Abby Sullivan has spent most of her working life on the stage as a dancer, first for the Buffalo Bandits and now in Las Vegas.
But she has never been as scared on stage as she was during the filming of the episode of “The Proposal,” the ABC reality series that ended its summer run a week ago and is awaiting word whether there will be a second season.
In a telephone interview about her experiences on the show, Sullivan was as genuine in explaining her reasons for going on the program as she was in the episode that she appeared on July 30.
“It was really scary, like terrifying,” she said. “I am on my stage my whole life, but that was like on another level.”
She said the live audience was “super sweet,” mouthing things like “you are beautiful.”
“But when I was up there, it felt like an eternity and I couldn’t wait for it to be over because it was so scary,” added Sullivan.
When it was all over, Winston, the mystery man who planned to propose marriage from 10 contestants who modeled swimsuits and answered questions during the hour episode, selected the 26-year-old daughter of former Buffalo News copy editor Barbara Branning and former Buffalo News sports columnist Jerry Sullivan.
Abby Sullivan described the overall experience on the show as “great,” but added her fears didn’t end after the episode was filmed several weeks before it aired.
“It was scary in the weeks waiting for it to air,” said Sullivan. “I was having serious anxiety over it airing because you never know how you are going to look or sound or what people are going to think of you. But I was pleased in general. It was fun and I met some amazing girls. They were nice, supportive and kind.”
She also praised the show’s producers.
A 2010 graduate of Holy Angels, Sullivan earned degrees in dance and public relations at SUNY Fredonia State in 2014. She stayed in Buffalo for about a year and danced with the Bandettes, the dance team of the Buffalo Bandits before heading to Vegas in August 2015.
She performs six nights a week in a female revue called Fantasy that has been playing in Vegas for almost two decades. She also is a pool waitress in the summer.
In March, she was on a couch dealing with a foot injury. With plenty of spare time for a change, she went on the internet and found a “weird advertisement” for a TV show that asked people to fill out a long questionnaire.
“It was not five questions, it was like 57 questions,” she said. “They wanted you to tell them about your dating history, why it is not working for you. I had no problem doing that because my dating has been a joke. The stories even I did tell in my little interview were hilarious. Because half of the people who come here (Vegas) are not staying. Most of the people are not staying. The locals are weird.”
Why has her dating been a joke?
“I am really selfish with my time, I am really independent, I don’t really need to date anybody,” she said. “And when I do try, it never works. Vegas is full of people having a one-track mind – sex, money, whatever. Nobody seems to be very genuine here.”
She heard from the producers in a couple of days and then had phone and Skype interviews.
“This whole time I didn’t really know what it was,” she said. “I understood it was going to be maybe a weird TV show, but they kept calling it different names. The description I kept getting was a cross between 'The Bachelor’ and ‘The Dating Game.’ "
“I thought it was pretty funny, but I didn’t know how big this show was going to be or like what network (it was on).”
She later learned the show was from the producers of “The Bachelor” and was told “this is going to be a great new show, blah, blah.”
The premise – finding a spouse in an hour – didn’t concern her.
“I thought it was pretty funny,” Sullivan said. “Obviously not conventional. I thought it was interesting. And why not? Look at my life. I’m a girl in Vegas. I never expected the things I am doing. I said, 'Let’s try it.' I had never been to L.A., I’d never been on TV. It could be really cool. I could meet somebody here. Why not?”
She also was hopeful because the producers spoke highly of the matchmaking team working with the program.
“They said, 'This guy is going to be a real catch, you are going to be over the moon, you are going to want to date this guy,' ” she said. “They also said, 'He could be a celebrity, he could be a millionaire, he could be super hot, he could be an athlete.' So why not?”
Did she want to win?
“Yes, of course, I wanted to win,” she said. “You definitely don’t want to be the girl who is cut first round. Yeah, I was super excited that I won. I’m competitive. Regardless of what the premise of the show was, I wanted to win.”
She is aware of the criticisms of the show – that it was a glorified beauty pageant and sexist.
“Whatever,” she said. “I did it, it was fun, I don’t care. It was a great experience. I care about my Instagram following and I got 2,000 new followers.”
She went on a few dates with Winston, who lives in San Diego, before deciding he wasn’t the one. They had a date after the show and he came to Vegas for work and saw her show.
“Obviously it did not work,” she said. “I am not upset about it. I don’t have any hard feelings. He’s a nice guy. I am so picky. I knew the only way it was going to work was if this matchmaking team was what they said they were. And he was not for me at all. I decided after the dinner date in Vegas that it was not going to work. We had very different communication styles and our priorities are very different.”
Did she ever think the proposal would actually lead to marriage?
“Ummm, I thought it was a very strange way to meet someone but it could be something,” she said. “I took it more like a proposal to dating. A proposal to give it a try, that’s what I would call it. At no point was it like, this is fake … I never wanted to look ingenuine on the show. And that was the biggest compliment anyone gave me. ‘You were yourself, you were genuine, you were sweet.’
“I don’t care if I looked like a million bucks, I don’t care if I sounded like a genius, but being told I was genuine that was a great compliment to me. I was happy that was how it looked.”