In what might’ve been the first of many “most dramatic finales ever,” Brad Womack rejected both of his final two women, DeAnna Pappas Stagliano and Jenni Croft, in his 2007 Bachelor season. Even 13 years later, DeAnna is just as confused as viewers. “There were things that happened off camera just between Brad and I that viewers did not see that weren’t filmed. I never could get a clear answer out of him, and I still don’t know why he made that decision,” says the Georgia native, who kept in touch with Brad “for a long time” but hasn’t spoken to him in years.
Despite the very public heartbreak, DeAnna says she’s now “super thankful” that Brad didn’t slip a Neil Lane diamond on her finger that day. She went on to become the Bachelorette in 2008, where she got engaged to pro snowboarder Jesse Csincsak. And though the pair broke off their engagement later that year, DeAnna got to travel the world and live out her dreams through various TV hosting gigs. One highlight: interviewing Matthew McConaughey at the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past‘s LA premiere in 2009. “He was like, ‘I’ve never even heard of The Bachelor, but you dated 25 guys at once? You’re awesome,'” she recalls.
After The Bachelorette, the former realtor says she had “about 72,000 voicemails” on her work line from people who just wanted to talk to or hang out with her. She even remembers showing a house to a guy who later wrote her a letter confessing that he thought they were destined to be together. Eventually, DeAnna moved to California and took a job as a corporate flight attendant, which she’s still doing nine years later.
During that time, DeAnna met Stephen Stagliano, whose twin brother Michael competed on Jillian Harris’ season of The Bachelorette. The pair got engaged in 2010 and married the following October in Georgia. DeAnna and Stephen welcomed their daughter, Addison, in February 2014, and their son, Austin, in March 2016. It’s DeAnna’s kids who inspired her latest professional venture: her Moms in Cars web series.
“I started to realize all the weird things I would do in my car just to get a break, like eating candy bars or sneaking ice cream or binge-watching Netflix in my car,” she says. “So that parlayed into having some of my friends in the backseat and taking about parenthood and their career and life in general. Most of the time it’s just me poking fun at myself.”
Though Bachelor Nation has been in her rear-view mirror for some time now, DeAnna still has a group text with all 15 past Bachelorettes, who she calls her “girl gang.” She says they’re all each other’s biggest cheerleaders and have supported everything from Kaitlyn Bristowe’s run on Dancing with the Stars to Rachel Lindsay’s advocacy for Black Lives Matter. They even recently added new Bachelorette Clare Crowley.
“There [are] only 16 of us that will totally understand what each other went through and what they’re going through when it’s airing and post-show and everything,” DeAnna says. “It’s a mess of emotions: ups and downs and good and bad. I feel really lucky to have these girls in my life.”