I do not know current “The Bachelor” contestant Genevie Mayo personally. I know that she’s a gorgeous nurse, Ravens fan and “can drive a stick shift … kind of.” Even though I have only seen about three minutes of her on television, she is now my favorite person, and I’ll be rooting for her to win the heart of blandly attractively lead Zach Shallcross every single week. I’ll even be mad if he doesn’t pick her.
That’s because she’s one of two current contestants from Baltimore, and I cover pop culture for a Baltimore publication, which gives me a professional reason to watch this ridiculous show. You can make fun of me for being parked in front of my TV every Monday evening, live-tweeting and ordering sushi that I’m pretty sure is now tax-deductible. I don’t care. Because I’m working.
I have been using journalistic reasons to follow reality television since 2001, when, as a reporter for the York Dispatch in York, Pennsylvania, I faithfully recapped the “Big Brother” journey of hometown model and future South Beach nightlife impresario Hardy-Ames Hill. The show originally listed him as being from Philadelphia, two hours away, because someone in the CBS publicity department clearly thought there was only one city in Pennsylvania. But someone in my newsroom recognized him as a local, and an official beat was born.
By the time I got to the Palm Beach Post in South Florida, I looked forward to poring over the cast lists of reality show contestants the way my late husband used to study those NFL draft magazines, except my players had spray tans and sequins. The area is warm year-round and attracts pretty young people who look good with little clothing, so there was almost always a local on “The Bachelor” or “Survivor” or “Big Brother.” I got to attend watch parties, have Twitter exchanges with people’s former high school friends and teachers, and feel a part of something mostly wholesome and silly.
Actually, picking your reality TV favorites by geography is closer to rooting on your home team than you might think. It’s an instant reason to get behind them, to want them to do well, and to yell at the screen when they finally run out of roses and weep openly in the Sad Limo of Rejection. I got so good at Hometown Reality Reporting that in 2021, I was the official “Bachelorette” recapper for the Seattle Times, an outlet in a city I have never been to, because Katie Thurston, that summer’s lead, was from the Evergreen State. Laugh if you want, but it paid for my son’s summer camp. That ain’t cheap.
Of course, you sometimes run the risk of the hometown girl or guy being the absolute worst, such as when Amanda Zuckerman, a ”Big Brother” contestant from Boca Raton, near my paper in Florida, was the ringleader of a group of racist bullies and I had to call her mother and ask her about it. (Yikes.) But for the most part, the people I’ve covered have been pretty nice folks who took a shot at doing something weird and funny, even if some of them were perhaps looking for fame and sponsorships more than love.
Baltimore is not South Florida, but it’s been full of Bachelor Nation cast members. Anastasia Keramidas, a lifestyle digital content creator who grew up here and now lives in San Diego, is also on this season and made a splash wearing a pantsuit! Eric Bigger, who is a fellow Baltimore City College alum, made it close to the end of Rachel Lindsay’s season of “The Bachelorette.” Justin Glaze, also a Baltimorean, was on Katie’s season; although he didn’t win her heart, he won the internet with GIFs of his hilarious facial expressions that ranged from exaggerated shock to a “Did that guy just say what I thought he said?” look. (Yes, he probably did.)
Non-Baltimorean standouts from last week’s premiere include Charity Lawson, whose response to Zach’s request for a kid was a sweet “Oh, my goodness, of course” like he’d asked her to pass the sugar at a tea party. Then there’s Christina Mandrell, niece of country legend Barbara Mandrell. I like Christina mostly because I am an old person who actually knows who Barbara Mandrell is, and in my middle-aged Generation X-ness, that makes me feel superior. We also have Greer Blitzer, who got the “first impression” rose, but had to release a long Instagram apology for having defended blackface when she was in high school. Blackface is bad, but leaving your defense of it up on the internet is just dumb.
So far, our girl Genevie hasn’t done much to stand out other than be pretty and not make a fool of herself. But no one has released evidence of her being silly or racist on Instagram — sometimes that’s all you need. Even if she doesn’t get the final rose from Zach, she’s got at least one fan willing to split some tax-deductible sushi with her.