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Suzie Heringer has watched “The Bachelor” before and knows some of the content in the reality TV show could make a mom, or any parent, blush.
Her youngest daughter was cast among 40-plus women who will compete for a rose and Matt James’ heart in the 25th season of the dating show.
“She’s always made us proud, and she’s got a really good head on her shoulders, so I’m not worried about anything,” her mom said. “Hopefully, she’ll have fun.”
Abigail Heringer, a 2013 graduate of South Salem High School, traveled earlier this month to a resort in Pennsylvania, where filming is underway.
Mom’s last bit of advice before she left: “I jokingly told her to remember her grandparents will be watching. I know that will stick with her.”
Producers collect cellphones from the participants, so Abigail has had no contact with her family. And she won’t — until she’s eliminated, or Matt gives her the final rose.
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America will meet Abigail when the show premiers sometime in 2021, but she’s familiar to many in Salem. She grew up here and was an accomplished junior golfer. She graduated from South Salem’s International Baccalaureate program with nearly a perfect grade-point average.
She earned a degree in finance at Linfield College and today is 25, single and lives in Portland, where she’s a financial analyst for a marketing and event company.
Her parents still live in Salem, where her dad Weston Heringer III is a pediatric dentist. She has an older sister Rachel, who’s her roommate and an account manager for an insurance company in Portland. She also has two younger brothers, Alistair, a freshman at Oregon State University, and Stuart, a high school senior who attends Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Minnesota.
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Screening process is invasive
Abigail told her parents over the summer that she applied on a whim to be on “The Bachelor.” It seemed a bit out of character, especially knowing what she included in her application.
“I was surprised she was willing to share her story about her hearing loss,” Suzie said. “It’s something she usually doesn’t talk much about.”
Both daughters were born with congenital hearing loss. Their success with cochlear implants was featured in the Statesman Journal in 2013. When Rachel was 2, she was the youngest patient to undergo cochlear implantation surgery at Oregon Health & Science University. Abigail also got her implant when she was 2, the earliest age possible at the time per FDA guidelines.
In a season in which diversity is on the minds of the show’s producers — Matt is the first Black male lead of “The Bachelor” — Suzie wonders if that improved her daughter’s selection chances.
“With her disability, if that can impact one other person, it’s worth sharing the story,” her mom said.
Abigail Heringer, a 2013 graduate of South Salem High School, has been cast for the 25th season of “The Bachelor.” (Photo: Courtesy of Eric John)
The timing to do this was right for Abigail. She was furloughed from her job, allowing her the time necessary to complete the rigorous and invasive screening process.
She had to undergo a background check, a psychological exam and medical testing and was chosen from among more than 6,500 applicants, reportedly a record for the show.
Abigail’s family was supportive through it all, agreeing it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience she couldn’t pass up. She’s believed to be the only woman from Salem to appear on the show, but not the first from Oregon.
About a dozen women have come before her, including Lauren Bushnell, a West Linn native and former flight attendant who received the coveted final rose in season 20.
An online campaign, and former cast members, ask ABC to cast a black lead for the next season of “The Bachelor.”
Filming follows quarantine
Contestants don’t get paid, but they are expected to dress the part.
Producers sent Abigail a recommended packing list, and she was allowed two large suitcases and one small one. Past contestants have reportedly spent thousands of dollars on wardrobes, which include rose ceremony dresses, date outfits and swimsuits.
Not Abigail, whom her mom described as frugal.
“My guess is her wardrobe will be the least expensive there,” Suzie said.
The dating series features a single bachelor who must choose a bride from a pool of contestants. The elimination-style format has him interacting with the women during each episode and presenting a rose to those he wishes to remain on the show. Those who do not receive a rose are eliminated, until there’s only one left.
“To be honest,” Abigail’s mom said, “I don’t think this is a great way to meet your forever person.”
The Heringer family of Salem. Front, left to right: Rachel, mom Suzie and dad Weston, and Abigail. Back, left to right, Stuart and Alistair. (Photo: Courtesy of Eric John)
Only a handful of couples in 39 combined seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are reportedly still together.
During a pandemic, though, perhaps there’s an added benefit to being on the show.
“Actually, in the age of COVID, it’s a safe way to date,” Abigail’s mom said.
Production is taking place in a social bubble. Abigail and the rest of the cast quarantined for seven days before filming could start and underwent several COVID-19 tests.
When Abigail does returns, she won’t be able to talk about her experience until after the show airs. She signed a confidentiality agreement.
Capi Lynn is a 32-year veteran reporter and columnist at the Statesman Journal. She can be reached at 503-399-6710 or [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @CapiLynn and Facebook @CapiLynnSJ. Subscribe and support her work.
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