There are fairy tale endings like you see in the movies, where the girl gets the guy and trots off into the sunset with a smile on her face. Then, there’re the endings on “The Bachelor,” the ABC television show now in its 16th season, where the girl ends up getting embarrassed in front of millions of people.
Judged! A beauty queen, law student, and contestant on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” Charlottesville native Erika Uhlig has a lot going on, which may explain why she fainted on the air after being eliminated from the show during an episode that aired last week.
Over the past few weeks, the two-hour show has included Charlottesville’s own Erika Uhlig, a talented young woman who is as intelligent as she is beautiful. Uhlig’s resume runs longer than a child’s Christmas wish list. Born at Martha Jefferson Hospital, Uhlig attended Broadus Wood Elementary before matriculating through Jack Jouett Middle and Albemarle High School. She later graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and enrolled at the University of Illinois College of Law, where she studies today. This past summer, Uhlig interned at the public defender’s office in Charlottesville.
“Ultimately, Erika wants to be a lawyer,” Pat Uhlig, her mother, said. “Her father gave her some advice before she went on the show, ‘Don’t cry on “The Bachelor.” You can’t really find love on TV, and remember: You want to be a lawyer one day.’”
For those of you who don’t know much about it—frankly, I had never watched “The Bachelor” until I heard a fellow Charlottesvillian was on the show—the series revolves around one single, eligible bachelor and 25 single, eligible women who do their best to “woo the beau.” The show is more cattle auction than debutante party, as pretty women are paraded and cajoled before a man who stands amidst the herd, ostensibly with all the power in his hands.
As of Monday, January 16, the current season is three episodes deep. By the second episode, some of the women were literally expressing their life-long love for the bachelor, an aw-shucks, 28-year-old winemaker and “self-proclaimed” Renaissance man named Ben Flajnik. By the third episode, a few had even detailed their visions of family, future, and motherhood. Yes, by the third episode!
Now, let’s get back to our hometown girl.
Uhlig, who was unable to speak with this reporter because of contractual obligations with ABC, went through the rigorous interview process and pursued a spot on “The Bachelor” because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, her mother explained.
“How many people can say they skied down San Francisco?” said Pat Uhlig in reference to the third episode when ABC closed a street in San Francisco and pumped artificial snow so the contestants could ski downhill. “[ABC] treated Erika like a queen. She was put up in penthouses and flown to a lot of places. Really, it was a great experience for her.”
Uhlig first applied for a spot on “The Bachelor” in May of 2011.
“It was a really long process,” Pat Uhlig explained. “The producers asked for photos of Erika and later a video of Erika. Then, she went to Chicago for a casting call so the producers could meet her in person. She had to take tests, answer questionnaires and fly to Los Angeles during the summer.
In the season’s third episode, Uhlig’s network television debut came to a screeching halt, when she was not granted the red rose that symbolizes a pass to the next round. Moments before realizing her fate, perhaps due to the palpable stress in the air, Uhlig passed out, literally fainting on stage as millions of people watched in shock and dismay. A swarm of fellow contestants offered her assistance while others stood around looking dazed and confused.
“I knew it was going to happen and I definitely could see that she didn’t have the color in her face,” Pat Uhlig recounted. “I could see it coming.”
While the culmination was likely not what she envisioned when she embarked on the journey, Uhlig nevertheless left “The Bachelor” with her surname in sparkling shape. In short, she represented her family and her hometown in fantastic fashion. We did not have to shudder in horror as she chugged alcohol; she remained chaste through a series where more spit was swapped than in a trip to the dentist; and she kept it clean as her compatriots tossed around the f-bomb like it was going out of style.
“Erika stayed above the drama,” Pat Uhlig said. “She knew she had to portray herself in a very ladylike manner.”
While pursuing higher education in the Windy City, Uhlig tapped into her experience as a contestant in child pageants and chose to jump headfirst into the über competitive landscape of the Miss Chicago Pageant. She won the pageant and gracefully represented the Chicagoland area as the 2011 Miss Chicago (in the same pipeline used to select Miss America).
Smart, confident, and composed, Uhlig embodies the characteristics most mothers would like to pass to their daughters. Unfortunately, The Bachelor did not see it this way.
“We can raise our children the way we want them to go, but it doesn’t always work out that way,” Pat Uhlig said. “Fortunately, I have been blessed to have three daughters that followed the path we set in place. Erika knows it’s important to leave your footprint in a positive way.”