Last night, America watched as the latest Bachelorette
season, widely criticized as being fairly down overall, ended on a high note
, and it was a relief -- not just that the season was over, but that this couple, despite all the hurdles (none more obnoxious than the man now known as Bad News Bentley), actually seems ridiculously happy and very much in love. Especially compared to last season's frigid (and since broken up) pair, Brad Womack and Emily Maynard, Ashley and J.P. are the very picture of newly engaged bliss.
Even the evening's big scandal -- that Ashley's sister did not initially approve of J.P., thinking her sister might be "too much" for him -- is "ancient history," says J.P., who spoke with the media today along with his bride-to-be, in a conference call full of giggles, "babes" and at least one break for a mid-sentence smooch. It's easy to be cynical about the future of Bachelor
couples, but these two couldn't be more confident that they'll be among the few who beat the odds.
"I always knew I was going to propose. Pretty much two or three weeks
prior, I knew it was going to happen," said J.P., who cited his date
with Ashley in Hong Kong as the moment he knew he'd be the last man
standing. Even Ashley's sister's harsh critique couldn't dissuade him from pulling out that 3.5 carat Neil Lane diamond ring and popping the question.
J.P. was so confident in Ashley's feelings that he wasn't nervous during his final speech, even in front of all the cameras. "I was so comfortable. It felt right, it just naturally flowed," said J.P. "When I was just standing there with her next to me, it was as if nobody else was around."
Part of the reason he was so confident may be thanks to what Hebert revealed on Live! with Regis and Kelly
this morning: That she actually told J.P. first that she loved him. (The moment was edited out of the final episode.) "It wasn't as obvious as my 'I'm madly in love with you.' It was something much more subtle than that. But it put my head in the right place," said J.P.
As for when she knew he was "the one," Ashley said that was a complicated question to answer, since she was dating so many men at once, but that "pretty early on, my heart was pulling me in that direction."
And so were her lips. "I have to tell you. I have to say that JP is the best kisser that I've ever kissed," said Ashley. "Even very early on, when I wasn't 100% emotionally attached, when I kissed him I said, "That's the best kiss I ever had." There's this electricity between us." And now, she said, that initial connection has built into a strong foundation: "We've been engaged for two months, but I feel like we've been together for years."
As for their future plans, they're sticking with the time line they revealed in the After the Final Rose special
: Ashley will finish up dental school at Penn, then move to New York City to live with J.P., who is a construction manager. "I have no hesitation about moving in," said Ashley. "I definitely don't have any anxiety about it. I think we're ready for that."
All the Bentley drama feels like old news to Ashley and J.P., who both clearly just want to move on to bigger and better things. "The worst part of it was watching Ashley see it for the first time and being hurt by it, and all the people judging her based on what they saw, and not being able to defend her," said J.P. When asked if he wanted to confront Bentley about calling his fiancee an "ugly duckling" (and worse), J.P. said, "I have nothing to say to the guy. It's over in my book."
Even though Ashley admitted she was initially upset that producers didn't intervene to tell her that one of her contestants was badmouthing her behind her back, she now understands and even appreciates why they didn't. "It's about your own experience and your own journey," she said. "To be honest, I forgave him a long time ago. I'm so far removed from that. I wish him well and I hope he wishes the same for me." And it's easy to see the bright side now: "There's a part of me that thinks that the hard times really brought me and J.P. closer together."
As for his final competition, J.P. claims he hasn't watched any of Ben Flajnik's proposal to Ashley, but understands why the winemaker left with anger: "If Ben felt even a fraction of what I feel, I can understand him being hurt and sad."
They both endorsed Flajnik -- as well as Ryan Park and Ames Brown -- as the next potential Bachelor
. While they've "joked" about a televised wedding, a la past Bachelor
couples Trista & Ryan and Jason & Molly, Ashley said they plan to enjoy being engaged as a real couple before getting back into reality television: "I don't think you'll be seeing us on TV unless you TiVoed those episodes," she joked.
The hardest part for Bachelor
couples often seems to be the transition between show life and normal life, when the exotic trips and adrenaline-laced dates end, and the regular responsibilities return. Ashley is understandably starry-eyed about her new fiance and their love story, saying, "We
have a fairy tale. We really do have a fairy tale." But after all those highs and lows, all the public scrutiny, this Bachelorette
says she knows the difference between reality and reality TV: "It's not perfect, but it's great now. It's great. It's a real
relationship. It's not like we're in La La Land."Watch Ashley and J.P. cute it up with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America today:(Image courtesy of ABC)