Just ask Palo Altan Bevin Powers. Her recent stint on the reality TV show "The Bachelor" has led to all manner of odd interpretations of her life and personality. She has been criticized for the length of her nose (one Internet blogger was annoyed that it got in the way when she kissed bachelor Andy Baldwin) and falsely accused of having children and past arrests.
"It was so completely bizarre and definitely untrue," she said.
Powers, a clinical research coordinator at Stanford University School of Medicine's Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and graduate student at San Jose State University, began her sojourn into Web celebrity when she saw a preview for the television show's 10th season, "An Officer and a Gentleman." Powers felt a spark when she saw the next bachelor, Andy Baldwin. She said she felt a sudden urge to take a chance.
Powers, 28, wasn't likely to be capricious, however. Self-supporting since age 15, she had married young -- at 19 -- and was separated by age 22. It was the most profound experience in her life, she said. Although the separation was amicable, her self-confidence had been shaken.
"I was very ashamed of that and was stigmatized. It took a long time to recover and realize that just because I divorced at a young age doesn't mean that I don't have potential," she said.
The show's premise was simple: Meet Prince Charming, be swept off to exotic places, land the man of your dreams, and live happily ever after.
"Ladies, having trouble finding that perfect man? Tired of spending long, fruitless hours roaming singles bars and online personal ads? Then let ABC's The Bachelor help you! Once a year a bevy of beautiful bachelorettes travel to an exotic destination looking to land the man of their dreams. After a season full of romantic trists (sic), broken hearts, and many, many roses, The Bachelor slowly whittles down his dating pool to one lucky lady. Here's hoping love conquers all," the show's producers advertise on a Web site.
Since true love had eluded Powers in real life, she filled out an application for the show, never imagining she would actually be one of 26 women picked out of 25,000 -- or that she would fall in love.
The reality show sent Powers and the other 25 beauties on dates with the hunky Baldwin, a doctor and U.S. naval officer. Each week the women went out with the handsome Baldwin, trying to curry his favor. Women who got a red rose from Baldwin went to the next round.
Millions of viewers watched Powers reveal her deep secrets and pour her heart out to Baldwin. They heard him tell her he loved her, while telling other contestants he loved them too. She made it to the final round, one of two bachelorettes remaining.
Along the way, she said, she had fallen in love with Baldwin. But in the end, she was the one rejected.
Attired recently in a black, low-cut, short-sleeved blouse that showed off ample cleavage and a white skirt, Powers is smaller in person than she appeared on television. Her blonde hair is now dyed brown, closer to her original color, she said. She is as attractive as her publicity photo, with large brown eyes.
"I never imagined how it would change my life. It was naive on my part; I wasn't fully prepared for the impact on my personal life -- seeing my name everywhere, people calling and recognizing me. So much of it is supportive, but overwhelming. Having been rejected on television, it's a little embarrassing. I'm the biggest loser," she said, nonetheless seeming well-composed during a recent interview.
"I came home to a wonderful career, a home which is my sanctuary, my friends and my family, and who could be upset about that? It would be stupid to dwell on the show and Andy instead of stepping forward," she said.
Still, life is not the same as it was before the show. A Google search for "Bevin Powers" brings up 633 results. On May 22, when the show ended, the site's "hot trends" listing ranked her 43rd.
Having complete strangers blog about her online has also been hard to swallow at times, she said. It is one thing to be on a television show and to be recognized, and another to read the rantings of total strangers who have made up their minds that she is unstable, a whiner, a potential psycho-wife, high maintenance and more.
For the most part, she takes it in stride. Confident and accessible, she has answered e-mails, but she hasn't had the time to answer bloggers, she said.
Asked how much of her feelings were real, in retrospect, and how much were induced by the fantasy created by the show, Powers took several moments, contemplating silently.
"I completely bought in to the fairytale. You're not working; the food is delivered. It's the perfect setting to be romanced. A piece of every woman wants to be romanced (this way). It's not how it's been in the past dating men. Getting romantic dinners and kayak trips in exotic places makes it very easy to fall in love. It's a complete fantasy world," she said.
Powers wants to focus on getting her Ph.D. in psychology. Despite the celebrity status, her dating life hasn't changed.
"It's the same as before. That's fine. I don't need a man to feel complete. ... In watching the show and my past with the divorce, the more hardship I find with finding true love, I realized I can't compromise myself to find it," she said.