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Saturday, February 27, 2021

UF alumna goes from bachelor’s degree to “The Bachelor”

Saneh Ste. Claire used her experience to shed light on mental health challenges

Saneh Ste. Claire meets Matt James on the 25th season of "The Bachelor." | Picture by ABC
Saneh Ste. Claire meets Matt James on the 25th season of "The Bachelor." | Picture by ABC

UF alumna Saneh Ste. Claire went from receiving a Bachelor’s to receiving the opportunity to join the reality TV show “The Bachelor.”

The UF alumna — who received an undergrad degree in communication and leadership development in 2017 and a master’s in science and leadership development in 2019 — now lives and works in Denver, Colorado. 

Her journey with “The Bachelor” began with Ste. Claire’s neighbor, Katie Rihnesmith, 27.

Rhinesmith said living in the same complex made quarantining together easy, which helped keep their circle of friends close. Throughout this time she said they played games and watched shows often.

During a commercial break, Rhinesmith saw a casting call for “The Bachelor.” Rhinesmith said they joked about nominating Ste. Claire for a while, but when she saw Matt James was the bachelor for the show’s 25th season, Rhinesmith knew she had to nominate her friend.

“They seemed to have similar interests, and I thought they might be a good match,” Rhinesmith said. “I figured the worst case scenario would be that nothing would come of it.”

Ste. Claire said it was never something she would have applied for herself, and when she got the call without Rhinesmith originally telling her, she thought it was a prank.

With remote preparation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of being on the show in the first place, Ste. Claire said everything felt surreal. 

Ste. Claire said her favorite part of preparation was the quality time she got with her girlfriends shopping for dresses and outfits for the show.

She said that on the first night of filming at Nemacolin, the resort in Pennsylvania where filming took place, it still did not feel real. 

“Preparing for the show, again, it's not a platform I ever imagined myself going on,” Ste. Claire said. “Not that anybody really does. It is a super unique experience, but I just never put myself there. I was pretty overwhelmed, but in a good way.”

Her time on “The Bachelor” ended after week one. Ste. Claire said this wasn’t a defeat to her because she went into the experience “open-hearted.”

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Despite her time on the show being cut short, Ste. Claire said she went into the experience with no expectations.

“You don't know until you know if you have a connection with somebody,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, this experience wasn't about me. It's about him finding his person.” 

Ste. Claire said being cut first from the show was one of her biggest fears — she even joked about it with the producers. But she said she received a kind response from the viewers afterward. 

“I didn't want the whole world to watch and think that I'm just a loser on TV,” she said. “I was so afraid I was gonna get ripped to shreds, and I've just been very, very relieved that 99.9% of what I read has been so kind and so positive.”

This positive feedback also allowed Ste. Claire to spread awareness about things she experiences in her personal life, such as anxiety and mental health challenges. She described this as being “a best case scenario.”

“So many people have reached out thanking me for being open about that and for being an inspiration and being authentic and staying true to myself,” she said. “It feels really amazing to have made any sort of positive impact on people watching and hopefully inspiring them to do something that makes them afraid and kind of put them out of their comfort zone.”

Ste. Claire said she was relieved to go back to normal life and surround herself with her community, friends and family.

“It was super fun to have that experience, but it reminded me of just how much I love my life here in Colorado,” she said. “It's just been really nice for me just to enjoy the little things and where I'm at.”

She said she learned a lot about herself and she was able to prove to herself that she can go outside of her comfort zone. She said it allowed her the freedom to apply that same type of courage to the rest of her life.

Ste. Claire added that a producer told her the show is not just about finding your potential life partner, but it is rather about finding love within yourself.

“The Bachelor” airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. EST. Previous episodes are also available on ABC’s website.

Contact Kristin Bausch at kbausch@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @BauschKristin.

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Kristin Bausch

Kristin Bausch is a third-year journalism major at the University of Florida and a staff writer with the Avenue. Giving people an opportunity to share their story is one of her favorite things about writing. When not writing, she’s probably dancing.


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