Reality TV Star Tenley Molzahn
Reality TV Experience Helps Her Get Through Rough Times
She would never encourage anyone to be on The Bachelor, but for season 14 contestant Tenley Molzahn, the reality television show provided healing from the heartache of her then-recent divorce and a unique avenue for her to deepen her dependence on the Lord. From her early days of dancing for Disney, to living her love life on-screen in the public eye, to her most recent creation of the Sweet and Free Life, Molzahn opens up to Risen in hopes of sharing her strength and to reminding others of the Greatest Love.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: You have had a variety of experiences, and a lot of people know you from The Bachelor and The Bachelor Pad shows. But before we ask about your reality TV experiences, can you give us a glimpse into what your childhood was like?
Tenley Molzahn: My childhood was really fun and active. I grew up in Oregon in a small town southwest of Portland by wine country, which is beautiful. It rains a lot so when I moved to California later in life I was ready. I had amazing parents who raised my sister, Karley, and me. They just celebrated 30 years of marriage last August. Growing up, I was always very ambitious, adventurous, and independent – just excited about living life and creating dreams. I did a lot of dream chasing, even when I was three years old I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast and my parents did what they could to get me on that path. So I was a gymnast for years and “retired” from that when I was 12, and that’s when I found, and fell in love with dance. It’s funny in my childhood I kind of took everything seriously and wasn’t given into hobbies, but more so “careers.” Dance was a big thing to me and I traveled a lot on my own. When I was 11 years old I was part of a select group of middle schoolers to go to Japan for a couple weeks and stay with a host family in a really small town. It was a program that gave you the opportunity to experience another culture and merge with other students from a different country, which was great. Now that I think about it, someday being a mom, I can’t even imagine letting my child do that! So growing up, my parents gave me a lot of support, loved me and encouraged me to follow my heart and my dreams – so I did that!
Risen Magazine: Did you grow up as a Christian, and what role did faith play in your upbringing?
Tenley Molzahn: I was probably three years old when I asked Jesus to be a part of my life. It was just something that I knew to ask for from Sunday School. My parents talked about it saying I wanted to kneel beside my bed and pray a prayer, but as I grew older my faith has been shaped in a way of true understanding. I went through different stages of what it really meant to me. I grew up going to a church where my family has been always involved.
Risen Magazine: It sounds like you were with Disney for quite a few years, how old were you when you first started working with them? Was this your first time being in the public eye?
Tenley Molzahn: I’ve always been doing musical theater and I started teaching dance in a studio in Oregon when I was 15. I was very involved with the community so I always felt in a very small sense, that I’ve had people looking up to me, making me want to live above reproach and as a good example. So in a way, I was in the public eye at a young age, which I think helped me with accountability when I was going through those growing years. When I was 18 and done with high school I moved down to southern California to pursue my dance career and one of my dreams within that was to dance for Disney, so I got a job there. The audition consisted of about 700 girls that wrapped around the building. They were only hiring a few dancers that day and I was one of them! I started there when I was 18 and finished with that when I was 25 years old. I…had to say goodbye to Disney to do The Bachelor because they were with the same company. At that time I was only doing Disney on the side, but to be on The Bachelor I had to be completely separate from it.
Risen Magazine: How do you deal with loneliness now, and then, or have you always been strongly independent?
Tenley Molzahn: Oh I definitely have that struggle; I mean it doesn’t come in those places of travel or adventure. But I think for me there really is that desire to have a partner in life, and I’ve definitely been through struggles of loneliness – especially when I went through divorce, or those transition times in life like my parents not living here, or my sister not living here – so for me it does come down to faith, and having to choose to believe that I’m not alone and surrounding myself with friends. To be honest, I keep myself busy and active when I’m lonely, or I cry, pray, and get it all out and face the moment for what it is because I can’t ignore stuff. Sometimes I just embrace that feeling and move forward with it.
I kept surrendering. I had to surrender to knowing that God has got me and that I’m not in this alone
Risen Magazine: What was your motivation for trying out to be on The Bachelor?
Tenley Molzahn: Well…it kind of happened really fast. It was following the heartbreak of going through my divorce. When I had gotten married I obviously had gotten married to stay married, but sometimes things happen that you have no control over. My ex-husband chose to take a different route and he is now married to her. Anyways, that aside, I was really heartbroken, distraught and couldn’t get past it. I was still wearing my wedding ring even though it had been final for a while and I still had wedding pictures up. My heart was still very married and committed and I didn’t know how to move forward. Shortly after, my sister moved down from Oregon and was living with me for awhile and she was just sick of my sadness. We found out that there was an open call for The Bachelor coming to Costa Mesa, and I was living in Huntington Beach at the time, so she was like, “You should go!” I remember joking around and I was like, “Haha ya, that’s me…” But she was getting serious about it and saying how I really should go and a couple other friends were saying that as well. So then the [audition] day came and my sister couldn’t be with me because she had to go to work, but she had another friend come by the house to basically make sure I went for the open call. And when I was there, all I did was sit in a room with a producer who asked questions, but the biggest part of that day was me thinking when I left, “Well being on the show is probably a joke and that won’t happen, but I got so much from this, because I’m now able to think of myself with someone else possibly being in my future.” I mean I had taken off my wedding ring for that, and it led me to go home and take down the wedding pictures. I was finally able to move forward. It was actually the moment that I needed to move forward. Then two weeks later, all of a sudden, I found out that I was on the show and driving up to LA to meet Jake [Pavelka] the Bachelor! It happened really fast. I didn’t have any time to process or have any expectations, which is why I think that I was able to have such a unique and incredible experience.
Risen Magazine: What were your expectations for The Bachelor and would you say they were met, exceeded, or entirely different?
Tenley Molzahn: Well I didn’t really have time to think about it, so I didn’t really have that many expectations. I had watched the show quite a bit in the past seasons, but not on a weekly basis type of thing, but I had seen it enough to know how it goes. Because I didn’t think I’d make it past the first night, I just really tried to enjoy being in the mansion. But from there on out I just didn’t have any expectations whatsoever and just kept trying to be present-in-the-moment and just soak it up for what it was.
Risen Magazine: After being on The Bachelor, making all the way to the top two women, and then having Jake not pick you, what made you decide to do another show like The Bachelor Pad?
Tenley Molzahn: I know, and now I’m like, “Why was I so crazy?!” But they had a prize this time, and it was $250,000 and I thought if there was any chance that I could win this money, it would be so helpful. So I was very open. But at first when they were explaining the show to me, I wasn’t sure if that was going to be the best fit for me because it kind of sounded like an atmosphere that I wouldn’t be so comfortable with – all the coed activities and such. But the producers knew me well enough and they knew how to kind of reel me in, and when I said how it sounded like an MTV show, they said it wasn’t like an MTV show and that it is on during prime time [nightly TV,] so we can’t show anything inappropriate or bad. So I was like, “Okay, I’ll do it.” And sure enough, I go on, and my season was the first show, so it wasn’t that bad; now it has gotten worse. But I remember being shocked when I was watching it play back thinking, how was this going on behind my back?! And I had no idea! I was completely naïve. I mean I did the show for another good opportunity and I had such a great experience the first time, and the growth that I had gained by doing The Bachelor was incredible. So I thought, “This opportunity wouldn’t hurt anything and it was a great opportunity and I should take it.”
Risen Magazine: You mentioned that you learned a lot from being on The Bachelor. Can you explain what that was?
Tenley Molzahn: Oh I grew so much! I experienced a lot of feelings. I would never ever encourage somebody to go on a show like this to get through these feelings. But it was very unique for me. There were moments where I felt completely romanced to God and I really was able to let go. I mean when my life had become unraveled during big changes in it, I realized I wanted control and wanted to hold everything close, I had a really hard time letting go of things. But when I went off to do The Bachelor I couldn’t make decisions. Meaning, I could make my own cognitive decisions, but as for what I was doing that day or how I would spend the day, I was at the will of other people. The producers told me where I was going to go, when to be ready, what I was going to do, when I was going to eat, or who I was going to see. So I really had to let go and I just didn’t have any control. It was really just a beautiful time for me.
Risen Magazine: Was it hard for you to date someone who was also dating other girls you knew?
Tenley Molzahn: Yes, because I hadn’t really thought that part out yet, to date a guy when he was dating several other women. I mean my heart had just been broken so badly in my previous relationship too. I look back thinking, “Okay, how did I do that?” But that was just my faith, and me letting go and learning how to just trust. I continued to believe that if Jake wanted to keep getting to know me, then he would keep getting to know me. That if he didn’t, it would just end here and if he had a thing for another girl then he would let me go. I think that I just had a peace about it. So in the weirdest way, it helped me build trust again as well.
… and that was hard to watch, watch my brokenness. Especially knowing that I lived with so much joy, and peace and happiness…
Risen Magazine: Many people have preconceived notions of what reality shows are like. Some think that are very organic and raw, while others feel the whole thing is scripted to get ratings and manipulated by producers. What can you tell us, in your experience, about how “truthful” motives are on a reality show?
Tenley Molzahn: For me the whole experience was very real. I was exactly who I was. There were moments where I definitely felt a little more manipulated by producers to give them what they were looking for, to create the show they are looking to create. But there were moments when I was on The Bachelor where I would look at the other girls and say, “Am I the only one not being paid to be on here?!” And nobody was paid. But sometimes I was wondering if some girls were paid extra around me and the joke was on me because I felt like, “Who does this stuff?” Because of the way some girls would respond to producers and do some things. For me it was a very real experience. But then you have to think about how it comes out in editing and there is a lot of stuff missing. There are hours and hours of editing, but for me, it was true to who I was and I say to everyone that there is another half of me that was missing [onscreen]. I kind of came off as broken, and naïve – and I was, but there was also another side of me – the healing, growth and joy side. But that is just the way it goes.
Risen Magazine: So would it be fair to say that sometimes there were people on the show that exaggerated things to get more air-time?
Tenley Molzahn: I think so. I think people do that. There are some people that knew what they were doing, that maybe had some other motives. I remember scratching my head looking around going, “Oh, okay…” It just didn’t make that much sense. It was the first time [on a reality show] for me so it was eyes-wide-open, thinking, “I can’t believe that people are actually do this type of thing.”
Risen Magazine: Having faith and navigating reality TV, or even your recent modeling shoots, when did you feel you had to compromise any of your values/beliefs, if at all?
Tenley Molzahn: You know, I really have tried to stay true to who I am, but the living above reproach comes in and gets me thinking, “Okay, what is this going to look like to others?” I went through some scrutiny about really caring too much what others think. I had to really deal with that and I came to the conclusion that I’m going to really embrace who I am and people can take it or leave it. If they think it doesn’t match up to being a Christian, that’s for them to deal with. I know where my heart is at, I know where I am, and I know what is okay with me. It’s kind of been a couple years of putting it together, where I want to live with good intentions and be a good example of what my faith is, or the woman I want to be and how I want to be seen. But I’ve also had to decide how I want to live for God’s glory rather than for other people and glory for them.
Risen Magazine: Is this a hard balance to find being in the public eye?
Tenley Molzahn: Well it’s just so confusing. You just want to be who you are. People feel entitled to tell you how to live your life from what they’ve seen, and that’s interesting because you actually don’t know these people.
Risen Magazine: What piece of wisdom would you say being on those shows has taught you?
Tenley Molzahn: I guess just peace. Yes, a peace in being where I’m at; just learning to let go. That was really pressed upon my heart and I still think back when I’m going through hard times to those moments of feeling like I did before I ever did the show – feeling so scattered, abandoned, scared – and then I remember moments I had on the show where I experienced how good it felt to let go and let God do whatever he was doing. Even if I was on The Bachelor just to be available to let him be here.
Risen Magazine: Right around the time you were transitioning from dancing and travelling with Disney, you were married for 15 months and then went through a divorce. Many of our readers have also experienced heartache. What advice can you give on how you continued on with life after that experience?
Tenley Molzahn: [For me, it was] Thinking that there is a purpose, and my purpose is greater than this heartache; just to move forward and every day to get up with the choice to find the beauty in that day and where that is taking me next. It’s so much easier said than done, but I kind of thrived in those moments that I had to pull myself together and get myself going and keep dreaming. I kept surrendering. I had to surrender to knowing that God has got me and that I’m not in this alone; there is a purpose and there is a piece in my past that is getting me to the people that I need to reach and be a part of each others life experiences that will strengthen me and help me grow. So to answer your question; surrender.
Risen Magazine: Entering the reality TV realm where it seems nothing is off-limits, what was it like having to talk about your divorce in the public eye or on the shows?
Tenley Molzahn: For a time I didn’t realize how many people would be hearing everything that I was talking about and I felt safe. Surprisingly, I actually trust very easily. So I would start to talk to the producers and it almost felt like a good counseling session! I would process through things and it was really good, but when it started airing that’s when I realized, wow, a lot of people are seeing my stuff and seeing me so broken… and that was hard to watch, to watch my brokenness. Especially knowing that I lived with so much joy, and peace and happiness, so I think it was harder watching it, than being more vulnerable in doing it.
Risen Magazine: Your ex-husband even spoke out at one point about your relationship with claims that you “held back sex” from the marriage. Whether it’s true or not, it’s got to feel violating to have intimate details revealed. Was the past something you considered could be brought up or were you blindsided with personal information getting showcased?
Tenley Molzahn: Definitely surprised by his personal responses. I was shocked because I felt like it was just not appropriate. I felt like he was just looking for excuses for his behavior and his actions. So that was very surprising because it was clearly not my choice being in the situation that we were in and to go through with the divorce.
I like to do things my way and it’s not always easy to say, “Okay God I want your way.”
Risen Magazine: I’m sure that you can feel at times that you are always being watched. Have you found with everything in your past that it is hard to have a strong loving relationship?
Tenley Molzahn: No, I really believe that I’m meant to love and be loved. I just have to be available to that and embrace that vulnerability and trust. And that is something I’m very open to, but I think that like with anyone that opens up to other people, it’s a process and you build trust to be able, and available, to give that to someone else.
Risen Magazine: Were there mentors or anyone that you felt comfortable calling and getting advice from during this hard time in your life?
Tenley Molzahn: My mom is somebody that I call on a daily basis when I’m having a hard time and in fact she always says, “If I haven’t heard from Tenley in awhile then I know she’s doing great.” I have a best friend in Oregon who has great wisdom and is a good pillar of strength and speaking reality into my life. She speaks truth and is a great accountability [friend].
Risen Magazine: What kept you grounded in your faith?
Tenley Molzahn: Church was all that I craved – I needed it. That was my strength. I keep saying that I don’t know how people go through this without faith. No matter what, if they don’t have anything to believe in, or draw strength, or for their foundation in life, I just don’t know how they can go through this.
Risen Magazine: What is the biggest nugget that you feel you have learned about yourself in these past five years as you have risen above these challenges?
Tenley Molzahn: That I’ve grown. I’ve been open to becoming a better me on a daily basis, trusting and surrendering is like a daily thing for me. I like to do things my way and it’s not always easy to say, “Okay God I want your way.”
Risen Magazine: For a while you did find a version of love from the reality show with Kiptyn Locke, however recently the two of you parted ways. What was the main reason for the split?
Tenley Molzahn: We just realized that we weren’t meant to be I guess. It took awhile though.
Risen Magazine: What advice can you give to girls going through a break-up and similar situation?
Tenley Molzahn: The hardest part when you come to this is point is to realize there is a fork in the road;“Well, it’s this way or that way.” If there is no future ahead for the two of you, you need to realize that. And this goes back to what I struggle with the most in remembering to surrender and that God really does have something great in store for me and if that was good then God has something greater for me. Just trusting in the Lord and knowing that I still have a future and God knows the desires of my heart and he will form my desires to his and that these desires are in my heart for a reason. And those desires are to be married, to have love and a family, so I believe that he has something in store for me because he hasn’t changed those feelings yet!
Risen Magazine: How has your family been a support for you and what were their thoughts about seeing your love life on TV?
Tenley Molzahn: My parents and sister were really supportive. Actually, when I think about it everyone around me was really supportive. My family up in Oregon would all gather around and watch the show, people that I grew up with at church, and friends around there. They would all get together and watch every Monday night and be supportive. I have an aunt down here in Laguna and she would pull together little parties and some of my cousins from California would come there as well. I had complete support. There were times where my family saw me and I would think, “Uh, I can’t believe that I did that!” But that is who I am and they are going to love me for who I am no matter what.
Risen Magazine: One of the many benefits of fame is that it can provide a platform to encourage others. What was the inspiration for your website on healthy living and why did you change to a gluten-free lifestyle?
Tenley Molzahn: Well I have been sick my whole life and I was in a lot of pain since I was born. I was in-and-out of a lot of doctor’s offices having tests done and ER visits. Only five years ago when I read a book about a gluten free diet did I see that the symptoms in it matched mine. In the past I’ve actually had a bunch of different blood tests done including a test for coeliac disease. The book mentions how coeliac disease and gluten intolerance are very undetected because the tests can actually be inaccurate and easy to miss. So I was very curious and right away I put myself on a gluten free diet and I felt amazing. I had never known I could feel this good! My normal was so painful. It changed my life in just a couple weeks by being gluten free. I ended up eating some gluten and felt worse than I have ever felt in my life and decided I was never touching it again. That was the beginning of changing my lifestyle. After The Bachelor, I started posting different recipes and changed my website to have more of a name and not just be about me. I created “Sweet and Free Life” and went back to school for nutrition because I wanted to help other people with their ailments too. There are a lot of things holistically that make my lifestyle and help me live a life of balance, which I believe can be altered without medicine. I’m not saying I don’t believe in medicine, but there wasn’t any money in pharmaceuticals to diagnose me with gluten intolerance or coeliac disease, which is so uncommon for the doctors to know about. That is when I decided to go back to school to become a nutrition health coach, and you’ll be seeing my website go through a major facelift in the next couple of months by adding my services as a health coach. I’ve opened the door to a whole different career that I’m really excited about.
Risen Magazine: What are some specific devotionals or scripture have you gone through lately that you’d like to share?
Tenley Molzahn: Oh I am a big fan of the Jesus Calling devotional. It is such a blessing to read on a daily basis and blesses me and knocks my socks off daily. It really helps take me back to scripture.
Risen Magazine: You seem like such a strong woman and looking ahead where do you hope to find yourself in the next few years and even further?
Tenley Molzahn: At this point I’d love to be a health correspondent on a show to bring to the table what I know and what I’m most passionate about. That would be an exciting adventure if someone knocked on my door through that. Other than that, I’d like to help a lot of people through my website and offer online services through my health coaching. I do hope to be married too. I hope to meet that special man so I can start a family soon.
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