The 29-year-old reality star, who came out as gay on April 14, now admits that had sexual experiences with men prior to joining The Bachelor franchise in 2018 and then picking Cassie Randolph in 2019. Underwood, who was touted by the show as “the Virgin Bachelor,” said he worried one of the men he hooked up would sell him out to a tabloid. He also said that prior to coming out, someone attempted to blackmail him after he visited a gay spa.
“I’ll say this: I was ‘the Virgin Bachelor,’ but I did experiment with men prior to being on The Bachelorette," he admits in Variety's new cover story.
Underwood — who said he used Grinder, a well-known gay dating and hookup app, under an alias in 2016 or 2017 — clarified, “When I say ‘hookups,’ not sex. I want to make that very clear that I did not have sex with a man, prior to that.”
And, yes, when he was romancing Randolph and the other ladies on-screen, he was nervous that one of the men he had hooked up with prior to the show would out him in a tabloid.
“I remember feeling so guilty, like ‘What the hell am I doing?’” the former football player said of his sexual encounters with men, previously noting that growing up Catholic in the Midwest made him believe being gay was a sin. “It was my first time letting myself even go there, so much so that I was like, ‘I need The Bachelorette in my life, so I could be straight.'"
Underwood was actually almost outed in 2020. While it's unclear the exact timeline, pre- or post-Randolph split, he secretly visited a gay spa in Los Angeles last year “just to look." After, an anonymous person attempted to "blackmail" him, claiming to have nude photos of him at the venue, and threatening to “out” him in the press. He said this happened when he was already at "my rock bottom and spiral," presumably after his April 2020 split from Randolph, which was followed by Randolph obtaining a restraining order against him amid stalking allegations in Sept. 2020. During that time dark time, Underwood also survived a suicide attempt as he struggled to come to terms with his sexuality.
Underwood said the blackmail actually led to a positive. He forwarded the email to his publicist, Alex Spieller, and that forced to have an honest conversation about his sexuality. That's when things started to get better.
The reality star did speak about Randolph and the troubling allegations, including that he put a tracking device on her car and harassed her family. She dropped the restraining order in November after they made a private agreement.
“I did not physically touch or physically abuse Cassie in any way, shape or form,” said Underwood, who said he could only generally address the situation due to their agreement.
He admitted Randolph dumping him left him in “a dark place” because he realized it would be his last straight relationship. He described himself as being "a miserable person living as a shell of a human being" at that time — and "always looking for somebody to blame." His behavior toward her and her family "is not who I am as a human being, and it’s not how I carry myself. If there was anything I could do to take more ownership, I would. But also, out of respect to her, I don’t want to get into the details."
Underwood added, "I want this interview to be the last time I address her, because it’s not fair for her to have her name in articles every time I talk. I’m sorry, and I want her to know that I hope she has the best, most beautiful life.” (Randolph didn't comment for the interview, saying recently in her YouTube vlog that she wants to just "move forward.")
Underwood spoke about his upcoming Netflix reality show, which is proceeding despite Change.org's petition saying he shouldn't have a platform amid the stalking allegations. He revealed that he and Randolph actually started filming a reality show last summer, post split, about their new relationship as friendly exes living in L.A., but that friendship was obviously short-lived amid the allegations. After that and after the blackmail incident led him to come out to his inner circle, it was suggested that he shift the focus to a show about his journey coming out — and that was what was ultimately sold to Netflix.
As for the show going forward amid the petition, which has more than 35,000 signatures, Netflix's VP of unscripted and documentary series Brandon Riegg told the outlet, “Colton has been public about his past and the bad choices he’s made and this will be part of the show, too. While there is tension with providing a platform, we think his complicated story, which includes him taking accountability, is one others can learn from, and we trust Colton and the producers to address it in a thoughtful way.”
Underwood, who said he knew he was different at age 6 and gay during his freshman year in high school, also spoke about how his conservative upbringing scared him into his closeted life. He said he had no gay friends growing up in Illinois, and certainly no out ones on his football team. He recalled there being just out gay person in his town was "the butt of every joke.”
So he hid his truth. When his father confronted him after discovering that he viewed gay porn on the computer as an eighth grader, he denied being gay. Later, when 2005's Brokeback Mountain came out, he sneakily used a friend's Blockbuster card to rent the film so his family wouldn't accuse him of being gay. He recalled Ricky Martin privately being inspiration to him after the singer came out in 2010 — when Underwood was 18.
“Growing up in sports, I was taught that gay is wrong and gay is bad and football players are not gay,” Underwood said. “By the time I realized that I was gay, I didn’t want to be gay. It was easy for me to hide in plain sight behind a football mask and hunting and fishing and the things that this world tells us is ‘masculine’ and ‘manly,'" he said, adding, "I would have done anything to see a gay football player."
Underwood said in the interview that he's currently single — and, no, he's no longer on Grindr. As for whether he'd appear on The Bachelor again if the centered on a same-sex pair, he said, “I don’t like speaking in definitives, but I’m not in a position to be in a show like that. I’m at a crossroads in my life right now,” adding that he often thinks about a retreating from the public eye completely, noting he recently bought his first home — in Colorado.
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