Now it’s Ashley Hebert’s turn to choose whom she wants to date – in front of a national TV audience.

During January and February, Hebert was seen weekly on ABC’s “The Bachelor,” one of 30 women seeking a marriage proposal from Brad Womack. She finished third, and was seen looking a little heartbroken when things didn’t work out.

But starting May 23, Hebert will star in ABC’s companion series, “The Bachelorette,” in which 20 to 30 men will try to woo her. Family and friends in her hometown of Madawaska are eager to see if she can indeed find love with cameras recording her every move.

“It’s not the ideal way, but there have been success stories,” her mother, Laurie Lavoie, said of starting a romance on reality TV. “I was pretty excited when I heard she’d been doing this. She’ll do what’s right. She’s got a great head on her shoulders.”

Hebert’s sister, Chrystie Corns of Portland, echoed her mother’s thoughts. Corns said Hebert’s background – she’s a dental student at the University of Pennsylvania who is scheduled to graduate in May – makes her different from many “Bachelorette” stars, and probably less vulnerable.

“She’s got her own life and she doesn’t need (the show). Whatever happens will be an addition to an already great life and career,” said Corns, who’s 33.

Hebert, 26, was announced as the next “Bachelorette” just hours after Monday night’s finale of “The Bachelor,” which showed Womack proposing to Emily Maynard of North Carolina.

One of the top female finishers on “The Bachelor” is usually picked to be “The Bachelorette,” and online columnists had been reporting since mid-February that ABC would choose Hebert.

In a conference call with national media March 3, days after the airing of the episode in which she was eliminated from “The Bachelor,” Hebert said she had not gotten an offer.

She said she would consider it, but would have to weigh the pros and cons of taking time off from her studies.

Corns and Lavoie said Tuesday that Hebert has finished her classroom work. To graduate, she only needs to make up time doing clinic work. Corns said the University of Pennsylvania has allowed Hebert to take time off to be on TV.

Hebert said during the conference call that she went on “The Bachelor” on a dare from a friend. She had not dated in about four years, and thought the show might give her a chance to find romance.

She got to date Womack – often with one to nine other women – and traveled to exotic locales such as Costa Rica, South Africa and Anguilla. She also posed with Womack and other contestants for a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue photo shoot. The issue, with pictures of Hebert in a red bikini, went on sale Feb. 15.

Corns said it was tough at times to watch Hebert on “The Bachelor” because she was sometimes shown being sad, or insecure.

“As her family, we want to see her in the best possible light, and we know her as smart and confident,” Corns said. “So we’re looking forward to seeing her on ‘The Bachelorette,’ because now she’s in the driver’s seat.”

As the show’s star, Hebert will decide which bachelors stay on the show and which ones leave.

The youngest of three siblings, Hebert was Maine’s 2002 Junior Miss, and was captain of the dance team at the University of Maine. That performance background was evident on “The Bachelor,” as Hebert appeared at ease on camera.

She also appeared to get Womack’s attention right away. Womack was impressed enough with Hebert that she was one of four women he chose for “hometown dates.”

In October, Womack and Hebert filmed an episode in Madawaska, where Womack met Hebert’s mother and stepfather and other family members. He was given a tour of the paper mill town on the Canadian border, where Hebert grew up. Her mother and stepfather both work at the mill.

Lavoie and Corns said Tuesday that Womack made a great impression on their family and came across as a “true Southern gentleman.”

Lavoie said she was nervous at first to have TV crews in her home, but once filming started, she forgot all about them.

“We didn’t even see the cameras, we were so into Brad and Ashley,” Lavoie said.

Hebert said during the conference call March 3 that she realized – only later – that she did fall in love with Womack, but couldn’t bring herself to tell him. Now she’ll get lots of chances to tell someone she loves them – in front of TV cameras.

“The Bachelorette” will begin its weekly run on ABC at 9 p.m. May 23.

Publicists for ABC said Tuesday that Hebert was not available to talk to the media. They would not yet reveal details of the upcoming show, including when and where it will be filmed, or how many bachelors Hebert will choose from. They also declined to say whether Hebert will be paid.

Various publications and online outlets have reported in the past that “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” stars do get paid, with estimates ranging from about $70,000 to $500,000.

After the May 23 premiere, “The Bachelorette” will air on Mondays from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: rrouthier@pressherald.com