West Linn's Bushnell one of TV show's 28 contestants this season

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lauren Bushnell, a 2008 West Linn High School graduate, is one of 28 contestants competing for Ben Higgins' affections on The Bachelor.Now in its 20th season, “The Bachelor” is one of the most popular reality TV shows of all time. This season, which premiered Monday, Jan. 4, on ABC, features West Linn’s Lauren Bushnell as one of the contestants vying for the love of this year’s “Bachelor,” Ben Higgins.

Filming for the show has already ended, with the winner and results under wraps until the season’s conclusion. That’s meant Bushnell has been under contractual obligation to withhold information regarding the show from the public (but she did make it through the second episode, Jan. 11).

“Beyond just seeing commercials and previews it was the first time I’d watched myself on TV, which isn’t something I thought I’d ever do,” Bushnell said following the premiere episode. “It’s definitely weird to watch yourself on TV knowing millions of people are watching as well.”

For those unfamiliar, the show is essentially a game aimed at finding love. Twenty-eight women, including Bushnell, started out with a variety of dates, group activities and ceremonies throughout the season in hopes of winning Higgins’ heart. At the end of each episode Higgins awards a specified number of roses to those contestants he wants to keep around for another week, and those left out are eliminated from contention. The season premiere sent seven girls packing, leaving the total number of remaining contestants at 21 (and four more went home Monday, including Portland’s Amanda “Mandi” Kremer).

The show, which is scheduled to conclude in the middle of March, leads up to the final four women, who are awarded “hometown dates” where Higgins accompanies each contestant to the place she grew up to meet her family. That means, should Bushnell advance that far, West Linn will be prominently featured on national network television most likely toward the end of February or beginning of March.

Bushnell says she’s already received a great deal of support from the local community, as well as fans of the show. She says her number of followers on Instagram shot up to more than 15,000 after the conclusion of the season premiere, and spent time responding to texts and calls from friends and family.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Kristin (from left), Brett, Mollie, Dave, Lauren and Bryant Bushnell pose for a recent family photo. “I would say 98 percent of people are nothing but supportive, which is weird but also so kind,” Bushnell says. “You also get the very random negative feedback, but I would say for the most part my friends and family have been nothing but supportive.”

Now that the show has started she can at least confirm that she is indeed a contestant and talk openly about what’s aired thus far — something she says has been a massive relief. Frustrated with her difficulties in the Los Angeles dating scene, Bushnell says she decided to sign up for the show not expecting anything to come of it, and was surprised when she found out the show had interest in her. She was told to watch “The Bachelorette,” because the next “Bachelor” would most likely come from the show’s contestants.

When it was announced that Ben Higgins would be the 2016 Bachelor, she says she was sold.

“I’ve always followed the show off and on, but this last season of ‘The Bachelorette’ was the first I watched from beginning to end,” she says. “They only want you to come on the show if it’s a guy you generally would like. After the first episode Ben was my favorite contestant, so when they announced it was him I knew I wanted to be on the show.

“But even then I was never thinking, ‘Oh I might meet him someday.’ I was just thinking he was such a catch.”

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lauren Bushnell was a cheerleader during her time at West Linn High School.Bushnell, 25 and a flight attendant, graduated from West Linn High School in 2008, where she was a member of the cheer team, and went on to graduate from Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash. Her parents, Kristin and Dave Bushnell, are from Lake Oswego and continue to live in West Linn, where they raised Lauren and her younger siblings Mollie, Bryant and Brett.

Lauren watched the premiere with her sister and mother, an experience she says was strange but also comforting. She was the first girl to meet Higgins during the season premiere, giving the 26-year-old software salesman a pair of wings, explaining her background as a flight attendant. While not easy to date the same man alongside 28 other women, Bushnell says Higgins made the whole experience easier.

“I was so nervous, but he definitely has a way of calming my nerves,” she says. “He was easy to be around and easy to talk to. When you see someone on TV, it’s kind of like until you meet them you forget they’re a real human being. But he’s so down to earth and so real.”

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