Bachelor in 2019. She was subsequently named the Bachelorette and gave her final rose to Jed Wyatt. After the aspiring country singer was accused of having a girlfriend back home, Brown ended the engagement before the finale even aired on ABC.
"[People] just appreciate the honesty of, 'It's a big thing.' And I think, for me, I've been there, done that. There was a lot of weight on it, I guess, in some way because I've rushed into an engagement before. It didn't go well," Brown told Us with a laugh. "So this is exciting, and I'm very blessed to have Adam as someone who just is my cheerleader and wants to do life with me."
Brown told Us that the episode about her engagement won't be the last time she shares personal stories on "Better Tomorrow," which also features interviews with guests including The Band Perry's Kimberly Perry, Olympian Shawn Johnson and Brown’s former Special Forces: World's Toughest Test costar Jamie Lynn Spears.
"I don't know how to be any other way than just say what's going on and sometimes those types of conversations — talking about therapy, talking about real-life things — can't really happen in a few [Instagram] Story slides," she said. "So that's why the podcast is the place where I feel like I'm being a lot more vulnerable and having bigger conversations about what's going on in my life because I think it's the best platform to do so. And people who are listening to your podcasts are a lot different than people who are just scrolling through social media. The people that are tuning in to listen want to be there and they want to connect and they want to hear more about my life. So it honestly kind of feels like a safer place to share more. So yeah, I'm going in. If I'm going to ask other people to be vulnerable on my podcast and I want to create a community of people that can be vulnerable, then I'm the leader of that. So the conversations that I have about my life have to kind of lend themselves to what I'm trying to cultivate."
Brown also recently caught up with Charity Lawson, ABC's most recent Bachelorette lead who is set to take on Dancing With the Stars, four years after after Brown won the mirrorball. (Spears is also set to compete with Brown's former partner, Alan Bersten.)
"I have not talked to Jamie Lynn yet. That was a good reminder for me to text her and ask her how it's going [and to say] if she needs any help to let me know," Brown told Us when asked whether she's chatted with the two women about the journey. "[Charity] did kind of mention to me last time we talked that she was going to be on the show, and so I'm so excited for her. I, obviously, had a really successful time on the show and [I’m] so thankful and it was so fun, but I think it's really important to just enjoy it. I wish I would've enjoyed it a little bit more and been more present because it's such a cool experience."
Following her successful back-to-back-to-back appearances on reality TV in 2019, Brown returned to the small screen on Special Forces, outlasting more than 10 other celebrities as they tackled military exercises. Brown's Bachelorette runner-up, Tyler Cameron, and former Bachelor Nick Viall will compete on season 2 later this month.
"I know it doesn't seem like there's probably a correlation of how being on Bachelor [or] Bachelorette could help you in a show like that, but when you're a contestant and a lead on the show, you're kind of already cut out from the outside world. You live in a bubble and that's kind of the same experience with Special Forces," she told Us when asked how she thinks Cameron and Viall will do. "You don't have your phone, you are fully at the mercy of the DS — the directing staff. So I think that really helps, and you have to just be really focused on where you are and the next thing that is in front of you. So I do think that actually can really help. So I think they'll probably do better mentally than people would guess. That's my prediction, but we'll see."
Brown will also be tuning into The Golden Bachelor to see friend Matt James' mom, Patty James, try to find a connection with lead Gerry Turner. "She's a hoot. I cannot wait to see her on the show," Brown told Us, adding that it makes sense Patty would want to go on the show after Matt found love with Rachael Kirkconnell on The Bachelor season 25. "I have not been as excited for a show as I am for The Golden Bachelor in a while. I think it's going to be so fun and interesting to watch, and it's now nice to know that I have somebody to be rooting for."
As Brown continues to drop new episodes of "Better Tomorrow" every Wednesday, it was recently announced that she signed a deal to release two romance novels. Her busy schedule might put wedding planning on the back burner — which is fine by her.
"[The engagement] has sunk in a lot more. My therapist — she probably has no idea how much she is involved in all these conversations, but we still, it's something that I'm always just checking the pulse of, 'How do I feel? What old things are coming up?' ... Any type of decision making is hard for me, I think," Brown confessed. "And so with a wedding sometime in the future, I can sometimes kind of get paralyzed by what all happens next, but what I'm trying to do is just stay in the present of just celebrating this time that we have decided that we want to make this commitment with each other. And that's been fun, but it also feels kind of normal. We've lived together for a while and it's been something that I knew would eventually happen. ... But there's a lot more conversations to be had about finally being called Mrs. Woolard."