Shawntel Newton, "The Bachelor" contestant and funeral director, introduces book
“There she is!” members of the audience hummed when Shawntel Newton appeared from behind a column of shelves for her book signing event at Lyon Books and Learning Center Wednesday night. At standing room only, the bookstore was brimming with an estimated 80 fans, friends, and family members. Although they had all seen Newton on “The Bachelor” TV show, some of them knew her better as the funeral director who had orchestrated a funeral for their family. While “The Bachelor” may have brought Newton national fame, her book mostly focuses on her career as a funeral director and embalmer, and her life growing up in Chico.
“I never thought I’d be a funeral director and embalmer. I never thought I’d be on a reality TV show. And never once in my life did I ever think I would be standing here telling people about a book I wrote,” the 26-year-old said with a laugh as she debuted her memoir, “Final Rose.” Newton shared a few stories from her book about growing up in a Christian household and her experiences in college. “My first year in college was a struggle. My boyfriend broke up with me and my fish, Fred, died.”
As a teenager Newton never thought she would take up the family business at Newton-Bracewell Funeral Homes. In college she took a Myer’s-Briggs test to see what her calling in life would be. She was surprised by the result: Funeral Director. “Ok, my dad must have rigged this computer,” she joked. Newton then began to seriously explore the family profession and learned there was a lot more to it than she had originally thought. Mortuary school soon followed.
Newton’s excursion on “The Bachelor” started when her sisters signed her up for the show. As Bachelor Brad Womack (season 15) stated, Shawntel Newton was “the hottest funeral director” that the show had ever met.
Newton recalled her shopping spree in Las Vegas and travelling around the world. The book-signing audience seemed most eager to hear more about bringing “The Bachelor” home to Chico. “You’re laughing because you saw [Brad] lay on the prep table,” Newton said as she described the funeral home tour that aired on the show.
Fans were happy to see their town on national television. “Shawntel represented Chico really well,” said Chico resident Judy Fales. “And some people may think a funeral home is boring, but Shawntel showed that’s not the case.”
“It was so fun to see our town on TV,” said bookstore owner Heather Lyon.
Being sent home from the show was difficult for Newton. “I came home and I grieved for several weeks. I felt like an idiot.” It was especially difficult for her to see negative posts about her on the Internet. But she said that the overall reaction in Chico was positive. “People on the street would want to take pictures with me. Mom’s would say I’m a good role model for their daughter,” she said.
More recently, Newton thought she’d give “The Bachelor” another shot. She had been in contact with season 16’s Ben Flajnik before he became the next Bachelor. “We wanted to meet up but then he became the Bachelor and it never happened.” To the shock of the other season 16 contestants, she came back to the show hoping Ben would give her a chance.
“It was awful,” Newton said. “The girls called me bad names and it definitely wasn’t easy.” She was sent home that very same night. After reflecting on that evening, Newton was glad things panned out as they did. “Now I feel like I dodged a bullet … and I mean that in the best possible way,” she laughed. “Ben told me it wasn’t fair. But the whole show’s not fair. I want a man who is willing to put up a little fight for me. But he wasn’t.”
“I’m so glad I did it because [otherwise] I would have wondered, what if,” Newton said.
The second time she left the show, Newton’s book was well underway. She poured into the memoir for three months. “I think I’ve been to every coffee shop in Chico,” she said.
Her father Ric Newton said, “She never let me look at the book until it was published.” Reading his daughter’s completed book for the first time was a moving experience for him. “When I read 'Final Rose', I read it as her diary. I could relate to the real life experiences and 'The Bachelor'. I connected with her emotionally. I got a lump in my throat and the next moment I’d smile and laugh,” he said. “I did not realize the parental influence I had in my daughter’s life [before]. It really touched me when I read it.”
“[This book-signing event] was really nice and personal because it was a small setting,” said Nina Zamudio, who had seen Newton speak at a women’s conference. “It was like a hug.”
Fans of “The Bachelor” were happy to meet Newton in person. “I thought it was really cool that she came to support Chico at the local bookstore. I watched every single episode with my mom,” said Jennifer DeWitt.
Jennifer’s mother, Wendy DeWitt, agreed. “It was great to support Shawntel and hear her in person without the cameras. I think it’s great to have something as big as ‘The Bachelor’ in Chico. She’s our local hero!”
Newton said that she has no intentions of becoming The Bachelorette in the future. She met this year’s Bachelorette, Emily Maynard, during Brad’s season. “Emily is great. I wish her the best of luck. But no thanks for me. I’m retired from roses. Daisies are my favorite flowers.” Now she plans to succeed her dad at the funeral home, along with Dane Bracewell.
Shawntel Newton’s book is on sale at local booksellers around Chico, and Online at www.lyonbooks.com and www.amazon.com. So far Lyon Books has sold more than 80 copies of “Final Rose”.