Interview: Jenn Tran on growing up Asian in America, redefining love on ‘The Bachelorette’

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Jennifer “Jenn” Tran never truly understood what a happy couple was. Coming from a broken family and bad romantic relationships in the past, she always thought love was something you had to work hard for to receive.

“My parents were slamming doors, throwing things and just yelling,” the 26-year-old physician assistant student from Miami previously recalled on Season 28 of ABC’s reality dating show “The Bachelor.” “I think I felt for a long time that because I grew up like that that I was doomed for failure. I wasn’t capable of anything. I wasn’t worth anything. I kind of just felt lost.”

Tran opened up about her estranged relationship with her father, revealing that his absence left her feeling unwanted and significantly impacted her views on love. As a result, she often found herself settling in relationships that left her feeling unseen and unfulfilled.

It wasn’t until she joined Joey Graziadei's season of “The Bachelor” that she caught a glimpse of real love. Despite not finding a happily ever after with Graziadei, the journey left her with growth, wisdom and the important realization of the love she truly deserves. She admits that participating in the show also helped her and her family to communicate more openly about their emotions and past challenges​.

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After Tran’s father left, her mother “took on the role of two parents,” becoming her source of strength and inspiration. Her mom emigrated from Vietnam and sacrificed her medical career for her children to live a better life in the U.S. However, Tran admits that she wasn’t always in touch with her heritage growing up as a first-generation Vietnamese American in a predominantly white town in New Jersey.

“When you're young, you really just wanna be like everybody else, you want to fit in, you want to make friends,” Tran tells NextShark. “I wasn't always proud of my roots and where I came from. In fact, I really shied away from it as a kid and tried to hide it because I wanted to be like everybody else. I didn't want to bring the smelly lunches to school because nobody would get it, and they would think I was weird.”

Attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison was when Tran truly became exposed to diversity. The diverse environment helped her understand and appreciate the sacrifices her parents made when moving to America.

Trending on NextShark: Interview: Jenn Tran on growing up Asian in America, redefining love on ‘The Bachelorette’

“They barely spoke English when they first came over here,” she says. “They worked so hard for this life. And it's like, I spent a lot of my life kind of hiding that and not celebrating that. And so I was really sad about that. Now, I'm so happy to be able to celebrate that because I'm proud of where I came from. I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for them, making those sacrifices for me and working so hard for that. I've come to a point now where I want to be able to not only celebrate it for myself, but for other people, too.”

Being named the first Asian American Bachelorette for Season 21 of “The Bachelorette” was one of those celebratory moments for Tran and the Asian community. Her engaging personality and vulnerability captured the hearts of viewers, who were moved by her resilience. Her journey on “The Bachelor” and her new role as the Bachelorette transcended love as it also gave her an opportunity to focus on healing and rediscovering her identity and roots.

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“My mom experienced a lot of racism because the people weren't exposed to a lot of Asians. My brother – he's nine years older than I am — grew up without representation. And I grew up without representation. So for us, representation matters. We've experienced so much racism in our lifetime that we're excited to be a part of eliminating that. Representation matters because exposure matters. The more people are exposed to something different than themselves, the less likely they are to be afraid of it or hate on it.”

In “The Bachelorette,” Tran meets 25 men to date before gradually eliminating them through rose ceremonies until she finds her potential fiance. The show, which features group and one-on-one dates, cocktail parties and hometown visits, traditionally concludes with a final rose ceremony where the Bachelorette accepts a proposal from her chosen suitor, followed by a live reunion special to update viewers on their relationship status.

“All the guys were different and unique in their own way. I was really surprised by how many strong connections I had with such different people,” she says, adding that the “best part” of the journey was being able to remain true to herself, put her needs first and value genuine connections.

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While Tran looks for a man with a “big personality” who can banter with her, she also realizes the importance of finding someone who truly sees and understands her, respects her culture and is open to tough conversations. Throughout the show, she learns to voice her needs and desires more confidently — a pivotal growth experience in her journey to find love.

“I would say that love isn't supposed to be hard. Love can get hard, but it's not supposed to be hard. And I would say that the only way to really be in love and to love somebody else is to let somebody in on who you really are and allow them to really understand you. Otherwise, if you're hiding parts of yourself, then how is the other person ever really going to know you and love you for you?”

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Tran acknowledges that overcoming feelings of unworthiness is challenging. However, she emphasizes the importance of retraining the brain to reject negative thoughts stemming from a lack of representation or toxic environments. She believes in daily efforts to embrace self-worth and make positive changes.

“I, at some point, just had a click in my brain and I was like, if I keep thinking that I don't deserve love, then I'm never going to find it. So if I start just believing that I'm worth it, and I deserve it, then at least I'm working towards it.”

So who will Tran end up trusting with her heart? Find out when “The Bachelorette” Season 21 premiere airs on ABC at 8 p.m. ET on July 8, with episodes available to stream on Hulu the day after they air.

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