Marshana D Ritchie

Sitting in a corner of The Rabbit Hole, one of the many hipster-esque, vintage-inspired restaurants of Bedford Ave. in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Marshana D. Ritchie doesn’t look that out of place.  The only thing setting her apart is her makeup, which is way more glamorous than the usual natural, hippie-want-to-be tones of Brooklyn’s counterculture.   Her coral lipstick, deep upper eyeliner and perfectly matched foundation radiate an obvious girly-girl persona, emblematic her past as a beauty pageant contestant and reality television star.  Dressed casually, in a black tank top and black-and-white patterned sweater, with a flawless ear-to-ear smile, she looks gorgeous yet approachable – the kind of gal ready to strike up a conversation with just about anyone.

As she comes to take the order though, the waitress blurts to Ritchie, “O.M.G. you have the perfect make-up.  Are you a make-up artist?”  And the 31-year-old (looking not a day over 25) is indeed a freelance makeup artist who has dabbled in a bit of everything, from fashion design, inspired by her Hindi roots, to pageantry (Miss New York USA, Miss Earth New York and Miss Long Island) to hotel and resort management (her college major).  Yet she’s best known as a contestant on Season 12 of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” an experience that left her awakened to the truth about reality television, the nature of human behavior and motivated her to…not be famous.

For five weeks in 2008, Ritchie competed alongside 25 other stunning, perfect-foundation wearing ladies, all for the ultimate goal of snagging the bachelor du jour, the English hunk Matt Grant.  The season, which borrowed The Clash’s hit single title, “London Calling,” for its theme, did not garner high ratings, perhaps because in the season prior, the bachelor ended up going home solo.  However, Ritchie still got a taste for life in the limelight for the next two years – one that she hopes never to repeat.

“All of a sudden my home address was online.  My phone number was online.  People were coming up to me on the street acting like they knew me,” she said as she soaked her French fries in ketchup and hot sauce.  “I’m not cut out for that.  It’s stressful, it’s invasive and it’s not me.”  Post “Bachelor,” Ritchie appeared on “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” and was interviewed by several media outlets including “Ok!” and “Reality Wanted.”  But fame wasn’t ever Ritchie’s goal or desire, and if anything, the attention was making her miserable.

She auditioned for “The Bachelor” because her mom is obsessed with the show.  “I never even watched it, and I still don’t,” she said.  “But my mom loves it so much, and I thought, ‘I’m young, I’m intelligent and I’m single so why not?’”  At the time, Ritchie was working in hotel management in New York, but when she found out she’d made it through the audition process, she asked for a leave to attend the competition.  She wasn’t given a leave, but being a brash and sassy woman, Ritchie left anyway.  “I just said to my boss, ‘Thursday’s going to be my last day!’”  She left her life behind, cutting off all contact with home, friends, family and technology, to live in a mansion in central London with a load of girls and a load of drama, in the hopes of maybe, possibly, finding love – something that’s proved elusive in her own life.

While Season 12 of “The Bachelor” aired, viewers were given the impression that Ritchie was that year’s problem-child.  She had a strong personality, spoke her mind and reacted poorly to the news that she had to go on a two-on-one date with Matt, where she was to compete for a rose with one other girl, and leave the show if not given said rose.  “I was infuriated,” she said, noting that this was the worst moment of the competition.  “I just wanted time with Matt, and I was terrified of possibly having to go home immediately.”  Ultimately, she did get the rose and lasted one more week in the show.  But when the episode premiered, the editing made her appear jealous and irrational, when in actuality she was just craving intimacy with the bachelor whom she was developing feelings for.

This wasn’t the only occasion where Ritchie may have been unjustly portrayed.  There were several noted squabbles between her and other contestants, but what the show didn’t reveal was the reasons behind those squabbles.  “One of the first things one of the girls asked me was, ‘So do you even know who your biological father is?’”  Because Ritchie is black and from inner-city Brooklyn, many of the girls assumed stereotypes about her background.  “I just replied, ‘My parents have been happily married for over 20 years, actually.’”  Ritchie doesn’t hold grudges toward the girls, though.  “I was the only black girl on the season, and it wasn’t that the girls were racist, they just had a lot of pre-conceived ideas about what it means to be black.”

What also set Ritchie apart was that she didn’t have any interest in making friends on the show.  While many girls probably felt that way, Ritchie never tried to hide it.  “I’m out of the market for friends,” she said.  “I have a few close friends who have been my friends my entire life, and if I die and they’re still my friends, I will be happy.”

Ritchie’s best friend of two and a half decades, Nikkia Jackson, came to meet her at The Rabbit Hole to finalize plans for their vacation to Montreal the next day, and was happy to talk wonders of her BFF.

“Marshana is the friend you want with you when you’re at the hospital,” said Jackson.  “She will annoy the doctors, and she’ll be there by your bed every step of the way.”  At this, Ritchie chimed in, “You know it!”  Watching them as they shared a beet and goat cheese sandwich, it was difficult to imagine that anyone could have ever pegged Ritchie as the bad egg of Season 12’s batch.  Jackson went on to say, “She’s courageous; she’s driven; she’s kind.  She doesn’t say anything bad about anyone.”

And seemingly true to form, when reminiscing about “The Bachelor,” Ritchie had not one bad thing to say about anyone, be it Matt or the other women.  “I have so much respect for Matt.  I think he’s such an amazing person,” she said.  “We bonded over our strong family values, and kept in touch for a while after the show.  And I wish him all the best in his life.”  Though those fond memories are there, Ritchie’s time on the show didn’t result in the instant head over heels love that so many contestants through the years describe.  “I liked him a lot, but I can’t say I loved him.  I was ok when it was time to leave.”

Five years later, Ritchie is focusing on her career as an “artisan of fine cosmetics” working primarily in pageant makeup, and she still hasn’t found that head-spinning love.  “I’m the queen of dating,” she said.  “No one dates like me!”  But dating is where it ends.  Constantly traveling between New York and West Virginia, the main states she finds work, she’s barely in one place for long.  Besides the traveling and inherent wanderlust, she is realistic about the difficulties of finding a life-long partner.  “I would love to settle down with someone, but to have a mature, caring, mutually monogamous relationship, especially in New York, isn’t easy.”  She took a moment to laugh and take a sip of her Campari.  “It’s funny that you have to be so specific and say ‘mutually monogamous’ but you do!  Otherwise your partner may say, ‘Well, I knew you were going to be monogamous but we never said I was going to be monogamous.’”

For now, Ritchie has a lot going on for herself.  She’s built a career as a make-up artist and finds her work on her own, no agent or manager in tow.  “I don’t want to be a make-up artist for anyone famous,” she said.  “Because everywhere they go, I’d have to go.  Any chance of having a serious relationship or even a personal life would be nonexistent.”

Ritchie’s taste of fame during and after “The Bachelor” was enough to convince her that the road to celebrity is not one worth traveling, and she has no desire to return to reality television.  Though she did amend that comment to add, “Well, maybe ‘Dancing with the Stars’ but only if I could be paired with Bradley Cooper or George Clooney.”