While you may recognize that famous open-mouthed smile from her time on our favorite TV dating show, Olivia Caridi is on a mission to remind the world that she’s way more than the punchline of your jokes. As a talented journalist and accomplished broadcaster, her time in the spotlight is just getting started.
After beginning her impressive broadcast journalism career as a reporter (and then anchor!) in Bristol, Virginia, Olivia was selected to be a contestant on The Bachelor‘s 20th season. But after her tough time on the show and the subsequent negative media attention that followed, she entered into the darkest period of her life. Olivia opened up with us about that horrible experience, what she learned from it, and how she was able to pull herself back up.
Now beginning an amazing new opportunity as a podcast host with CBS Radio, Olivia has a story to tell and wisdom to share. She chatted with us about her past work experience, her cool new endeavor, what she wishes you knew about The Bachelor, and the ways her greatest disappointments shaped the kickass woman she is today.
Name: Olivia Caridi
Location: New York City
Current Title/Company: Podcast Host, CBS Radio
Education: Texas Christian University, Broadcast Journalism/English
What was your first job, and how did you land it?
My first job was a general assignment reporter at WCYB/WEMT-TV in Bristol, Virginia, the Tri-Cities market. I sent my demo reel and resumé to at least 150 news stations in the country and got a few bites, but about a month before graduation the news director from WCYB called me, asked me a few questions and said he loved my tape, and I was so excited! They offered me a position as a general assignment reporter soon after, so three days after college graduation I packed up my things and drove across the country to move to a place I’ve never even heard of, but it was the most rewarding experience. A month after starting I was made the weekend morning news anchor and then after that promoted to the weekend evening news anchor, weekday reporter, and fill-in weekday anchor as needed. It was a dream first job, honestly.
How did you know you wanted to work in journalism?
It wasn’t something I knew I wanted to do, but when I found it I knew it was the right fit (if that makes any sense). I went to Texas Christian University as a political science major, took my first test about the basic roles of government and completely bombed it — so I figured that major wasn’t the right fit. So I thought about what I like to do, which is read and write, and picked Broadcast Journalism. My first reporting teacher (who is still one of my closest friends) was the toughest and graded my stories with extreme toughness, but I knew at that moment that I wanted to be someone who wrote stories, and then after being on camera, I realized I could naturally express myself in that way. The Broadcast Journalism program is definitely sort of a weed-out program of sorts and you knew right away if it wasn’t the right fit, but when I knew, I knew. Haven’t felt that way about a guy yet (haha), but I certainly felt that about my career choice.
What was your most memorable experience when working as an anchor?
Telling people’s stories is the most memorable job in the world, but there’s one story in particular that sticks with me. I worked with the Johnson City, Tennessee EMS service for a while and got a call one day that changed my career. Years ago, two EMTs were called to a home of a bleeding woman. They took her to the hospital and the doctor told them she had just had a baby, which surprised the EMTs because that wasn’t mentioned at the home. They went back to the woman’s house and found a crying baby wrapped in newspaper in a dresser drawer. Fast forward to a year ago when the service got a call from the man rescued as a child, now 30 years old, wanting to meet and shake the hands of the two EMTs who saved him. So I coordinated a meet-up with the two now-retired EMTs and the man they saved and it was truly the most meaningful moment I’ve ever captured. The man they saved is now a father and is an EMT himself, after the men who saved him years ago. It was beautiful. Those kinds of stories will always stick with me.
As far as moving across the country, it was scary. I didn’t know a soul in Bristol and I had no idea what to expect. But I knew I could do it. Turns out the fellow reporters and anchors I worked with became my best friends and although we worked every single holiday and rough hours and weekends, we still found time to enjoy life: hiking the Appalachian Mountains and exploring nearby states like South Carolina and Tennessee. It was fun and was the best decision of my life to take a risk, move away from home, and figure it out for lack of a better term.
You made a massive life change when you landed a spot as a contestant on The Bachelor. What made you audition and decide to leave your job to pursue the opportunity?
I actually didn’t audition for the show. At the time, I was working long hours and was in love with my job and there was no sign of love in the picture, so my mom and my sister got together and created a little video about me and sent it to the Bachelor castings department on a whim because I’ve always been a hopeless romantic. Castings were already over, but one day I was anchoring and after getting off the desk, I got a call from a casting director and thought it was a joke. They flew me to LA the next day and it was all a whirlwind and a week later we started filming. So most people go through months and months of auditions, but I really was a last minute addition. As far as deciding to leave, it really was my desire for love and the support of my station that influenced me. I was so nervous and didn’t want to leave my job, but after talking with my boss, he said, “I’ll be so mad at you if you don’t take this opportunity.” Plus, because I was a last minute addition, I knew it was Ben and I knew that I was interested in him, so that helped. If I didn’t know who it was, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But gosh it was a whirlwind of a week, I’ll tell you that much.
You’ve been vocal about the fact that The Bachelor was not the experience you had expected or hoped. What is something you wish more people knew about your time on the show?
The Bachelor definitely wasn’t the experience I had hoped it would be. I’d been watching the show my whole life and I had a rosy picture of what the experience would or could be like, and it was the opposite for me. It’s sad because I went into the experience feeling so much excitement and hope and each day of filming that passed made me more depressed and disappointed.
I had no idea how much manipulation goes on, how emotionally and physically taxing the show is, how little time you get with the lead — things like that. I put my trust in the people I shouldn’t have and I thought the producers were my friends and I was so wrong. I just wish people knew that they’re watching a small timeframe of hours of filming and they’re watching a storyline created by a bunch of people who want to make money. I totally believe people can watch the show as entertainment, but it blew me away how much people thought the show was real and live and it especially shocked me the level of hate and aggression that I saw on social media.
After the show, I went through the darkest depression of my life.
After the show, I went through the darkest depression of my life and no one from the franchise cared and it was quite frankly the most publicly humiliating, degrading, and despicable thing I’ve ever been a part of.
With that said, I learned so much about myself. I learned how much of a fighter I am and how strong my backbone and my willpower can be. I learned about my personality type and grew to accept my introversion. I learned that I do have mental health issues and that it’s okay to be open and honest about them and that it can actually benefit others to be outspoken about them. I’m thankful for the platform the show gave me to speak up against bullying (especially on the Internet) and to speak out to all of the people who struggle with anxiety, body image issues, and depression and tell them that they aren’t alone and that it’s okay to be vulnerable about those insecurities and illnesses.
Would you ever do reality TV again?
I love watching reality TV and I would love to do reality TV again. There are tons of shows that aren’t dating-centered that I’d love to do, especially “Worst Cooks in America“ on Food Network or basically any show on Bravo. The lifestyle shows are shows I’d do because there is less manipulation and competition, so it would be a chance to show my personality.
With that said, I’ll definitely have anxiety if I ever do reality television again. I have a feeling I’d hold back, I wouldn’t trust anyone like I would need to in order to make good television, or that I’d have flashbacks of my worst moments from The Bachelor. It would be tough for me and it would take several conversations between family and friends to decide if I’m mentally at a place where I could handle it. I have to admit I’m jaded about reality TV and I’m not sure that will ever go away.
What’s one question you wish people would stop asking you?
Oh my, I have a few. First would be, “Do you miss Ben? Do you still love Ben? Do you talk to Ben?” Um… NO! Second would b,e “Are you as crazy as they made you look on the show?” I mean, how do you even answer that?
Source: Scott Lee Photography
How did your Bachelor experience lead the direction of your subsequent career?
I wouldn’t say The Bachelor helped lead me in a career direction, but it did open a door for me when I first moved to New York and didn’t have a job. My former boss at Distractify was hosting a Facebook Live show for the company right when I first moved to the city, and he reached out and asked me to come on as a guest to talk about my experience. I hadn’t done much press about the show at that time, but I decided to give it a shot. He knows everyone in media, so at first, he just helped me network a bit when I opened up about my difficulty finding a job — and then a few months later he called and offered me a video position at the company. That turned into taking over the live show and making it something really great, a top-16 live show on Facebook with over 200 episodes and some incredible guests. So in that respect, having done The Bachelor did introduce me to my first job in the city.
In general, do you feel like your Bachelor experience helped or hindered when it came to looking for jobs?
I would say the experience really hindered the job hunt at first. I wanted to go back into TV news and I would send my tape to every station in the country essentially and I kept hearing people say, “You’d be a PR nightmare. We couldn’t do that, you didn’t look great on the show. We’d lose viewers.” That was heartbreaking because my career before the show was my world and to know that a horrible experience on a reality show hurt that really broke me. When I first moved to New York City, I even tried for babysitting jobs and parents would Google me and say, “We don’t want you around our kids.” I really couldn’t believe how frustrating it was to be shunned in that way because of The Bachelor.
I really couldn’t believe how frustrating it was to be shunned in that way because of The Bachelor.
Very recently, you made an exciting announcement: You’re the host of your very own new podcast, CBS Radio’s Mouthing Off. How did this come about, and why are you excited about it? Tell us all about it!
I am so excited about my podcast! A few months ago I was at CBS Radio as a guest on my friend Stassi Schroeder’s awesome podcast Straight Up With Stassi, and one of the sales executives came in and said they were looking for a New York podcaster, so I got her number and emailed her right away and put my name in the hat. We went back and forth for weeks on the name and the vibe that we wanted and I knew I wanted to include my mouth in the concept somehow considering it’s an audio-only program. CBS Radio has been so accepting of my idea and so creative in the process, and we finally thought of Mouthing Off!
The studio is decorated with photos of my mouth on The Bachelor and I take an open-mouthed photo with all of my guests for a giant collage. I plan on interviewing reality stars and celebrities and letting them mouth off about their various experiences, stories, and edits. I’ve brought on Shep Rose of Southern Charm, Scheana Marie, James Kennedy and Lala Kent of Vanderpump Rules, former Playboy bunny Kendra Wilkinson, Bachelor stars Chad Johnson and Taylor Mocha, and Jersey Shore’s The Situation. They’re funny, entertaining, and creative episodes and I can’t wait for people to listen. It’s an opportunity that I am so thrilled about.
What skills do you think are important to succeed in journalism and in broadcasting? What lessons are you still learning?
To be a great broadcast journalist, you need excellent communication and speaking skills, great time management skills, you need to be adaptable and willing to make changes or adjust anything on the fly, you need to be goal-oriented and strong under pressure, you need a high level of accuracy and efficiency, and most importantly, you have to be a team player. I’m learning every day to be a better listener, which is so important to proper storytelling and interviewing. I’m also working on my flexibility. I’m such a type-A controlling person and I like things a certain way, so I need to learn that people won’t always be on time, that an interview won’t always be perfect, and that the composition of my video footage won’t always be exactly what I want. That’s a great lesson to learn for anyone in broadcasting.
What in your life are you most proud of? What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
I think I’m most proud of surviving reality television, seriously. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed and I thought about suicide and thought that not being in this world would be easier than waking up and looking at the hate on Twitter. But my greatest accomplishment was the decision to go to counseling and get the help I needed. It sounds cheesy and most would probably think my first job or my podcast would be my greatest accomplishment, but I wouldn’t have anything had I not made the choice to live a healthy life again and get the help I needed to feel like myself again.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself and your career in five years?
I just want to grow my podcast into something major. I’ve always admired people like Ryan Seacrest and Jenny McCarthy who have major podcasts and also work extensively in hosting. I love audio-only programming, but I wouldn’t mind hosting special events or red carpets with CBS one day and getting back on camera. The next five years are all about career for me. I feel like if I put my career first, then love will come.
What do you wish you could say to all the people who still think of you as just a “reality show villain”?
I’d tell them to get a life, haha! No, I just want people to open their minds and see a different side to reality TV and villains in general. I, unfortunately, got cast as that character and it wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m much more than that. All of us who put ourselves out there on TV, whether the villains or the nice guys, are so much more than their persona and I wish people would enjoy the short roles as what they are and then move on.
When people hear the name Olivia Caridi, what do you hope comes to mind?
I hope my big mouth comes to mind! Ha! I just want to be remembered as a go-getter, someone who got a cruddy hand of cards and didn’t let it stop her. I want to be the name that inspires people to get after their careers and not let anything stand in the way.
What advice would you give your 23-year-old self?
Relax and breathe! Let life happen the way it will; you can’t control everything around you. Stop being such a planner and expecting things to happen and instead just breathe through life and enjoy every moment.
Source: Scott Lee Photography
Olivia Caridi is The Everygirl…
Favorite book you’ve ever read?
All The Light We Cannot See by John Doerr
Craziest thing you’ve seen on the NYC subway?
A drunk Santa whip out his you-know-what and pee right on the subway.
Last show you binged?
This Is Us
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and why?
Cameron Diaz – For the past 10 years I’ve heard from just about everyone that I look “just like Cameron Diaz” so I’d love to sit down in front of her and see if there is some resemblance! I also just love who she is as a person, I have The Body Book sitting at my desk as body love and health inspiration and I’d love to pick her brain about her charity work and interest in environmental education. She’s beautiful, smart, giving, and could teach me a lot about loving who I am.