“How would you like to be on ‘The Bachelorette’?”
Cory Higgins was a 23-year-old bartender and aspiring entrepreneur when scouts for the ABC reality show approached him in 2003. But Higgins wasn’t necessarily interested in finding love. With the opportunity to fly to Los Angeles and appear on TV, Higgins jumped at the chance to join Season 2 of the show to promote his growing new business — Jetty, an East Coast-based surf and skate apparel brand.
“We just had started Jetty, so I was traveling,” co-founder Cory Higgins tells International Business Times at Jetty’s flagship store in Manahawkin, New Jersey. “I backpacked Europe. I backpacked Australia. My mindset was definitely not looking for a wife. It was more like having an opportunity to go on TV.”
Higgins’ views aren’t that different from other contestants before (and after) him. While the show, which first premiered in 2003, has resulted in some successful relationships, every year multiple contestants are accused of joining the series for the “wrong reasons.” Most recently, Season 12 front-runner Jordan Rodgers was accused of pursuing JoJo Fletcher for fame. But according to Higgins, producers may be partly to blame.
While casting calls for the series do exist, Higgins was approached while he was bartending on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. He simply filled out a form, had his picture taken, and was flown to Los Angeles for testing shortly after that. After passing a psychological test and STD test, among other things, Higgins received a phone call about a month later telling him he had made the final cut.
“I brought [Jetty] stickers out there and I was slapping them around the house,” he reminisces. “I was for sure thinking that if I can last a few episodes and make it a little bit then I can hopefully get some promotion and marketing for my company.”
While Jetty was front and center on his mind, he was open to the idea of meeting the bachelorette. However, he wasn’t too invested.
“I was bartending, so I couldn’t afford a cross-country relationship anyway,” Higgins laughs. “If the chick was cool, that’s great. But I definitely wasn’t looking for that. I was looking to be on TV.”
“The Bachelor” is a huge franchise, but not everyone becomes huge stars. Each season has breakout contestants who viewers fall in love with and follow. That wasn’t the case for Higgins. While he certainly had the looks to be on the reality show, he didn’t click with Meredith Phillips, the lead in Season 2. Higgins was cut during the first rose ceremony, but it was something he saw coming. Producers showed him an introduction video of Meredith the night before filming.
“You know immediately,” Higgins says of not being attracted to the Phillips. “She was 31, I was 23. I’m not looking for someone [who is] 31 years old at 23 years old.”
According to Higgins, producers told him he was actually cast for a “25-year-old blond cheerleader from San Diego” but that they recast the star of “The Bachelorette” at the last minute. A wife of one of the executive producers reportedly really liked Meredith from Bob Guiney’s season of “The Bachelor.”
“None of us were cast for Meredith,” Higgins says.
ABC and Warner Horizon, the studio behind “The Bachelorette,” had no comment for International Business Times.
What happened next is something that Higgins will remember forever. He went down to the hotel’s gym with a warning from his handler not to talk to anyone. After about a handful of single men walked through the door, someone finally asked if they were all there for the show.
“There were like 10 of us just sitting on the machines and talking, ‘Can you believe it’s this girl?’ ” Higgins says. “I feel bad saying this but it is what it is. We were all in our early to mid-20s and were cast for somebody else. That lined up. That fit the bill that we were cast for somebody else. So, we were like, ‘f--- it. I don’t care at this point.’ ”
That night the group of guys sneaked out of their hotel.
“I’ll never forget that,” Higgins laughs. “We met up at BB King’s Blues Club and raged the night before filming ... the next morning the producers [came to get me] and were like, ‘We know what you guys did last night, we’re not happy about it.’ ”
“They want to capture you all meeting each other for the first time and the tension and drama,” Higgins adds. “ ‘Oh, I don’t like that guy.’ But we all had this awesome night the night before so we were already friends. By the time filming happened we already had inside jokes.”
Higgins’ plan to promote Jetty on “The Bachelorette” didn’t exactly pan out, but things ended up working out for the now 37-year-old chief marketing officer.
“We started with $1,000 in a hat,” he says of how the business began. “Five of us each threw $200 in a hat and started with three T-shirts. By year two we maybe had 10 T-shirts and five stores that carried us.”
The brand can now be found in over 130 stores in the U.S., and currently has two lines that come out every year with approximately 150 pieces in each. Their products range from boardshorts and beanies, to custom woven shirts and flannels. They’re also big in the Jersey Shore area, and set up different fundraisers to give back to the community. Last month Jetty hosted the third annual Hop Sauce Festival on Long Beach Island, which raised $25,000 for the Jetty Rock Foundation. On July 31 Jetty is also hosting the eighth annual Coquina Jam, a female surf event on Long Beach Island that raises money for local cancer patients in need.
And, in case you were wondering, Cory Higgins is still single. You can follow him on Instagram HERE.
“The Bachelorette” airs on ABC Monday at 8 p.m. EDT.