In a Jan. 17 filmed episode of his relationship advice podcast, The Viall Files, erstwhile Bachelor contestant Nick Viall didn’t hold back when a listener called in for advice on behalf of a friend who wanted more from her situationship: Her friend has to be willing to walk away from it.
“If people give us things for free, we tend not to pay for it,” he said, sporting an “Introverts Are Better Lovers” T-shirt.
Viall’s advice was simple but direct. “He is looking for better,” he told the listener about the man in the situationship.
“I really went through it in my 20s in relationships, so I just became later in life the friend I would go to and I just kind of had a knack for giving advice,” Viall told me over Zoom in August. “It was kind of a combination of empathetic because I felt like I had really experienced some of the similar struggles with whoever I was talking to, but with a bit of directness.”
The advice resonated with at least one listener. Howie Madagan, a 25-year-old from Virginia, told BuzzFeed News he had taken Viall’s advice with a few situationships he was in, including telling one guy that he wanted a relationship. “I feel like our generation has turned it into a very interesting dating scene and so [the advice] just resonated,” Madagan said. “I think everybody deserves to be valued and appreciated and have that reciprocated.”
On TikTok, short videos of his podcasts make the rounds. When the second season of Love Is Blind ended, castmates from the Netflix dating show, including Deepti and Shayne, quickly hopped on Viall’s podcast to sound off, even launching a feud between controversial contestant Shake Chatterjee and Viall over how Chatterjee treated Deepti on the show.
Viall’s podcast is only one extension of his burgeoning business. His first book, Don’t Text Your Ex Happy Birthday, comes out Oct. 4. This transformation represents an interesting 180-degree turn for Viall, who hasn’t always been viewed as a straight-shooting relationship expert. America first met Viall in 2014, when he was a 33-year-old software sales rep competing for Andi Dorfman’s heart on the 10th season of The Bachelorette. Dubbed arrogant and cocky by other contestants after telling the men he was “the frontrunner,” he was quickly singled out as that season’s villain by Bachelor Nation. His bad boy image was cemented during the live “After the Final Rose” special, when Viall famously told Dorfman, who chose Josh Murray over him, “If you weren’t in love with me, I’m just not sure why you made love with me.”
“I regret [saying that] because it affected people,” Viall said. “It affected Andi. It affected Josh, and that wasn’t my intention. The unfortunate part of that world is that you’re not supposed to speak with each other; you break up and it’s just bye.”
The following year, Viall tried to find love with another confident brunette. He competed for Kaitlyn Bristowe’s heart on the 11th season of The Bachelorette and came in second place again. During Episode 5, he showed up late to where they were filming to pursue Bristowe, putting him at odds with the other men. In one episode, Shawn Booth, who ended up winning that season, called Viall arrogant, manipulative, and cocky to his face.
“I do have a personality where my bluntness or my curtness or my directness, which I always feel like is well intentioned, may not be for everybody,” Viall said. “And I can be introverted and as a result, sometimes aloof and in my head and that can come across a certain way at times. That’s not always a good recipe for TV when they’re filming you 24/7.”
Viall’s redemption arc came on Season 3 of Bachelor in Paradise, where he developed a relationship with Florida native Jen Saviano. The relationship didn’t last past the beach, but ABC apparently didn’t want to give up on Viall; they made him the lead on the 21st season of The Bachelor in 2017. He finally got his perfect TV engagement, to teacher Vanessa Grimaldi, but that also ended after a few months.
Most Bachelor alums quit their day job after appearing on the reality show and try to find their niche as an influencer. Viall discovered he had a knack for giving advice to his Instagram followers who had questions about romance. He launched The Viall Files in 2019. His book is full of similarly direct counsel for the modern dater.
“I kind of came from a place of wishing that I got that feedback too, so I just tried to be honest and empathic at the same time,” he said.
Listening to him dole out relationship advice is like when your straight male best friend tells you to believe guys when they say they’re fuckboys, a term Viall defined in his book as someone you’re casually dating who isn’t that interested in you. The advice can feel harsh but assuring coming from a neutral perspective.
Most of the questions Viall gets from listeners and followers are centered around situationships and fuckboys, and Viall said he empathizes because he’s been there.
“That was me,” Viall said. “I hung onto every little thing and I would overanalyze and be like, Well, she said that, she did that, it doesn’t make any sense. I was able to not make sense of it because I didn’t want to see the simple answer, which was maybe in that moment she felt that and then it changed. Or maybe in that moment she said it because it felt good; who knows. There are a bunch of other simple answers to explain it but I didn’t want to see that as a possibility.”
His advice comes from his failures more than his successes, he said. He told me that his experiences on The Bachelor franchise are a microcosm of his dating life in his 20s, which featured getting cheated on, an engagement ending, moving in with a girlfriend too fast, and plenty of other obstacles that turned Viall into a wounded romantic who tried to find love on national TV. Viall said he “sort of relapsed” during Dorfman’s season with his old relationship habits. Although he had learned to “get out of his head” while dating, he said that wasn’t an option on The Bachelorette.
“You have to let go,” he said. “It’s kind of like falling in love in your early 20s, where you’re just like, I feel something, just go for it.”
That mindset probably comes from his favorite movie growing up: Great Expectations, the 1998 Dickens adaptation starring Ethan Hawke as Finn, who chases after the girl of his dreams despite a lot of missteps.
“I’m kind of a sensitive person,” Viall said. “I just really took it hard and I just had to try and reframe how I saw certain things or my decisions. I had to try and stop hanging on every word that my girlfriend or my ex would say at the time.” Most of the people who call into his podcast have similar issues, he said. “It’s really just about trying to be honest with yourself.”
Today, Viall is in a long-term relationship with Natalie Joy, a surgical technician and model who is 17 years his junior, and who gets several mentions in his book.
“Things are going great,” he said. “I’m really optimistic about the relationship. I just don’t take anything for granted.”
“If Natalie broke up with me today, if she walked in and said, ‘I don’t love you anymore, there’s somebody else,’ … I would read the book,” he said.
Viall seems to be done chasing love on reality TV and today he’s become more circumspect about love. “I look back on these relationships that I’ve had and I’m grateful for the memories. I laugh at them, I smile, I make fun of myself.” ❤