When LaNease Adams signed up for the very first season of ABC's The Bachelor, the bright-eyed budding actress had no idea that one kiss would change the course of her life’s path and ultimately lead her on a journey to self-discovery.
Recently detailing her battle with depression and substance abuse in an open letter to Women's Health Magazine, LaNease recalled the racist backlash she experienced after appearing on the dating reality show, which aired in 2002.
Most notably in the post, LaNease recounted the traumatizing moment when she found a highly-publicized photo of her kissing then-bachelor Alex Michel on a white supremacist website, along with disparaging comments about interracial romance.
To make matters worse, the California-born beauty also received criticism from the Black community about dating a white guy.
Eager to learn more about the former Bachelor star— including her thoughts on interracial dating in today’s climate, her secrets to successfully bouncing back from what she considered “major anxiety,” and how she overcame feelings of “rejection” after Alex chose someone else—we chatted with LaNease exclusively via phone.
“When I first signed up to do the show, I did not think that I would fall for this guy. I was kinda just doing it for the experience, but I had an open mind,” LaNease shared with BET Digital. After getting to know the eligible bachelor and landing the first kiss on the show, things changed. “Once we kissed I started to have feelings for him that I didn’t really expect I would. I was surprised.”
Making TV history by scoring the first kiss on "The Bachelor,” which is now in its 24th season, LaNease had no idea the level of the notoriety and online bullying she would receive for simply expressing affection with the man she was dating. That experience would lead to some serious life lessons.
“I was 23 and I always put my self-value in the hands of other people. I always looked for approval. I always put other people before myself, but once I went through the depression, due to the backlash that I got from some people in society, I learned that what’s important is that you feel good about yourself and you don’t put other people’s feelings ahead of your own,” she shared. “You have to take care of yourself first. That is what I think is the biggest lesson.”
Despite the backlash, she has no regrets.
“I do not regret [the kiss]. It is unfortunate that after the kiss, I found my photo on white supremacist websites and I had to deal with a lot of stress after that, but that is actually not my problem. It is the issue of the people who are doing that,” she expressed.
Thankfully today, more people are open to the idea of interracial couples on national TV. “I think that TV is a great way for people to sort of learn about interracial dating. I think we all have more in common than we are different,” she shared. “Hopefully people are ready to see that because it’s a part of life. Not everybody necessarily just wants to date someone that looks like them. Some people want to date outside of their race and no one should be angry about it.”
When we asked if she believes the show caused her mental stress, she quickly responded, “Oh, absolutely. Before I did the show, I was acting. I had a lot kinda going on in my life, but once I did that show and it started to air, all of a sudden I had a lot more issues that I just never expected.”
After battling depression and substance abuse, LaNease began her journey of self-discovery and ultimately learned that her childhood may have played a major role in internalizing the negative words spewed by others.
“I started to do self-reflection,” she revealed. “I realized my father died when I was just one and I had a really tough upbringing. I just didn’t really love myself, so I had to figure that all out. [....] I needed to have some coping mechanisms for stress, so I started to read a lot of books. I had a therapist and I just did the work.”
With so many people flocking to reality TV to gain fame, we had to know from the Bachelor Alum, whether or not she believes someone can truly find love on a dating show. “Yeah, I do think someone can find love on a dating show,” LaNease responded without hesitation. “I did like Alex Michel and I did think that there was a connection. Unfortunately, he had a stronger connection with someone else.”
For those suffering from depression and looking for self-care advice, LeNease offers these gems to get you started on your journey of self-discovery: go for walks in nature, read books, and start journaling.
“I found it really helpful to do some journaling,” she shared. “Just start writing out your feelings. Write out: what’s hurting you, where you see yourself, where you want to go, and how you might want to get there. When I look back I have journals from way back then where I just started making to-do lists and writing out what I wanted to do. I look back and all those things have been done. So I feel like writing out your thoughts is super important.”
Amongst her other self-care suggestions include treating yourself to a morning ritual that includes aromatherapy and essential oils, which inspired her soap line, Fountain of Youth.
“My soap line is all-organic and has aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is very helpful for the mind,” she shared about her soap collection that features essential oils like Lavender and Lemongrass to promote calmness. “I think a lot of people in the world are suffering from anxiety because we have so much going on. For me it was important to create something you can start your day with that helps to make your day a little better. I think that essential oils and aromatherapy and having minerals in your shower is a wonderful way to approach the day.”
Avoiding the show for ten years, LaNease says she can now watch it and enjoy it like others. Not only has she returned to acting, but also made her debut as a filmmaker with the release of her short film, Heaven's Revenge.
“I am super happy that that is part of the past,” she said. “Now I feel like it’s a blessing to be able to share with people who may also be going through this.”
Your mental health is important. If you are looking for helpful information about mental health, including links to professional services and support groups, visit our resource list.
* This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
(Photo: Bob D'Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)
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