Ben Higgins Apologizes to Bachelor 'Villain' Olivia Caridi for His 'Lack of Wisdom and Maturity'
Caridi, 27, returned to the franchise for the first time to reflect on the experience on Monday's episode of ABC's retrospective series The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever!, which looked back on Ben Higgins' season in 2016.
Appearing via video chat from her home in Austin, Texas, Caridi recalled how her relationship with Higgins, 31, crashed and burned after a promising start. (She took home the first impression rose but was later eliminated during a two-on-one date, abandoned on a stormy island as Higgins sailed away.)
Caridi, who said Higgins was "everything I thought he was going to be," said her confidence was shaken when she noticed that he was developing connections with other people.
"I think that's when I self-destructed completely," she admitted. "Because I was trying to find a way to make it happen when I probably knew in my head that it wasn't going to happen."
On the show, Caridi clashed with her fellow contestants, who made fun of her toes, "cankles," breath and aggressive pursuit of Higgins. On Monday night, Caridi said the personal attacks destroyed her self-esteem for some time.
"I watched the first episode, and then I tried to watch the second, and I just couldn't do it," she told host Chris Harrison, getting choked up. "I was just mortified and hurt, and all these girls are saying this and that about me, and I realized this is going to be a really hard couple of months, or however long it airs."
"There was so much pain associated with it. I felt terrible that I had hurt people. I never wanted to, but obviously it was clear that I did, and so that hurt," she continued. "And then seeing what people really thought of me and what people were saying, that was really hard. I'm sure a lot of it was deserved, but I did feel like some of it was a little ruthless. And it affected me."
"It was just making fun of my physical attributes that I can't change," she added. "You can not like me because of my behavior, and you can even talk to me and say you don't like it, and I guarantee I'll try to change it. But to just ruthlessly make fun of me and then say nothing to my face, that was never my intention on the show. I never tried to do that to anyone."
As the season aired, Caridi said she became "ashamed of myself and embarrassed."
"I didn't want to be out in public. Then when I was out in public, people were [whispering]," she recalled. "Nothing prepares you for that."
"It was awful," she continued. "But I don't regret it, because the person that I am now is just so resilient and empathetic and compassionate towards all people. It's been four years and I have struggled hard to become the person that I am today, but I am proud ... and I'm not ashamed anymore, because I know that I'm not that person."
After the show, Caridi, a former news anchor, even started a podcast, Mouthing Off, in response to the cracks that were made about her smile. In addition to spending time with her family and friends and going to therapy, Caridi said she found comfort in her conversations with other Bachelor "villains."
"I constantly reach out to the 'villains' from the show," she said. "Because I know what it's like to feel alone, I know what it's like to feel like there's tons of weight on your shoulders and no one cares."
Harrison, 48, apologized and thanked Caridi for opening up about her experience. Then Higgins himself joined the conversation, acknowledging his "lack of wisdom and maturity" and apologizing to Caridi for not "standing up for you publicly while I knew this was hard for you."
"I think the way that I navigated the confrontations and the issues on the show could have been better to help you," he said. "But mostly, I just wanted to speak to you and say I'm sorry, and then also anybody watching this, to say, come on. This girl is a rockstar. She laid her heart on the line for love. She tried her best, and yes, it didn't come off perfectly all the time, but none of us did. And that's the beauty of the show."
"So Olivia, I'm sorry," he continued. "I take responsibility for this, but I also just want to tell everybody how awesome you are."
"Thank you. Nothing is your fault, I was a kook, in many ways," Caridi replied with a laugh. "But I really appreciate you saying that."
The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever! airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.