Clayton Echard Reacts to 3 Women Rejecting Him During the 'Bachelor' Premiere (Exclusive)
By Paige Gawley
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Clayton Echard faced multiple rejections before his first rose ceremony. ET's Lauren Zima spoke with the new Bachelor following Monday's season premiere, and the 28-year-old medical sales rep reacted to having three women leave the show early.
While fans saw Salley, still heartbroken from calling off her wedding, exit before the limo entrances, and Claire, who "hated" Clayton after one conversation, leave ahead of the rose ceremony, they may not have noticed that a third woman made an early departure too.
That woman was Samantha, who arrived bikini-clad in a bubble bath and wasn't seen on TV again. As for what happened with her, Clayton told ET, "That's a great question."
"I don't really fully know kind of what happened. As far as the reason, your guess is as good as mine," he said. "... She went home, yes... I don't know [why], I'm not sure really what happened on that one."
Samantha shed a little light on the situation on Instagram, revealing, "Clayton and I privately talked night one. He was attentive, charming and kind. However, a romantic connection is important in a relationship. And I’ve made it a point in my life to not force anything I’m not feeling. As much as I wanted to stay, it would not have been fair to try to take his heart, as well as take the opportunity away from a woman who was all in."
Before Samantha's exit, Clayton offered his first rose to Salley, after she tearfully opened up about her would-be wedding. Though Clayton acknowledged that some people would've viewed Salley's recent heartbreak as a "major red flag," he looked at the situation differently.
"I did feel after talking with her that she was very genuine. I thought that things could work if she could just get over that mental block that she had," he explained. "I think she got a little spooked coming into it, like, 'What am I doing here?' I think everyone kind of has that night when they're like, 'How did I get here? This is ridiculous.'"
"And so for me, I just thought, 'Hey, let me just be able to give her a rose so... [she won't] have to be so nervous that first night. This is only a couple days together. If it's not meant to be, then we can always go our separate ways,'" Clayton continued. "That's the way I looked at it. It wasn't a major red flag. If it became one and I felt like she's not here for the right reasons, I was like, 'I can send her home, it's no loss on my end.'"
While Clayton admitted that "starting off the whole experience with rejection was tough," he tried not to take it personally.
"I don't think it has anything to do with me per se, it's just she's mentally struggling," he said. "I looked at it as, 'Hey, there's 29 other women and I will just keep that perspective in mind and not let it rattle me too much.'"
It's the same logic he tried to apply later that night, when he heard that Claire was speaking negatively about him following their makeshift tailgate.
"To now watch it back, she clearly had some frustrations with me," he told ET. "I understand looking back at that [that] we have very limited interaction. I think she felt that she was cut off. She felt that I didn't give her the time of day. I don't want to beat her up for it. There's a lot of emotions, a lot of stress, night one. I think that she was just frustrated. It is what it is."
All of the rejection, Clayton said, "did shake my confidence a little bit."
"You start to play this game of like, why did they leave? What was it? Is it the way I presented myself? Are they just not physically attracted to me?" he said. "But whatever the case, you just have to go back to, they are not interested for whatever reason, or they are not in the right head space, so just move on, don't think about it too much. It will eat you up if you do."
While things didn't work out with three women, Clayton formed plenty of connections his first night as the Bachelor. That was never more true than with Teddi, who earned his first impression rose.
"I was taken aback [by Teddi]. She's incredibly beautiful. She was playful with her introduction. She just stood out to me right away. That's why I gave her the first impression rose," Clayton said. "Clearly there is that early chemistry there, so I think people will see that as the show goes on. There is this strong connection. It started night one, and that's why I felt very comfortable and confident, yeah, giving her that night one first impression rose."
Susie also caught his eye thanks to her "corny" introduction.
"She was also very playful. She had a little buzzer on her hand. It was a corny joke, saying, 'Did you feel a spark?' But I think I like that," he told ET. "I like somebody who's confident, someone that doesn't take themselves too seriously. She was very bubbly coming out the gate and easy to talk to, so there was a connection there."
The same can be said for Rachel, who had "another phenomenal entrance," in which she used a 63-year-old retiree as her wingwoman.
"It threw me for a loop, but then she came out and she had this confidence about her. [She was] very sweet, and then our conversation was so much fun," Clayton said. "She's got so much going on for her, being a pilot in training. She just has this unique background. I was thoroughly impressed... I didn't feel like she was that nervous. I think she conducted herself very well. I was attracted to that. There was this clear connection."
Clayton also felt sparks with Gabby, though he was less sure how to respond to her X-rated opening line.
"'Hey, I want to sit on your face,' like what am I going to say back to that?" Clayton said. "I love a great sense of humor. What that joke showed me was that, not only was she humorous, but she is also confident, because you have to be to throw something out like that night one, to somebody you just met."
"She rocked it, and so that instantly captured my attention," he added. "I just kind of did my little laugh, because I didn't know how to respond. My grandma watches this. My mom watches this."
Clayton was right to think about his mom's reaction, as she definitely tuned in to the show.
"I saw on Facebook she was like, 'Comment on who you think he picks at the end of it,'" Clayton told ET. "She's fangirling so hard. She is all on social media."
As Clayton thinks back on his journey and looks ahead to it playing out on TV, he's decided to "stop focusing so much on what's being said online."
"I'm so critical of myself in general, always have been, and so I was really overanalyzing everything at first," he said. "[But now]... I can just enjoy it for how it was. To see the first episode, I was like, 'Wow, this is really happening. We are in the thick of things.'"
As fans saw in the season preview, there is a lot of drama to come. It all seems to come to a head at one point, when Clayton, in love with his final three women, tearfully declares, "I'm so broken."
"I didn't expect myself to get to the point that I did emotionally. I went through the whole spectrum the entire season, and so that moment was a very challenging environment for me to be in," he told ET. "... I didn't think I would ever get there, but that [happens] because I develop very, very strong connections and it elicited those type of responses."
As for how he fell in love with three women, Clayton said it was a result of his decision to be completely vulnerable during his journey.
"When I was with one woman individually, I focused 100 percent on them. I did it. I made sure. I felt like it was right to not focus on anyone else when I was with one person, so I could develop these strong connections. And then I would go immediately with somebody else, and I would focus solely on them as well," he explained. "I thought I would never get involved to the point where I would be falling in love with multiple women, but then it happened, and then I was fighting it. I was telling myself, 'No, there is no way you are falling in love with multiple women.' Then, finally, I was like, 'You know what? Quit fighting it, because if you fight it, they won't know where you stand, and then they might start putting their walls back up.'"
As a result of the tumultuous journey, Clayton told ET that he "grew so much."
"Two months is what people will see, as far as how it all played out, but I think it was five years of growth packed into two months," he said. "I went through so much and I am a better person for it. I am much more confident than when I went into it. I grew emotionally to a point where I just feel very comfortable with being open with my emotions... on a national platform. Everyone saw every single emotion."
Though fans know he falls in love on the show, Clayton is staying mum about whether or not he's currently engaged.
"I'm in a great spot. I am happy," he said. "Ultimately, any time I can grow from an experience, if it is good or bad, I feel like it was worth it, and it was."