Mike Johnson talks his new book, the power of vulnerability, and The Bachelor franchise

PHOTOGRAPHY: The Riker BrothersGROOMING: Crystal TranSTYLING: Apuje Kalu
PHOTOGRAPHY: The Riker BrothersGROOMING: Crystal TranSTYLING: Apuje Kalu /

If you’re a fan of The Bachelor franchise, then you’re likely also a big fan of Mike Johnson. The 32-year-old Air Force veteran first came onto our screens while competing on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette in 2019, and followed that up with a spot on season 6 of Bachelor in Paradise that summer.

Though Mike didn’t end up finding the love he was looking for during his time with the franchise, he did land a huge fanbase. So much so, that when a Bachelor was being picked for season 24, fans started multiple petitions online for the Texas native to become ABC’s next leading man. As Mike navigates his career post-reality TV, his diehard fans continue supporting his every move.

So what’s next for this fan-favorite? Well, for starters, he’s written his first book. With Making the Love You Want, Mike hopes to help people on their journey of self-love by sharing his own experiences throughout his life, and vulnerably opening up about a few very tough times he’s had to go through.

Accept This Rose got the chance to catch up with Mike Johnson to talk about his book, and of course all things Bachelor. Pre-order Making the Love You Want with the link here.

You can watch the interview in full below, or continue reading.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Accept This Rose: Pretty much from day one on The Bachelorette, you became a fan-favorite. Between that and the fact that you’re super active on social media, did you soon start feeling like you were becoming a role model through your newfound fame?

Mike: I never intended that nor have I ever felt that outside of matters that touch my heart, like the racial injustice within the police. Outside of that, I never felt like I was an influencer or a role model. I’m just me.

Accept This Rose: In your book, you refer to practicing self-love as a “gateway to freedom.” Could you elaborate on that a little bit?

Mike: Practicing self-love is a gateway to freedom. It’s when you allow yourself to do what you personally, truly want to do. When you allow yourself to not be a follower, and when you allow yourself to speak up for how you feel, that is so liberating. That means that you don’t have to succumb to someone else, that you don’t have to be a follower to someone.

I mean, it’s the most liberating thing ever to know who you are and to speak your own truth. What people don’t realize is that self-love is beautiful, because other people gravitate towards us, because other people want to feel amazing, too. So you become an advocate for being happy and thoughtful. It’s just amazing. With Making the Love You Want, people can obtain that, whether it comes to a relationship with themselves, a peer, colleague, family member, or quite honestly anything you touch in life.

Accept This Rose: Of course, learning how to love yourself is already super tough. But as for someone who starred in two different seasons of one of the biggest reality franchises, I’d imagine some insecurities could come out. Did you find it difficult being in the public eye at first, and did that affect your self-love journey at all?

Mike: Quite honestly I think that it was a bit skewed for me, because I truly didn’t know how big [The Bachelor] platform was. I remember one of the guys from the show, his name is Matt Donald, when Chris Harrison walked out on the show for the first time, he jumped up for joy and was like, oh my god, Chris! I was like, who is this dude? That’s not a dig at Chris, but I just didn’t know how big the show was. My mindset was just, I’m trying to find the future love of my life, if that happens, that’s wonderful.

I went in there with that mindset, and so as far as there being alpha males, definitely in the back of your head you’re thinking, wow that guy is good looking, that guy has a great body. But honestly I’ve learned, even prior to going on the show, that men and women gravitate towards personalities more than anything. One reason why I love Lizzo so much is because she does not give a damn about what America’s perception of beauty is. And we gravitate towards her.

When I was on the show, stuff like that was my mindset. For me, I just want to be a great person, a happy person, and a person who uplifts others. You want to be around those individuals.

Accept This Rose: You in particular were never really painted in a bad light at all on either show, but many contestants really have been, and that’s led to some serious social media hate. What advice do you have just for anyone who might be dealing with bullying online?

Mike: I get bullied online everyday. I have people saying racial slurs to me today, this morning. People are saying I’m jealous because of this reason or that reason, and just ignorant things that aren’t true because they read a clickbait article about me. It’s so annoying to me, but at the same time those people are clowns because they don’t read the whole article, therefore they truly don’t know the words that come out of my mouth.

I will say, for not only my cast mates or entertainers on TV, but to every single human being in this world that when that does occur, I personally say just keep to your circle of friends. And baby, if you don’t have any friends or associates, then just love yourself and be yourself and please yourself, because if you continue down that path, it will grow.

I told the homies from last year on my season that number one, we live in the type of culture that moves fast, so they’re going to forget whatever you did. And then also, I was just watching Joe Rogan’s podcast and he was saying he respects Kim Kardashian so much and he used to make so much fun of her, but she’s respected now. She’s freed people from prison. So if you get shunned, just know that’s not the end of your days.

Just forget about them, because they just want something to talk about. They want to talk about me, they want to talk about you, so just do you, boo.

Accept This Rose: Your book starts off with some pretty honest and heavy stuff. That takes an incredible amount of courage to come out and talk about, so I’m curious to know how you were able to be so vulnerable to the whole world, and was it difficult?

Mike: It was extremely vulnerable. I’m human, and I was going through thoughts in my head of, the perception people have of me is going to change, my mom doesn’t even know I did this. I talk about my mom, my sister, my grandmother, my father, and my aunt in my book, I talk about things they’ve gone through, and so I thought, will they be mad at me?

And then I had to realize we all have to live our truth. And one thing I’m strong on—and you don’t have to have an influence like I do—if you, if me, if one of your family members is strong enough, you will gravitate towards them.

My dedication in my book, I’m not going to tell you just yet because I want everyone to read it, but it’s to a friend I have love for. To me, I want this book to help and inspire so many people, hundreds and thousands and millions of people. But I’ve always been grounded to myself, and so for self-love I have to write my story, and that’s what ultimately allowed me to write those hard parts. And some wine helped.

Accept This Rose: Would you say writing the book was a therapeutic experience?

Mike: Definitely. I had my editor, and oh my god, it was the most humbling experience ever. When you give a manuscript to an editor, you get it butchered. She’d give me questions I had to go through and just things I had to do, and so I call that emotional homework.

I don’t think artists get enough credit because of how much thought goes into their work. Like with my last editor, I read every single word, and I mean not reading it just one time through. The therapy part was to get it off my chest and to have that weight lifted off me.

Yesterday I posted something on my Instagram Story. I used to be a victims advocate in the military, and [soon] I’m doing a symposium for the male perspective of rape culture. And with all the messages I got after posting about it, I was allowing those individuals to get the weight off their shoulders. So to me that’s the therapy, getting it out there and not only getting it out there for myself, but also to know that one person will read [my book] and it has the potential to catapult them to become whoever they want to become.

Accept This Rose: And now let’s segue to dating… Last time I think we all heard, you were single. Can you confirm if that’s still true or if there’s any new developments in your love life? You can totally plead the fifth!

Mike: No I’m not in court, I’m not on the stand! Have you seen a movie called Home Alone with Macaulay Culkin? That would be the title of my dating life. I am single. I’ve started to DM people now. I’ll DM a lady and they don’t be responding. Do I have to be Drake to get a response?

Accept This Rose: Do you have advice for people trying to date in quarantine? I know things have been opening up, but we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. What would you consider to be a fun virtual date?

Mike: I’m huge on a few things when it comes to dating and being in a relationship. For me personally, if you and I are boyfriend-girlfriend, every three months or so I’m thinking, what have I done for you lately? When it comes to dating, I want to do something different. I don’t want to go to dinner and the movies or the bar every single date.

Back when COVID first began, I went on a virtual date. I started getting big into cycling and the young lady likes to drink wine and watch the sunset, so I told her when the sun goes down we’re going to ride our bikes to a certain location, and we had a backpack full of stuff and we had a virtual picnic and watched the sun go down.

Accept This Rose: So I do also just want to bring up The Bachelor as a franchise for a sec, because diversity is something that ABC is now finally starting to work on, but it’s been a long time coming.

Matt James is now going to be the first-ever Black Bachelor (even though you were robbed out of the part, no shade to anyone), and it looks like Tayshia Adams might be the second-ever Black Bachelorette. What else do you think the network should be doing in terms of creating a more inclusive show?

Mike: This relates to an earlier point you brought up about the criticism we get. I think I lost 1,000 followers because I responded to this question [in an interview with Variety]. People only read the clickbait title and don’t read the story. [The racism in the franchise] is atrocious, but that doesn’t mean I hate the franchise.

The franchise has done an amazing job of being relevant and being the best at what they do. I can also say it’s atrocious for them to take this long. I think we need diversity in leadership, not only with the lead of the show but with all levels. I’m not talking about just black and white. We need complete diversity. We need a melting pot of people because when we have that, the creative juices flow so well.

Accept This Rose: The true fans of the franchise love you. They’ve really stood behind you, whether it be through petitions to make you the next Bachelor, or just sending love on social media. With that being said, are you open to dating a fan?

Mike: 100% yes! I’ve actually gone on a date with a fan before. I have no problem saying that. We’re all just humans, right? At the end of the day we’re simply human beings. The aura I may possess for some people will eventually fade, and she’ll be like, I don’t care if you’re Mike Johnson from The Bachelorette, you’re getting on my nerves. So, I have to realize that, and I feel like I really do.

And so I absolutely would date a fan, one hundred million percent.

Accept This Rose: Do you think you’ll ever return to the franchise in any capacity, and what are your thoughts today on becoming the Bachelor in the future?

Mike: I never went on the show to become the Bachelor, I went on for the opportunity to find love. If it were to happen I would be elated, but I’m never going to hold my breath for something I can’t control. That’s it.

Next. Nick Viall talks his new web series, The Bachelor franchise, and more. dark

Make sure to pick up Mike Johnson’s book, Making the Love You Want, coming out on October 2, which also happens to be World Smile Day. Coincidence? Don’t think so!