About six months into Raven Gates and Adam Gottschalk’s engagement—long after memories of the lurking iguanas and sandy daybeds of Bachelor in Paradise had washed away—the private messages started pouring in. Fans wanted to know how to meet a nice guy, tips on the best way to approach someone, and help figuring out Instagram etiquette with their crushes.
“I think one day I had over 1,000 messages that were strictly asking what Adam thought about certain situations,” Gates tells Glamour. “It really was bizarre.”
Armed with an unusual currency—multiple seasons of getting heartbroken and finding love on national television—Gates and Gottschalk decided to launch their podcast Date Night With Adam & Raven. The couple offers lessons they’ve learned about dating, along with answers to fan-submitted questions that cover everything from insecurities about sex to the right time to breakup with someone.
They join a growing number of former contestants who have carved a new niche for themselves in Bachelor Nation: relationship podcast hosts. These reality stars—many of whom very publicly failed at finding love on TV—have emerged as the next wave of dating experts. Any Bachelor fan with access to a smartphone and a desire for relationship advice from a reality star has options. At last count, eight Bachelor Nation alums have their own shows that touch on sex and dating. In addition to Gates and Gottschalk’s podcast, there’s The Viall Files (Nick Viall), Let’s Talk About It (Taylor Nolan), Help! I Suck at Dating (Dean Unglert and Jared Haibon), Down to Date (Kendall Long), and I Don’t Get It (Ashley Iaconetti). It seems only a matter of time until one of Peter Weber’s favorites starts her own podcast journey.
While these alums may not have gotten the final rose, they’ve certainly earned their stripes going through the relationship ringer. They've survived several televised breakups and come out the other end, hopefully wiser. Take Ashley Iaconetti, who launched I Don’t Get It after coming off the third season of Bachelor in Paradise, where viewers watched her get repeatedly friend-zoned by her crush Jared Haibon. (In a twist that rocked Bachelor Nation to the core, it all worked out.)
Iaconetti decided to host a show about all the things she didn’t understand in life, and her first episode—a roughly 40-minute discussion about her insecurities over never having had a boyfriend—struck a nerve with listeners. “I’d be on the street and girls would say, ‘I’ve never had a boyfriend, and you made me feel so much more normal about it,’” Iaconetti says. “Or they’d say, ‘I don’t understand why Jared isn’t with you. I have a guy friend, and I don’t understand why it doesn’t work out for us.'”
Now that Iaconetti and Haibon are among the few shining Bachelor success stories they’re consistently asked by fans how they, too, can get out of the friend zone. Iaconetti says she always comes through with the same tough-love answer: “Date someone else. If he doesn’t change his mind, it's never gonna happen.”
There’s an intimacy that’s sprung up between Bachelor Nation and the show’s contestants, born perhaps from countless Monday nights spent watching deeply uncomfortable two-on-one dates, mascara-streaked exit interviews, and crushing break-ups in distant countries. Most of us have been dumped, liked someone who didn’t like us back, or at the very least felt insecure in a relationship. These contestants have been through it all, just on a wildly larger scale.
“We’ve shown our imperfections and people relate to that,” Haibon says. “I think maybe they feel they can learn with us.” Haibon and Unglert started their podcast, Help! I Suck At Dating, to seek advice for themselves. Now the two are far from where they started—Haibon is married to Iaconetti, and Unglert in a committed relationship with fellow Bachelor franchise alum Caelynn Miller-Keyes.
The podcasts also offer a way to keep Bachelor Nation engaged. As Iaconetti tells me, fans are eager for contestants to find love but then tend to get bored quickly, usually picking back up interest once a couple has kids. Or, as Gottschalk puts it, “People think, well, he got his happiness, I don’t need to follow him on Instagram anymore.” Turns out, Bachelor Nation doesn’t just want sparkly Neil Lane finales. They also want to follow along as former contestants publicly continue those deeply intimate, occasionally messy journeys.
“It’s like having a friend that they can relate to,” former Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise contestant Kendall Long explains. Long has also been inundated with requests for dating advice following her turn on the franchise. So she decided to start her own podcast, Down to Date, which pairs strangers on first dates in which they ask each other below-the-surface questions like who they voted for in the last election and where they stand on reproductive rights. It’s a far cry from the typical, fairly vanilla conversations shown on the Bachelor. (We get it, the contestants feel close to their families.)
While Long says she waited until she got to the Fantasy Suite, away from the cameras, to discuss hot button topics with Arie Luyendyk Jr., she did find herself going deep in other ways while on the show. “I feel like a lot of what I learned was to not be afraid to tell people what you actually want in a relationship,” Long says. “I always thought that it was so taboo to talk about marriage or to talk about being serious because you want to be the cool person who doesn’t want to be pegged down.”
She adds, “These are things that are actually really important to talk about. And I want to talk about them a lot more often.”
For Bachelor alum Taylor Nolan, it took getting off the franchise to find her voice. “I’m someone with strong opinions who isn’t scared of speaking her mind," she says. But she found herself changing on the show. “I was heavily filtering what I was saying out of fear of backlash, out of fear of only half of what I was saying getting aired.” So Nolan uses her podcast, Let’s Talk About It, to speak openly about her dating life and mental health. “As long as one person benefits from something that my guest shared or something that I shared, that’s perfect,” she says. “There’s a lot of connection in shared pain.”
That extends to Instagram, too. When Nolan was still engaged to fellow Bachelor in Paradise contestant Derek Peth—they've since broken up—she made an effort not to post happy couple-y photos when things weren’t, in fact, so happy. “Our relationship was so highly romanticized on a reality TV show,” she explains. “Not posting those shiny, romantic photos when shit wasn’t actually good was fighting against some of that pressure.”
Instagram is fast becoming a cesspool of anxiety for contestants, making outlets like podcasts all the more appealing. “You get all this fame, overnight, and you’re riding this super-high high, and then the next season comes along and you lose hundreds of thousands of followers,” Gates says. “It does something to your self-worth.” The future of the post-Bachelor world, she thinks, lies beyond perfectly curated posts. “Fans don’t want the edits in photos, they want to see you as a person, which explains the rise of video, TikTok, people doing podcasts. I think everyone is craving authenticity.”
When Unglert launched Help! I Suck At Dating, he was more than happy to serve up said authenticity but was under no illusion that he had any expertise to offer. Fresh off a disastrous Bachelor in Paradise season in which he juggled two women, he had viewers call in and give him love advice. Fast forward two years: He’s graduated from the Bachelor franchise, in a committed relationship, and surprised to find that he’s become an unexpected resource for matters of the heart (something, he notes, wouldn’t have happened in “a million years” had he not gone through the show).
“I have a lot of friends who have started confiding in me a lot more for dating advice, which I think is really funny,” Unglert says, adding cheerfully, “I always preface everything by saying, 'Look, obviously I don’t know anything I’m saying. But I think this is what you should do...'”
Thea Glassman is a freelance entertainment writer, with bylines in The New York Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Vanity Fair, and VICE. Find her on Twitter @theakglassman.
Originally Appeared on Glamour