The 'Bachelor' alum opens up to ET about life before and after the show on 'Unfiltered.'
Tilley, who grew up in Louisiana, didn't have ambitions to be on reality TV -- or turn her screentime into social media following what would become her career.
"One of my best friends [from high school], Laura, who is actually the one who nominated me to go on The Bachelor, is still one of my best friends to this day," she says of her childhood in the South. "I've always had this super strong support system, not only in my family, but also in the group of friends I grew up with and I've always kept people around who made me feel challenged and encouraged and made me better than who I am without them."
Because of that support system, Tilley has "always been confident." Her first memory of makeup was "Mary Kay. I had this pink lip gloss that my mom let me wear and I was probably 12... I remember having that frosted pinkish purple lipstick that was not flattering on any skin tone," she recalls while taking off her makeup for ET's interview.
Her mom was her role model and her dad would cheer her on from the stands while watching her play basketball and softball in high school, even if she had a bad game. Her siblings -- she has four -- are her closest friends. It was actually her older sister who inspired Tilley to leave Louisiana when she was 19. She didn't connect with her college experience, and when her sister and her brother-in-law asked if she wanted to move to San Diego, she jumped at the opportunity. "I think I had my bags packed that night," she remembers.
Fast forward a few years, and Tilley's best friend, Laura, is set on nominating her for The Bachelor. "We have to get you on the show!" she says Laura would insist. "I was like, 'I'm not going on that show. That is the weirdest thing ever. Dating multiple people? It's not for me.'" Laura ended up nominating Tilley anyway, a producer reached out and Tilley's first reaction was "No," but she ended up warming up to the idea as a "fun experience" at the very least.
Tilley, who hadn't had a serious boyfriend before the show, found her inexperience in relationships -- and virginity -- taking center stage on Chris Soules' season of The Bachelor in 2015. She ended up making it to the finale in 2015 and was "dumped in a barn" for Whitney Bischoff, as she remembers. (Soules and Carson later split. She's married with a child and he and Tilley continued to keep in touch). Then, one season later, Tilley returned to compete for Ben Higgins' heart in 2016. (This time, Tilley made top five. Higgins ended up choosing Lauren Bushnell, and they've since split, while Tilley made a friend for life in his runner-up, JoJo Fletcher).
"I think I went into it with the mindset of, 'If this is meant to be with this person, then it's meant to be and I'm gonna embrace this time that I have and try not to overthink it and stress about it.' And it is a bizarre feeling to become friends with people who are dating the same person as you," Tilley shares. "It's not a natural setting in the sense you're watching it all happen around you, but I made some of the closest friendships I've had because of the show. So, I'm really thankful."
After the show, the blonde beauty was thrust into Bachelor Nation, with her followers on social media climbing and brands reaching for sponsored deals. "I just in my mind thought, 'Oh, this is extra rent money or extra fun money.' It wasn't a full career for me yet," says Tilley, who now boasts over 1.1 million Instagram followers, has traveled around the world thanks to her social media presence and developed a legion of listeners on her podcast, Scrubbing In With Becca Tilley and Tanya Rad.
It was a fellow member of Bachelor Nation -- Robert Graham, who appeared on Desiree Hartsock's season of The Bachelorette -- who opened Tilley's eyes to the possibilities of what social media could do for her, a few months after Higgins' season finished airing. She packed her bags in San Diego and moved to Los Angeles. "I met my manager, Ali, and her company, Be Social, and they changed the game," she says.
Tilley ended up dating Graham, but their relationship ended after a few months in 2017. Though it's been nearly two years since the breakup, the Bachelor alum has yet to go public with another relationship. She says she no longer feels "safe" doing so.
"I think I have shared less of my personal life mostly because I came off a show where my whole dating life, everything about me, was out there on display for everyone to have an opinion about and everyone to talk about and know everything about. And then after The Bachelor, I was in a public relationship and posted about everything about it on Instagram and YouTube or wherever -- and when we broke up, there was this pressure that I felt just about letting people down who were rooting for my relationship," she expresses.
"I remember thinking, 'I don't feel safe just being honest and real, because I don't know what people are going to say or what assumptions they're going to make.' So I kind of decided after that, it was something that I could protect," she adds. "And when I'm ready to talk about it, I will and not feel pressure to talk about it because of...people wanting to know."
Now, Tilley says she's looking for a partner "who makes me better and makes me happy" -- though that doesn't necessarily mean long term. "The life-long partnership scares me a little bit. I think just looking forward, I just want to be with someone who I'm excited to see every day in some capacity. Like, I get home from a long day, and they make me feel excited... no matter how tired I am, I'm still happy to see them."
Though she's made an income off of social media, Tilley still struggles with balancing the positive with the negative. "When I post a photo and I get a hundred nice things said about me, and I get one rude thing said about me, some reason I dwell on the one rude thing." She admits that she probably wouldn't have these insecurities had she not been on TV.
"Before I went on The Bachelor, I had no issues with my body. I had no issues with my hair color -- anything! I was just happy and was confident in what it was. I remember watching the episodes and then being on Twitter and seeing the things that people would say about -- even if it was down to my voice," she says. "I remember thinking 'Wow. People are ruthless out here.'... I probably would have struggled with the normal things that everyone struggles with like, 'Oh, I gained a few pounds here and there,' but I wouldn't have felt this society pressure to change it or fix it."
Still, Tilley confesses there's "something special" about the constructive relationships she has with her fans and having their support. "It's a very powerful feeling, but also a huge responsibility about what I say and what I talk about," she notes.
"There's always this fear of, 'How do I keep up? How do I continue doing this where people still care?'" Tilley says of continuing her career in the social sphere. "All of these other people are coming off The Bachelor are doing the same things... I have to physically out loud tell myself often because it feels very competitive. So, I just have to focus on what I'm doing, what I can offer as Becca, and not look to my left or to my right and just look forward to stay sane. Because it can get crazy."
Being "on the couch watching Grey's Anatomy" helps Tilley feel like her best self -- with or without makeup. "I used to feel most beautiful when I was glammed up and had my hair and makeup done. And now I feel my most beautiful when I'm in an oversized sweatshirt, no makeup and a messy bun or ponytail," she says.
"It feels really great not wearing any makeup," Tilley adds. "Something about the cameras and lights gives an element of, 'How does this look?'... But how I feel without it on? It feels really good."
Watch our full interview with Tilley in the video above and watch more Unfiltered episodes below.
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