Kira Mengistu 'Bachelor in Paradise' Career Essay – Cosmopolitan

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Kira Mengistu opens up about the flack she received from the audience during her time on reality TV.
This past fall, I took a second shot at finding love on reality TV when I appeared on Bachelor in Paradise. You may ask yourself, What would possess a 33-year-old internal medicine doctor who went to two Ivy League schools to try to find love on reality TV? Has her dating pool really run that dry? And the answer is no. My dating pool has not technically run dry, but it has become more treacherous to navigate, and I wasn’t getting anywhere dating in the traditional ways. Enter: Bachelor Nation. And enter: Bachelor Nation trolls.
I had no idea that my (modestly scandalous) time on reality TV would result in cyberbullying as well as attacks on my character and even my career. What do those two things—my career and my now-public love life—even have to do with one another? I started to ask myself this question really early on in my tenure as a reality TV contestant.
On my first day of The Bachelor (Clayton Echard’s season), my limo entrance outfit was red lingerie and a white doctor’s lab coat, topped by a red stethoscope. This outfit impressed Clayton and landed me the longest kiss that night. But certain groups watching the show that night were very, very unhappy. In a 500-post Reddit thread, other medical professionals chimed in on how unprofessional it was for me to wear the white coat in such a fashion. To which I say, I worked hard to earn that white coat and become a competent doctor. I should be able to wear my white coat however I choose. If someone can wear one as a Halloween costume, I can choose to wear it as part of my limo entrance outfit.
Thankfully, most of these negative discussions and opinions were not posted to my personal social media. It seemed like a quick, contained moment of outrage, mostly confined to the medical community because one of their own was not acting as conservatively as they expected her to act.
But this changed when I appeared on Bachelor in Paradise. Admittedly, I was an agent of chaos during my time in Paradise. My time on the show included a love triangle, an argument on the beach, consensually nipple-rubbing a male contestant, and bouncing from one guy to another until I finally left Paradise with my Romeo (Alexander). I was quite a “colorful character.” It was harmless fun. But within a day of the first episode airing, I started receiving hateful messages and comments on my social media pages and various forums saying that my behavior was not appropriate for a doctor. Some very concerned citizens wondered what my employers at University of Pennsylvania would think. While I initially ignored the barrage of low blows at my professionalism and my ability to do my job as a doctor, I couldn’t stay silent for long.
In a series of posts and TikToks, I assured those curious that my employers had no concern about my appearance on reality TV. They had enough insight into the making of reality TV to know it is a highly dramatized and narrow view of a person’s behavior. It’s a TV show—it’s not a biography. The scenarios in the show had very little relevance to my professional life.
I tried mentally unpacking why this backlash happened. No other contestant had their career mentioned as part of the discussion surrounding their time on their show. Real estate agents, Lyft drivers, financial advisors, HR specialists, pilots, and even nurses did not have their professionalism attacked as a result of an unflattering reality TV portrayal like I did. Sure, you could say that doctors take care of vulnerable people in their time of need, so their behavior in their personal life matters. But why does this logic not apply to pilots? They definitely hold human lives in their hands too.

I doubt I would have gotten as much backlash as I did if I were a man, and in fact, men on the show have rarely received such vicious backlash as I did when it comes to their careers. Women are constantly held to a higher standard, especially those who make it far up the corporate ladder.
I’m a firm believer that a person’s professional life and personal life should be separate. I never try to hide mine—all of my social media accounts are public—because I have nothing to hide from my patients, my employers, or any random person who may stumble on my page. All my photos and videos of me living a full, fun life will stay right where they are because they show me as the well-rounded, complex person that I am.
And that’s a direct result of my experience as a doctor, taking care of people in the last few years, months or moments of their life. It is the result of taking care of thousands of patients with COVID-19 during the pandemic, many of whom sadly did not survive the disease. At the end of your life, knowing you lived authentically, built a life you are proud of and given love to those around you are most important. Haters on Reddit be damned.


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