AshLee Frazier on How Her Season of Bachelor in Paradise Operated and What She Thinks of the Current Scandal

AshLee Frazier on Bachelor in Paradise. Photo: Francisco Roman/ABC via Getty Images

AshLee Frazier unsuccessfully looked for love on the 17th season of The Bachelor only to give the reality love machine another try in the first season of the show’s spinoff series, Bachelor in Paradise. (Frazier, 36, didn’t have luck in Mexico in 2014 either, but she recently married.) The lifestyle blogger and founder of Love It Organized agreed to speak to Vulture about what production was like on the spinoff during her season in light of the show’s recent shutdown because of allegations of misconduct on the first day of filming the fourth season in Mexico. Warner Bros., which produces the show, is investigating a claim by a producer that one contestant allegedly committed sexual assault against another, on film, while she was too drunk to give consent.

Most people are savvy about how reality shows are run and how there’s a lot of direction that is given by producers behind the scenes. I’m interested in hearing how it worked on Bachelor in Paradise. Was it up to you whom you picked for dates and eliminations? Or did the producers make your choices for you?
With me, that didn’t happen. But I will say that on my season there was money offered for people to give certain people roses. I know that they would heavily sway you to do a certain thing, and that’s a lot of pressure because you know what you’re into, and you know that it’s a show that’s being filmed, but producers have pressures by the bigger guys to perform for the show. So that does trickle down to cause reactions and get reactions from cast members. But did they tell you that you have to? No, there’s never any of that. It’s just a lot of heavy persuasion.

How much money?
It was $5,000 for one contestant to give another one a rose, and I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so I don’t want to say whom. But I know for a fact that that was done.

Does that even extend to whom you pick for a date or is it mostly for the eliminations?
Well, I think in this case they wanted this particular “character” to stay on the show, and no one was going to give this person a rose, and so in order to keep this person on, they were like, Okay, well, what will it take? And this person liked money, but they didn’t do it.

So what happened?
They ended up getting someone else to do it. So the money didn’t end up getting forked out, which I’m sure they loved.

What about in terms of how far things went between contestants? Did you feel like that was totally up to you?
I can tell you what I’ve seen happen in my season, and it goes like this: “Hey! Someone’s at the bar, he’s sitting by himself! Why don’t you go over there and, you know, give him a little peck or something? You know! Give him a little love and attention!” And I can see that being — when someone’s drinking, and they’re really young and easily swayed — the sort of thing that someone would want to do to make the producer happy.

Was drinking encouraged?
Oh yes.

Like, verbally? Or just because it’s everywhere.
No, no, no — verbally. They don’t force you, but they’ll even let handlers and producers drink. For example, if someone isn’t really a big drinker, or they don’t want to drink that day, they’ll say, “Okay, well, I’ll take a shot with you.” And it kind of puts you in a safe zone, and it’s like, Okay, well, this person is working and if they’re drinking then, all right, sure. And then you feel they bond with you, these producers and these handlers, so you think that they’re your friends.

It can be hard for outsiders to understand the pressure contestants are in when they are living 24/7 in that bubble.
You’re right. With Bachelor in Paradise, I feel like you’ve done it once so you kind of get it. You have a little bit more freedom and it’s a little bit more fun and laid back and relaxed. You still have all your interviews and your activities that you have to do so that you can’t be totally bored. [Editor’s note: Contestants are told not to bring cell phones, books, or music devices to Mexico.] But they’ll set fun things up for you to do — games and pool time. But you are working, essentially, and they do want you to be mingling and talking and going over and over and over every single little detail that’s happened 500 times. “How was the rose ceremony last night? How was the rose ceremony last night? Let’s talk about the rose ceremony last night!”

And how different is that experience from The Bachelor? In terms of what you’ve been saying, that they sort of persuade you to go in certain directions.
Here’s the thing with my season of The Bachelor: The girls were really calm; we didn’t have a bunch of drinking girls. We didn’t have a wild group. So, yeah, they tried to get us to drink way more, but we were really strong girls. We were just like, No, we’re good. If we didn’t want to, we just didn’t. And they told us all the time how boring we were. I think the difference between my season and now is they know they need to be a character. The whole “I’m here for love” thing has really drifted a little, I think, in my personal opinion.

What were some of the wildest things that happened in Paradise? Was there ever something that happened that surprised you?
I didn’t have any idea what to expect, so I don’t really think that anything surprised me, but maybe just the idea that these producers are really good at their jobs. They know how to get you in as their friend, use you, and then drop you off at the end of the day. That was really surprising to me. I honestly — and I’m a good judge of character — believed these people were my friends. I can text them now and get a short, quick response, but they’re not engaging anymore. If anything, I was really interested with the whole idea of how production works. I was just fascinated by it all.

What about in terms of sex? Are they encouraging people to go that far?
I don’t think so. I mean, I’m not someone who’s going to do that, and I don’t think they would ever test that theory on me, but you know, for example, Clare and Juan Pablo — I hate to bring that up because I know that she hates it when I do — but I don’t think that they were like, “Clare, go to the ocean and do this,” or “Hey, you guys can go to the ocean.” I don’t think that is how it works. I think it is two people consenting to something. These people are grown-ups. They’re old enough to know, and for heaven’s sake, the cameras are rolling. They’re not completely absent-minded. I think that they allow it, for sure. And if I have a producer shadowing me, and I’m really close to them and I feel close enough to say, “Hey, I want to go have sex with this guy; can you schedule an overnight date with me?” I think that they’d make it happen. I really think they’d allow it to happen.

I’m not a big fan of manipulation, and I think there are better ways to go about it. For example, if you want me to play a role, just tell me. If you want me to, I’ll do it. But don’t manipulate me to do it and then make me look bad. If you want me to play a sassy little girl, then tell me and I can do it. Don’t manipulate me and try to fake me doing something. For example, when I was on Bachelor in Paradise they had me walking away calling Clare a bitch. Never said that. It’s not even my voice. Why do that? I could have come up with something a little sassier or more like me to say something like, “Not really feeling that girl.” I would have owned it. Now you have America mad at me because I called her a bitch. I didn’t say that. Now it’s the show against me, and who’s going to win in that? I could have made jokes and played around with them wanting me to not like her and her not like me. That’s why I’m coming out on them.

Does Chris Harrison ever get involved in directing cast members to do certain things?
No, no, he’s not even told until seconds before he goes out what to say. As he’s standing out there, he’s told what to say. I feel sorry for him. I feel like he’s going to get such a rap for this, because he’s the face of it. I’m like, poor guy.

How did you feel when you heard the show had shutdown and why it was? Were you surprised?
I definitely wasn’t surprised that it could happen but it’s kind of disappointing that it’s happening. With alcohol involved, and you have other people watching over the cast members, it just seems they need to be watched a little more carefully, particularly in this situation. I don’t know if the crew was drinking, but I do know that people on the production side do drink. From what I’m understanding, there wasn’t anyone there — a handler or a producer — it was only camera guys. They’re not allowed to step in no matter what, unless it’s life-threatening. They call producers to step in. I don’t think it was a malicious act by DeMario Jackson, and that’s why I don’t think anyone stepped in. It’s just every day in Paradise. It wasn’t anything unusual that one could possibly see happening there.

In your season, nobody had sex out in the open like that, right? What would you have expected as a cast member if two other contestants were doing it out in the open?
I don’t feel like the show would really stop that, and here’s why: Wouldn’t they want reaction from all the other cast members, what they saw? That would make such a big story line. So I don’t feel like even if, at that point, if two people were having consensual sex, I don’t know that they would stop it. I think they might hold them back and as humans nobody’s gonna be like, Hey guys, what are y’all up to? I don’t see them stopping it. I think they would run with the story line.

If what happened was consensual and you think producers would run with that kind of story, why would production shut down, especially if there’s a video to back that up?
I think there’s more to the story than just the cast members. Morally and ethically, the show had a responsibility if a producer is complaining about something they’ve seen or heard. The show has an obligation to protect this cast member. Whether it happened or not, it’s more about ethical obligation to stop filming and to do an investigation. If a producer is complaining, that’s a big deal, and if they’re threatening to file a misconduct claim, there’s something else going on there. If one or two people on the producing side of things sees or hears something they don’t think is right, the show has to step in and make sure the cast members are okay, which they did.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

AshLee Frazier on Her Season of Bachelor in Paradise