Many engagements start with a ring. In the case of “The Bachelorette,” a ring the size of a grape, heavy with diamonds.
But the new bachelorette, Becca Kufrin, who is from Minnesota, grew up with a different kind of love story: When her father, an outdoorsman, asked her mother to marry him, he skipped the ring.
“Instead of giving her an engagement ring, he gave her an engagement shotgun,” Kufrin said, laughing, during a phone interview this week.
Kufrin, who grew up in Prior Lake, is the first Minnesotan to become “The Bachelorette,” starring in the drama-filled ABC franchise. She won the coveted spot after showing grit and grace during the last season of “The Bachelor,” when auto racer Arie Luyendyk Jr. proposed to her, then — in an excruciating, unedited scene — dumped her for runner-up Lauren Burnham. Minnesota — and the rest of “Bachelor” Nation, as it’s known — backed Kufrin. One state legislator even drafted a bill “banning” Luyendyk from Minnesota.
During the interview, Kufrin, 28, revealed that she’s engaged: “I’m the happiest camper,” she said. She mentioned seeing shows at First Avenue in Minneapolis and shopping at Roe Wolfe in Edina. And she talked about how Minnesota has shaped her morals and her accent: “I got a lot of comments from the other girls in the house for … the way I say ‘bag’ or ‘tag.’ Everyone thought it was so funny.”
Starting Monday night, we’ll watch as more than two dozen men compete for Kufrin’s love. The season will no doubt feature plenty of helicopter rides, elaborate trips and stays in the fantasy suite. But here’s hoping that with Kufrin in charge, there’s also some fishing.
Q: What was it like to feel Minnesota’s support for you after the breakup with Arie?
A: I loved it so much. Honestly, more than words can even say. I was born and raised there. I have made the best of friends in Minnesota. And I just have so much love for it. So to have that support meant everything.
Q: I have a theory that Midwesterners do well on the show, maybe because they’re earnest. I wonder what you make of that theory, and whether growing up in Minnesota gave you any particular skills or traits that came in handy on this journey.
A: My mom and dad were born and raised in Minnesota, too, and they just always instill a sense of openness and acceptance and kindness to everyone. I’ve always tried to keep my family and how I was raised and my morals in the back of my head.
I went in … genuinely wanting to find love and have an amazing experience. I just stayed open to it, and that’s how I was raised.
Q: I appreciated the lovely obituary about your father that ran in our newspaper in 2009 and was struck by the details about your parents’ wedding — the country church, the 21-gun salute, the wedding night in the duck shack. Anything you want to emulate for your own nuptials?
A: My parents just honestly have the most loving, committed, loyal relationship. You’ll probably see in my interviews throughout the journey of how I want to emulate their relationship.
They had a really unique engagement and wedding. When my dad proposed to my mom, instead of giving her an engagement ring, he gave her an engagement shotgun. Because he loved to hunt and wanted to spend time with her doing that.
They got married in a very, very small church outside of Benson, Minn. It’s where my sister and I were baptized. It’s a place that was so special to my dad. He really had his faith in the outdoors; that’s where he found his love for God. And so he wanted to incorporate that throughout their wedding.
Q: So as a kid, your family did a lot of outdoorsy things, fishing and spending time outside?
A: Every summer, my dad had a fishing boat, so we would go fishing with my dad and mom and even my aunts and uncles. My dad would take us hunting in the fall. Granted, my sister and I were too little to hunt, so we would just take naps or catch toads.
He loved to garden, so he would always try to get us outside, gardening, planting. It’s something I still love to do to this day, because it reminds me of him.
Q: What does your mom think about this whole process? Trying to find love on television?
A: At first she was very skeptical. When I first told her I was auditioning for it, she was like, “What, why don’t you try to find love the normal way?”
She had her reservations. But she saw me go through last season and really learn and grow and genuinely fall in love. So this time around, she knew it could work for me. She basically sent me off with her blessing, saying, “I gave you your wings. Now I just have to let you fly.”
Q: Why do you think “Bachelorette” women have a better track record at picking their mates than the “Bachelor” men?
A: I think women are very intuitive. At least for me, I understood the gravity of the situation and that this is a lifelong commitment, and I want it to be the right one and to last. So I definitely followed my heart, but I also listened to my head at times and followed my gut on certain instincts. We’re just very intuitive. Women are smart.
Q: Coming after the franchise’s historic first black lead, how did you want to make your mark?
A: I lived through a very unique situation: I was the only one who went all the way, was engaged … had the happy couple weekends. And then I was broken up with.
I feel like I’m a very strong, independent, outspoken person, and I wanted that to be shown. I wanted women to see that you can go through heartbreak and tough times and still move forward and find what you truly want in life.
Just to be that sounding board for people out there, because sometimes it’s difficult.
Q: Did the filming of the excruciating breakup give you any doubts about how the show works, or the producers’ intentions?
A: I know there were a lot of people out there who were upset that the breakup was filmed. But I went on this knowing my love story and Arie’s love story was going to be filmed. And he had to show everything from when it first started until the very end. It was just Arie finishing his story.
Ultimately, I am happy for how everything played out because it showed how everything truly went down. It holds all parties accountable for what was truly said, what truly happened. At this point, I can only be grateful in hindsight because it’s led me to this position and led me to meet 28 amazing people and go on this crazy, amazing journey.
I didn’t have any doubts. … I really made good friendships with everyone on the crew and the producers.
Q: It’s clear, too, that you made good friendships with the other women in the house.
A: They’re great women, and that’s the thing: I went on last season and I found love with Arie for a short time, but I also found lasting relationships with a few of those girls. That, in itself, was so worth it.
The Bachelorette 7 p.m. Mon., KSTP, Ch. 5