Four years has put a lot of distance between Jillian Harris and her starring role on the fifth season of ABC’s The Bachelorette; since then, she has broken up with her fiancé Ed Swiderski (who she met on the show), found love again, returned to reality TV and started her own business.
RadarOnline.com got the chance to catch up with Jillian for an exclusive interview, and find out where life has taken her since she left the show.
Radar: What has life been like since leaving The Bachelorette?
Harris: I sometimes feel like it’s a dream that I ever lived in Chicago. Immediately after The Bachelorette, I went through a really tough time. I felt very deflated and I failed with my relationship with Ed. But I have some incredible friends and family that I leaned on and I went traveling and I got my groove back.
Radar: Tell me about your career since leaving The Bachelorette.
Harris: Before I went on The Bachelor, I did this video to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition about how I wanted to be the next designer and I just never sent it in. And so after The Bachelor aired, apparently Extreme Makeover contacted the folks at ABC and said that they were interested in having me a guest designer, which is crazy. But ABC had already wanted me to be The Bachelorette. So the second I was done The Bachelorette, I got a call from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. It was like a dream come true. I worked for them for three seasons.
Radar: What have you been doing since finishing Extreme Makeover?
Harris: Since then, I did a show in Canada called The Handyman Challenge. And then last June, I was approached by HGTV to do Love It Or List It. The second season starts in the fall. On top of that, I just launched Charlie Ford Vintage, which is our new e-Commerce site. We sell vintage décor. It’s just me and my cousin and our friend Alyssa, [and we did it] with our own money.
Radar: Who do you stay in touch with from The Bachelor and Bachelorette?
Harris: Melissa Rycroft and Molly [Malaney — Jason Mesnick’s wife]. I also stay in touch with Ali Fedotowsky. Her and I are always the ones to shut down the party. And even the ones that were villains on my season, like Wes Hayden, we all have each other’s back, which is really surprising to a lot of people.
Radar: You went through a pretty bad breakup with Ed. What did you learn from that breakup?
Harris: At the time, I felt like he was being so selfish and I felt so betrayed. But looking back, he just did what he wanted to do. And honestly, I believe that that is what you should do in a relationship because if you try to hold yourself back, then you’re just going to end up hurting the person more. So now in hindsight, I’m so happy Ed did what he wanted to do. You can’t force somebody to be in love with you.
Radar: So you realized Ed wasn’t the one for you?
Harris: Ultimately, that made us not a good fit. There was a certain part of Ed that wanted it to work, so he dragged it on. But there’s no hard feelings. I want the best for him.
Radar: Do you stay in touch with him at all?
Harris: No. Justin’s [Jillian’s current boyfriend] argument is: “What’s the point?” Why would I do that to Justin? I don’t need the extra work. There really was no point in staying in touch.
Radar: What is your romantic status right now?
Harris: I’m in a serious relationship with Justin, but we aren’t engaged yet. We definitely have an awesome partnership: We are best friends; we plan things together; and, we do mostly everything together. I feel very lucky. He’s a really good catch.
Radar: Do you have any regrets about going on The Bachelor or Bachelorette?
Harris: No, not one single regret. Even the mistakes I made, I think, have taught me a lot about who I am. And I truly believe that a lot the progression of my career is because I went on the show. Also, the progression of how my heart adapted, allowed me to find somebody like Justin. The Bachelorette was like going to camp and it taught my heart different things and it allowed me to be successful in all these different areas of my life. So I’m very grateful for it.
Radar: Do you have any advice for Desiree Hartsock and Chris Siegfried?
Harris: The best thing you can do is to get out of the media. I don’t think Ed and I were very successful at that and that was a big part of the reason we didn’t last. And it’s so important to keep on reminding yourself that that these people are commenting based on characters, not you.