Shawn Bakken of Beauty and the Geek

This is the fourth in a series of interviews with former reality show contestants, an idea inspired by my new reality show-themed mystery novel Sink or Swim, Where Reality TV Turns to Murder. For more information on Sink or Swim, and the interview schedule which features contestants from Survivor, Top Chef, Beauty and the Geek, Shark Tank, Bachelor Pad, Big Brother and I Love New York, please visit this link.

Today, I’ve enjoyed learning more about Shawn Bakken, a cast member on Season 1 of Beauty and the Geek, a show in which eight “beauties” and 8 “geeks” were paired up to compete against the other seven couples for $250,000 and other prizes. Shawn and his partner Scarlet finished in third place and made it to the second-to-last episode. Shawn is an assistant scoutmaster, a blogger, and is enrolled in the MBA program at Augsburg College in Minneapolis.

1. Shawn, if you could boil down your experience on Beauty and the Geek to one paragraph, what was your overall feeling about being on this show?
Being on Beauty and the Geek was unforgettable. Some experiences were an absolute delight and some I may regret for the rest of my life (primarily because my friends love to torment me about them), but I’m truly glad that I was on the show. I learned some new skills, made some good friends and done things that I never would have considered beforehand because I didn’t have the experience or confidence to try them.

2. What was it like to have cameras rolling all the time? How hard was it to get used to being in the public eye?
I was self-conscious at first. They could show any of it to the entire country, but more importantly, my family would be watching. Eventually, I got used to having the cameras around and wouldn’t think about them too much. (If I wanted them to go away, I’d read a book for 30 seconds.) It may have been easier to ignore them than if I’d been on another reality show because we spent most of our time in a mansion; when we were outside and interacting with the public, they kept the cameras well-hidden.

Shawn and Scarlet

3. What was the best part about being on the show?
The best part was probably just spending time with so many attractive girls and smart guys in the mansion. Back home, I had a very limited social life. During the first episode, someone mentioned how one of the guys “only goes out twice a month.” She was referring to me. I was living in a basement, working with one other person and not interacting with many people on a regular basis. Suddenly, I had a bunch of housemates and being able to spend all my time with them was awesome.

4. What were your favorite challenges on the show? Least favorite?
I think my favorite challenge was giving a massage to the beauties. I may not have done well, but after learning what not to do, I’m much better at giving people neck or shoulder rubs now. The outdoor challenge didn’t go over well. As the “Assistant Boy Scout Master”, my partner and I were expected to win the race. I ended up getting dehydrated and exhausted and threw up on the side of the mountain. Needless to say, we didn’t win and my partner spent the rest of the day yelling at me about it.

Honestly, though, I disliked getting phone numbers the most for two reasons. One: we were in an outdoor mall, most of the women were shopping and I don’t like interrupting people when they’re busy. Two: we could tell them anything except the truth. “If you say it’s for a reality show, it doesn’t count.” Boy Scouts are supposed to be trustworthy. Getting phone numbers under false premises… I honestly felt dirty afterward.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for a reality show?
Aside from “Don’t do it”? Someone asked me about that while the show was on the air (he ended up getting cast for Season 2) and I told him, “Just be yourself.” The problem is that being yourself in front of the cameras isn’t always what ends up on people’s TV screens. If you want to be on a reality show, don’t be surprised if the producers decide to flush your reputation down the toilet.

6. What was it like going about your normal life after so many people saw you on TV?
I’m sure life would have changed a lot more if Beauty and the Geek had aired on a major network instead of the WB, but I still got recognized on the street from time to time. People would pause, look at me for a bit, then build up the courage to ask if I had been on TV. Or sometimes they would start with “You look really familiar” and I would give them hints until they figured it out. It wasn’t like a constant stream of interruptions during the day and they were always pleasant exchanges, so it wasn’t a big deal.

7. What have you been up to lately? Can you tell us about your blog?
I’m currently enrolled in the MBA program at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, MN. (Some people have suggested that I’m addicted to being in school.)
My blog doesn’t follow a single theme. The posts range from entries about Beauty and the Geek to “Sayings of the Day” to pointing out that the clothing company Wet Seal sells a shirt that reads, “If Your Single, So Am I.”

8. Where can fans find you online?
My blog address is and I write occasional tweets on @shawnbakken. As you can see, I’ve gone to great lengths to conceal my identity.

My next interview is with David Olsen, Beauty and the Geek Season 4 winner, on June 9. Bookmark the full interview schedule, with clickable links to the interviews as they become available, here.

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  1. felt bad that no one had commented yet.. so I guess I’m the first 🙂 nice… and Shawn, you and Scarlet should have won!!!

    • Thanks for commenting, Dolores. Yes, blog posts often tend to be high on views and visitors, but low on comments. Comments are always appreciated!

Stacy Juba