Leslie Hughes was one of 25 eligible women to vie for Sean Lowe’s rose (and his heart) on this season of ABC’s reality dating show The Bachelor. Hughes, who was one of four African-American contestants this season, went on a “Pretty Woman” one-on-one date with Sean, and can be seen making cameos on 90210, Mike & Molly, Happy Endings, and even Scary Movie 5. While Hughes is still single (“Being on the show hasn’t helped me in that area!”), she calls being on The Bachelor—for which she was nominated by her mother and best friend—one of the best experiences of her life.
The 29-year-old poker dealer and actress talked to The Daily Beast about Bachelor dynamics, what Tierra is really like, her take on the show’s level of diversity, and more as she offers nine secrets from inside the Bachelor mansion.
1. Contestants must take an STD test.
Before you’re chosen to be on the show, many precautions are taken to ensure you will be a suitable candidate. And one of these precautions is an STD test. Hughes calls the tests “crazy” and says producers want to “make sure everyone is clean.” Naturally, they’re not the only batch of tests that contestants are put through: “You also have to do psych testing to make sure that you’re normal.”
2. There’s a lot of drinking. (Duh.)
Wine, beer, hard alcohol, and everything in between: you name it and The Bachelor supplies it. “It’s how they get you to be more talkative, more sensitive,” Hughes said of the house’s large supply. “When I came in for the producers’ weekend, I remember it was like 12 noon, and they were like, ‘You want some champagne, wine?’ And I was like, ‘It’s 12 p.m., noon!’ And they’re like, ‘Welcome to the Bachelor family.’”
3. There is no privacy.
According to Hughes, The Bachelor cameras never stop rolling. “They are on you all the time,” she said. “As soon as you wake up in the morning, your mic is put on you…When you go to bed, it’s taken off.” She also said the hardest part of filming the show is being away from family, and having zero alone time. “Having someone around at all times, you’re going to get emotional, you’re going to cry.”
4. You have zero contact with the outside world. Zero.
“None—absolutely none,” Hughes said, when asked about the level of privacy contestants have with the “outside world.” When entering the Bachelor mansion, the women are stripped of their cellphones, computers, magazines, music, and even books. “The only things I was allowed to keep were my journal and my Bible,” said Hughes. “We have nothing. We are completely cut off from the world. We have to talk to each other—we have nothing else to do.”
5. It’s not as glamorous as it seems.
Bunk beds, cramped living quarters, and tiny bathroom areas (only two for 25 girls!) makes living in the Bachelor mansion not as alluring as its title may make it seem. “We have to do our own cooking, our own laundry… We do everything you would do when you’re at home, except be able to go outside of your home,” Hughes said. And all of the clothes, hair supplies, and makeup are brought in from home, so it’s up to the women to look presentable for the cameras. “It’s a lot of suitcases,” she added.
6. Living in the Bachelor house equates to a lot of late nights.
“We filmed from September to November, “ said Hughes. But the nearly three months away from everyday life didn’t mean sleeping in and catching up on R&R as the production schedule dictates many, many hours of filming. “[The first night] was very long. We didn’t start until 7 at night and we didn’t finish until 8 in the morning!”
7. Not all the contestants are on the show to fall in love.
“I believe in the process, and if you’re there for the right reasons, it could totally work,” Hughes said of the probability of falling in love on the show. “I feel like you can fall in love anywhere.” But some of the women on the show might have ulterior motives for taking part in The Bachelor. “I don’t think everyone was attracted to Sean,” she said. “I know a few had been in relationships and they broke up at the time of the show, so… there’s all kinds of motives.” And what might those reasons be? “To get in front of America,” Hughes said. She also commented on the competitive nature of the show, suggesting some women want to see what could come their way after being seen on The Bachelor. “But you can’t compete for love,” Hughes argued. “Either someone is into you or they’re not.”
8. Tierra is the same girl America saw on TV.
Hughes was placed in sleeping quarters with Tierra and several other women. “We would wake up in the morning and we would say something to her and she would just stare and not say a word,” said Hughes of Tierra Licausi, the Bachelor contestant that America loved to hate. “You know she came into this saying she was only there for Sean. Unfortunately, I think she just has some things to work on,” she said. “The cameras can’t lie, because you’re on them 24/7.”
9. The Bachelor may or may not be racist.
Hughes, whose father is African-American, had always been aware of the show’s level of diversity. “From watching it from day one, there wasn’t a lot of diversity, [contestants] were always Caucasian, blonde, blue eyes … It was always the same.” Upon finding out she had been cast on the show, a celebratory call to her father was the first phone call she made. “He was like, ‘You’re the first ethnic female!’ and then I get there and there are like five other [ethnic] women. I’m glad they opened up to diversity,” Hughes said, adding that even Sarah Herron, a contestant born with one arm, added another, different level of diversity among the women.
Last year a lawsuit was filed by two black men against the reality-TV series, claiming the show failed to feature nonwhite individuals. While Lowe notably mentioned in one of the first few episodes that he had dated many diverse women, and wasn’t concerned about the ethnicities of the contestants, this season did feature a larger percentage of ethnic women than seasons past. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed and Hughes suggests the reason she was chosen for the show had less to do with her skin color and more to do with the attractive qualities she possesses. “The characteristics we all had in common had to do a lot with what Sean was actually looking for,” she said.
When asked if Hughes thought the show would ever feature a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color, she was hesitant to respond.
“That’s a hard one,” she said. “I would love to say yes, but I don’t see it being anytime soon … I feel like they did make this big transition into this season, but it would have to be an even bigger leap to put an ethnic person as the main person.”