Sean Denham '94
Sean Denham '94 is a hot item these days; so hot, in fact, that the ABC television network recruited him not once, but twice, to charm national audiences with his good looks, successful career, and finesse.
Denham's secret? Being single.
In 2003, his swinging single life won him a spot as a finalist for ABC's The Bachelor
. "I was shocked they chose me over tens of thousands of other applicants," says Denham, an accountant in Wall, N.J., who was unknowingly nominated for the show by a friend. As part of the screening process, Denham recounts rigorous background checks, including a 1,500-question psychological survey.
"They asked unusual questions like, 'Do you love your mother more than your father?'" Denham recalls. "But I thought it was a good opportunity, so I went for it."
He made it to the final two, up against millionaire Andrew Firestone, who eventually stole the show and became the third Bachelor
. But as a finalist, Denham still got a moment in the spotlight on the first episode of that season.
"I never thought I was going to be the guy," says Denham coolly. "If you're The Bachelor
, your life changes. It's a fairy-tale experience."
Little did he know, however, that ABC still considered him fairy-tale material. Producers noticed his charismatic appeal and in 2004, they asked Denham to appear on the second season of The Bachelorette
, vying for the affections of Meredith Phillips. He accepted their offer.
"I attribute my outgoing personality partially to Lehigh," Denham says. "There I learned to always conduct myself with poise to positively reflect myself and my career. On the show, I was very conscious not to get labeled as 'that guy' by the producers."
Denham explains that the producers pick out the jerk, or the heartthrob, and portray them that way. He describes The Bachelorette
environment as "competitive and conducive to romance.
"The producers don't want you to do anything all day long except to think and talk about Meredith," Denham says. "You're there for one reason."
During their time away from Meredith, the men stayed in a house where they weren't allowed to read, watch TV, or make phone calls. "But there was always alcohol in the house," says Denham. "Most people don't realize that most of what happens on TV is going on at 4 a.m., after a few drinks."
But that doesn't make the reality TV show any less real, Denham says. "It's real," he assures. "What you say and do is shown. The network might put a spin on it, but if you look like an idiot, they show it, and vice versa."
Denham survived weeks of eliminations and made it to the final seven.
"I was borderline happy not to get a rose," he says candidly. "Meredith was great -- a real guys' girl and always laughing. I think it is possible to fall in love with someone in six weeks, but I didn't feel a real spark. I was just enjoying my experience."
Denham considers interviews, photographs, and autographs flattering, and he notes that one perk of the experience was that his clients and colleagues got to know him better.
"If anything, it had a positive impact on my career," he says. "My friends, clients, and colleagues all watched the show and gave me their input. They were supportive, but didn't take it too seriously."
Denham says one thing that may not be real is the relationships that develop on reality TV shows. "People always want to see a fairy tale unfold, but that doesn't guarantee a successful relationship," he says, noting that most couples matched by the TV shows don't last, like Meredith and Ian McKee, the one who bested Denham and the other contestants on the second Bachelorette
Fortunately, Denham's own year-long relationship out of the spotlight has been more fulfilling. He describes his girlfriend, Kim, as "beautiful, funny, and intelligent," and says that their dates are great, even though they are not as creative as the dates that ABC plans.
Although Denham's dating show days have ended, his reality TV career may not yet be over. "I would do another reality show if the opportunity presented itself, like Survivor
," he says.
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin