Fresh off season 19 of “The Bachelorette” comes season eight of “Bachelor in Paradise,” set to debut Sept. 27 on ABC (8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central). Host Jesse Palmer will try to keep the mayhem at a minimum as 43 contestants frolic in Sayulita, Mexico, getting to know one another and maybe making a love connection. As former contestants on either “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” they have already experienced the tension of that franchise. Now the real fun begins.
And the contestants won’t have to worry about spending too much on their attire, unlike on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” — both known for some fabulous evening wear. In fact, on the opening night of season 18 of “The Bachelorette” last fall, contestant Michelle Young was outfitted in a “soft lime”-colored dress, created by Randi Rahm, a frequent show designer. It contained more than 15,000 sequins, each topped with a crystal, that took two sewers close to 700 hours to stitch, Page Six reported. The cost? While Rahm didn’t specify the price tag for Young’s dress, she told Page Six her designs can cost up to $150,000.
As the lead, Young didn’t have to pay for her haute-couture garment; ABC covers the wardrobe for the starring bachelor and bachelorette, according to Page Six. Good thing. But for contestants vying for the attention of the show’s lead, the clothes aren’t free. It’s up to the contestants themselves to pay for the things on the extensive packing list provided by the producers. Based on the promo photos for the upcoming “Bachelor in Paradise,” the costs probably won’t be too outlandish. The clothes trend toward beachwear and fun short dresses rather than ballgowns and tailored suits.
Reality TV is all about high stakes, and you wouldn’t have delectable, guilty-pleasure drama without the possibility of on-screen loss. Who knew the loss for contestants on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” could be more than a broken heart – but a diminished bank account, too? Here’s a look at what some of these contestants spend and how much they stand to make from being on this hit reality romance show.
Upfront Costs: The Dresses
There’s no entry fee to be a contestant on the shows of “The Bachelor” franchise, nor is there a hard-and-fast rulebook for how much contestants spend in preparation. We can certainly identify the top three costs for women appearing on “The Bachelor,” however: wardrobe, wardrobe and wardrobe. ABC only provides two dresses for each season of the show — one for each finalist on the season finale. That means eligible bachelorettes seeking to catch the eye of the bachelor have to personally foot the bill for 13 episodes of TV-ready fashion.
Some ladies borrow clothes or snag sponsorships — like Ashley Spivey, who scored 14 designer dresses from a sponsor in 2011 — but others foot the bill themselves. Jillian Harris dropped $8,000 on new duds, while Olivia Caridi is rumored to have spent more than $40,000 on her wardrobe in an effort to impress “Bachelor” Ben Higgins, an investment that didn’t end up paying off. That cost doesn’t include the hundreds of dollars that contestants typically spend on new hairstyles, spray tans, gym memberships, makeup and other cosmetic touchups before the show.
Others have kept things more low-key — and their investments to a minimum — with great results. Sarah Herron kept her total budget at $5,000, while Vienna Girardi kept it casual with a whole lot of cut-off jean shorts instead of pricey designer labels. She ended up winning the ring in season 14 from pilot-turned-“Bachelor” Jake Pavelka, but the relationship didn’t work out.
For the men, the cost isn’t as high – they can get by with a couple of suits with different shirts and ties to switch up their look instead of a dozen gowns for formalwear — but the packing list remains large. That’s because you aren’t sure where the journey will take you should you remain on the show for several weeks. Will you be frolicking on a beach or throwing snowballs at one another?
“You don’t know where you’re gonna go,” Wells Adams, who appeared on JoJo Fletcher’s season of “The Bachelorette,” told Bustle. “Iceland? Tahiti? The moon?”
Adams will appear on the upcoming “Bachelor in Paradise” as the bartender.
Hidden Costs: The Debt
If you were making a list of the things you’d need to be a contestant, clothes would likely be right at the top, but some major costs are a little less transparent. They arise when you consider that you’ll have to put your entire life on hold for an unpaid season — that’s six to 10 weeks’ worth — of filming.
Harris remortgaged her home to cope with the costs. And while some “Bachelor” contestants are lucky enough to return to their day jobs after filming, others have lost their jobs if they didn’t have a flexible time off schedule. Possessionista writer Dana Weiss told Mic in 2016 that she personally knows of bachelorettes who cashed out their 401k accounts to offset the costs of the show, while others have gone into substantial credit card debt.
Potential Profits From Being on ‘The Bachelor’ Shows
“Bachelor in Paradise” contestants are different in that they receive pay for appearing on the show. Only the leads – and not the contestants – on “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” earn a paycheck.
In a May 2021 interview on the “Trading Secrets” podcast hosted by Jason Tartick, a former contestant on “The Bachelorette,” Dean Unglert said he was offered $400 per day to appear on season four of “Bachelor in Paradise.”
“They hit me up and they were like, ‘Hey, do you want to do ‘Bachelor in Paradise,’ this other show that pays 400 bucks a day, and you could be there for up to 30 days,’ something like that,” Unglert said. “So I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, great. Four hundred bucks a day, 30 days, $12,000, that’s fantastic.”
Unglert negotiated, and the two sides settled at $600 a day. He didn’t last the full three weeks, but he did return for season six, where he met his current love, Caelynn Miller-Keyes. He said he had heard of someone else offered upward of $1,000 a day. The big money, he said, came from the endorsements after appearing on the show.
Back to “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” Unglert confirmed he didn’t receive any compensation for appearing on season 13 of “The Bachelorette. At best, some bachelorettes say they’ve been gifted a few swag bags containing sponsored items — likely not enough swag to repay that “Bachelor”-incurred debt. It’s a tough pill to swallow considering that being in the role of the “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” reportedly pays about $100,000 per season. On his podcast, Tartick said he was considered for “The Bachelor” and would have earned that amount had he been selected. Emily Maynard reportedly was paid $250,000 for her season as the leading lady.
More commonly, many contestants smartly leverage their 10 minutes of fame into success as social-media influencers or lifestyle brand entrepreneurs on Instagram after “The Bachelor” wraps and the dust settles. Many factors help determine rates for celebrity Instagram posts, but CNBC reported that if you have 5,000 Instagram followers and 308 sponsored posts, you can earn $100,000 a year.
Emily Maynard’s online lifestyle presence keeps her net worth at a cool $5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth, although she was wealthy before her time on the show. Ali Fedotowsky worked at Facebook before appearing on “The Bachelor” in 2010. She then went on to star as “The Bachelorette” and later found work as an NBC and E! lifestyle correspondent, maintaining a healthy net worth of $600,000. Other alumni accept plentiful offers to appear on post-“Bachelor” reality TV shows, such as Melissa Rycroft, Trista Sutter, Sean Lowe and several others who opted to foxtrot on “Dancing With the Stars.” Still, others close book deals — like season 16 winner Courtney Robinson, who wrote “I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends” — or make the bulk of their income on social media endorsement deals alone.
Considering how much it costs to be on “The Bachelor,” aspiring bachelorettes have to ask themselves a key question: How much would you pay for a shot at love? And if that fails, how much would you pay for a shot at Instagram fame?
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Dan Ketchum contributed to the reporting for this article.