JJ O’Brien ’05 was among the many Ephs religiously watching the popular reality TV show The Bachelor last winter. But unlike those of us on campus, for whom the show was a much-anticipated group activity on those long Winter Study nights, O’Brien was getting to know the woman he would later be dating on national television.
O’Brien made it through six weeks of the summertime spin-off The Bachelorette before being denied a rose by “Bachelorette” Andi Dorfman, but thanks to some hip pants and the job title of “pantsapreneur,” the Williams alum stood out from the get-go. O’Brien is the creator of hem/\haus, a funky apparel line, but didn’t go by “pantsapreneur” until filling out paperwork for the show. “My friends and I were joking about funny titles to put down and one of them came up with that, and I put it in, like, one line of the application – they ask you for your occupation like a million times – and I put that in one place and ABC really liked it so they went with it,” O’Brien said. “I had no say in it.”
In addition to sporting his own line of clothing, the Eph also wore some College gear on the show. “My first night limo exit, the bow tie I’m wearing has the Williams cow prints on it,” O’Brien said, referring to the first time he met Dorfman. “And I had some purple and yellow boat shoes I was rocking as well,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien was also quite well known while attending the College – he was featured as One in 2000 in the Record his junior year. Maybe Dorfman wouldn’t have considered him as a suitor had she read the interview. “Any girl that has danced with me out at night has received a concussion or two,” O’Brien told the Record in 2004. “I have a tendency to pick people up when I’m dancing with them and fling them around.”
Either way, O’Brien believes it was for the best that he was sent home from The Bachelorette. “We had a connection in that experience for sure. But I know that we wouldn’t have worked outside – we live two very different lives and have very different interests.” O’Brien explained that because of contestants’ isolation from the outside world while on the show, they always really look forward to their dates.
“You have zero access to the outside world, you’re locked basically into this house, and you can’t leave the hotels when you’re traveling,” O’Brien said. “And so the highlight of your week is always going on these dates, and so you end up having these strong feelings for [Dorfman]. For a month, all you do is you go on a date and [then] sit around and talk about it. Everybody gets a little competitive at times, and so I think all of those [aspects of the show] factor into the feelings that you develop for her, whatever else you feel. They’re probably the best dates you’ve ever gone on your entire life, and so of course you’re going to apply some of that affinity towards the experience towards her, and whether or not that kind of carries on afterwards is kind of up for debate.”
Whether they found out through the Alumni Magazine or by watching The Bachelorette itself, the news of O’Brien’s stint on TV came as no surprise to the friends O’Brien made as an undergraduate.
“I’m constantly living life a little bit to the extreme, and so the fact that this happened, people are kind of like, ‘Of course that happened to you,’” O’Brien said. “I lived in Boston for two years and then I picked up and moved to Sydney. I was there for a year, then I picked up and moved to London, then came to business school here in Stanford and then started this kind of funky apparel line and it’s kind of like, ‘Okay, what is JJ up to now?’”
The Bachelorette contestant was up to a lot while he attended at the College, including playing football and throwing on the track team, tutoring at the math and science resource center and serving on the committee for undergraduate life. “I was on the committee for when they were debating on doing the cluster [neighborhood] system, which now they’ve reversed, which I think is hysterical. I was pretty opposed to it at the time.”
Though he didn’t sew his own pants then, O’Brien was fashionable as a student. “I wore really preppy, cool pants. I had a lot of whale pants and things like that that I would always rock at school.”
O’Brien is not currently seeing anyone exclusively, though he is dating around and has “embers in the fire,” he said. The alum has attended “a lot of Eph weddings,” but apart from a girl he dated as a first-year, O’Brien says he hasn’t “really dipped in to the Williams dating scene that aggressively,” though perhaps many Eph fans hope things will change at his 10-year reunion this June, which he plans on attending.
While O’Brien has no intention of becoming the latest “Bachelor,” the College Bachelor fandom still has plenty to look forward to: O’Brien has some Williams-themed pants in the works in preparation for his reunion.
“I have two different kinds that I’ve designed right now. I just need somebody to go sew them on campus,” O’Brien said. “So if anyone wants to sew some pants for me, then I’m happy to connect.”