ABC's sports-themed love competition series premieres on Tuesday, and we'll see plenty of familiar faces from The Bachelor universe, including some throwbacks!
One such woman is Lesley Murphy, who was last on TV for Sean Lowe's season of The Bachelor. ET caught up with the travel blogger about competing on Bachelor Winter Games and the life-changing surgery she had just months before filming.
ET: Why come back to TV for Bachelor Winter Games? You never did Bachelor in Paradise.
Lesley Murphy: I didn’t go on Paradise because to me it’s just a lot of drinking on a beach and that just wasn’t a draw for me, but this brings so many cultures together, so many different competitions. When they asked me to go on it, I had an immediately good gut reaction about it. The show was fun, competitive and romantic in a winter wonderland.
What can you tell us about how Winter Games actually works?
I best described it as Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise and Survivor kinda had a baby. There are about four competitions, plus [one] during a rose ceremony. [The show is] broken off into a women's heat and a men's heat and the winner of both of those heats gets a date card. They're gold-plated date cards.
How did everyone deal with language and cultural barriers, yet live in a house together and date each other?
There were a lot of language barriers, predominantly with Yuki [Kimura] from Japan. And she’s going to steal the show. You couldn’t really understand what she was saying and vice versa. She really fell for Ben [Higgins]. We’re at [one] rose ceremony and it’s the kissing competition, and different cultures treat PDA differently. So we have Luke [Pell] and Stassi [Yaramchuk] -- we are made to kiss publicly in this competition and we have three judges from past seasons of The Bachelor -- and they, for lack of a better word, are pretty insensitive to the fact that not every culture is the same. So it took a lot for Stassi to kiss Luke in public and these judges just were just ringing her out, saying, "We didn’t see any connection. We didn’t see any chemistry." But she was so empowering and stood up there and said, "You will not shame me. We don’t do this in my culture and I won’t take your shame whatsoever." Mic drop! It was amazing.
Who provides the biggest drama for the show?
A lot of it is going to be about Ashley I. and her significant other and their sexual chemistry. There’s been a lot of background about that and we’ll see it play out again, maybe in the fantasy suites.
How did people fare athletically?
There wasn’t a lot of athleticism on the slopes! We had a few Canadians and they killed it on pretty much everything. I don’t know what happened to the Americans. Dean [Unglert] does very well. He does this little stunt where he skis through the finish line backwards just to prove a point, but he grew up in Aspen, so he had an upper hand on everybody. Ben now lives in Denver, so he’s pretty good.
Dean didn't have the best reputation after Bachelor in Paradise. How does he do on Winter Games?
Dean has done [shows] three times in a year and so he knows what he’s doing, but he also knows what he did wrong on the last one. We saw him come off of Rachel’s season as this very good, but confused, young guy. I don’t know what happened with Paradise, but he kind of went off the rails. Now, cut to Bachelor Winter Games, yeah, he definitely redeemed himself. I think he knows what he did wrong.
There are rumors you and Dean made a connection. How did things end up for you?
I had the time of my life. I was there until the very end and you’ll see how it ends. There are four couples at the very end of it. No proposals. [There is an international relationship.] They had a lot more heavy conversations to get through at the end because how do you make that work? I came off [of the show] very, very happy.
You did this show after a major personal experience: You chose to have a double mastectomy after discovering you had the BRCA2 gene and chronicled your surgeries on social media. What was that like?
It taught me a lot about what I’m looking for in the future. During my first doctor's appointments, I filmed it not really knowing what I’d do with that documentation. Maybe I’ll put it out there, maybe I won’t. And then, International Women’s Day came about in March, and I was like, "What message can I put out there?" And then it hit me like a wall of bricks. "Oh yeah, I can spice this up. Put this out there for everyone to see. This is what I’m doing. This is what a year is going to look like. I’m not going to be going to any new and exciting destinations. I’m going to be comatose in a hospital bed." That taught me so much about opening up and being authentic and also the power of social media. I think random strangers helped me heal in ways I didn’t know that that was possible. I threw caution to the wind when I went on The Bachelor the first time. I threw caution to the wind when I quit my job and started a travel blog. I threw caution to the wind when I did the surgery, same with Bachelor Winter Games. "Yeah, I haven’t been on TV in five years, but why not?!" I’ve done this before, I can do this again. New year, new me!
Did you have any concerns or any difficult moments doing these athletic activities, having gone through surgery last July?
It has taken awhile to get back to where I was. I kept trying to push it and trying to do these same exercises and it was probably entirely too soon. I’m not a very patient person, so I didn’t give it a lot of time. But the human body is really an amazing thing. It heals each and every day. When producers asked me about coming on Winter Games and were like, "Can you even do that? Can you even participate in these things?" By that point, my doctors had signed off and everything: "Yeah, do whatever you want. Your implants are going to be just fine." It was major surgery and I didn’t want to mess anything up ... My plastic surgeons did a great job of rebuilding and I don’t want to take that and backtrack. What if I fall downhill skiing? That was a huge concern, but it didn’t happen!
What about dating after having a double mastectomy and then getting implants? Was that the first time you’d gotten romantic since the surgery?
You bring up a great point! (Laughs.) I had an ex of mine who went through the surgeries with me, but we broke up during the second one, so he wasn’t really with me during the healing process. Cut to Bachelor Winter Games. I could tell this story all day and I can be all for early detection and early screening. But to actually tell this to somebody you’re romantically involved with and telling them what to possibly expect, I’ve never done that before. So that, in and of itself, was a little frightening.
What were your big takeaways from the surgeries?
I want people to know that if they do come down with this diagnosis or this gene, they can absolutely go through this surgery and it will be empowering after you’re on the other side of it. Kind of the same with reality TV! If you have a good head on your shoulders and you’re not going to be the villain of a show, you can learn so much about yourself. And by opening up, it’s this weird, therapeutic thing going on reality TV. You’re forced to talk about your emotions and who you are and where you want to be in the future. If you’re going to continue down a path and not pull yourself out of your comfort zone, how can you really grow? 2017 was a big year of growth, for sure -- in more ways than one.