Ali Fedotowsky Manno is known as a reality TV sweetheart, having earned fans around the world with starring roles on Season 14 of The Bachelor and Season Six of The Bachelorette. In the almost decade since she appeared on these shows, she says they’ve changed with the rise in popularity of social media. “At this point, the show makes you such an instant Instagram celebrity that it makes it hard for people to go on the show for the ‘right reasons,’” says Ali.
Her reason for going on the show, besides finding love? “I went to college at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was a psychology school—I thought I wanted to be a marital therapist and I think that’s why I ended up on The Bachelor. I was interested in marriages and love and relationships,” says Ali. Not exactly the kind of statement you’d expect from a reality star. And that’s the first thing you notice about her—sunny, California-girl style appearance and personality aside, the mom-of-two (Molly, 2 and Riley, 9 months) is a savvy businesswoman who started her working career at Facebook when it was just a startup.
Her smart take on working motherhood and warm nature comes across in our phone conversation as well as on her popular blog Ali Luvs, as well as in her previous work on E! News as a correspondent and in her current role on The Hallmark Channel’s Home and Family. Here’s a bit more about Ali, including her life as a “stay-at-home work-at-home mom”, being inspired by Tyra Banks, and why she’s planning a move to the Midwest from LA.
What is a typical day like for you?
A typical day usually starts early [around 6], like it does for most parents. I carry both kids downstairs at the same time because Molly still wants her mom. At this point Riley will be so distracted by Molly’s singing and reading that he won’t nurse, so I’ll pump and give him a bottle and give her breakfast. We have a nanny who comes from 7 a.m. to noon. Jessica is like our family and we’re so grateful for her. My husband goes to work at 4 in the morning and then I have to work, too. I’ll also have [Jessica] take one [child] and spend time with the other. My husband gets home at noon, and then he takes over and I’ll go into full work mode. I work way too much—all day every day. I consider myself a ‘stay-at-home working mom’.
Even with the nanny, I imagine the kids try to come say “hi” when you’re working?
Ha, yes, I have an office but Molly will come in and say I need to work on Molly Luvs (my blog is called Ali Luvs). She also knows I work on a TV show called Home and Famil yon the Hallmark Channel and she’ll say I have to work on my TV show, Indiana. Her Mimi and Papa are from Indiana. Even if [my husband] Kevin is there she will cry for me.
Speaking of Mimi and Papa, you recently spent time in Indiana and mentioned on Instagram you were thinking of moving there. Can you share more about that?
We went to Indiana to visit Kevin’s parents who live an hour outside of Chicago and also because we’re thinking of moving to the Midwest because that’s where family is. I’m from Massachusetts so I’m used to colder climates. We’re looking at some neighborhoods in Illinois because his parents would close and my mom would be a close flight. We loved it. I think there is definitely a move in our future, before Molly starts Kindergarten. Los Angeles is a great place in many ways but what’s most important in LA is how you look, and I don’t want that for Molly. It’ll be anywhere we live because that’s part of our culture today but I want her to value her brain more than her appearance.
Really love that…Has anything surprised you about motherhood?
Everything—I didn’t expect all of this. I thought, I love this man and we were engaged, and I’m 31 and I don’t want to wait and let’s have a baby! I think I romanticized it in my head when we got pregnant the first time. I knew the love was going to be awesome but I didn’t know how special and amazing it would be, and I had no idea how hard it would be. I thought about the sleep deprivation in infancy but after that they don’t go anywhere and you’re still tired. I didn’t realize there are no breaks ever.
What’s the best part going from one to two?
With two, it’s been how much they love each other and how much it means to me to see them love each other. I think I expected a lot more jealousy. For the most part my main job is preventing her from suffocating him with kisses.
Aw, it’s so sweet to see that. But being a mom of two kids two-and-under is a busy life, even without working on two different jobs. How do you stay present with your kids?
If you’re half present you’re not present at all. It’s something I’m trying to learn and practice. I think I am having trouble making myself realize that quantity of time is not as important as quality of time. I will stay here all day, even though we have a nanny for a few hours, but my attention is not as focused. My phone is in my hand or I’m taking business calls. I remind myself every day that it’s better to leave and work at a coffee shop and get targeted work done and come and be completely present.
Something all of us struggle with! You have such great style. What are your go-to pieces?
I definitely am not put together every day—the cute photos on my blog are when I’m going to work on the TV show or have a business meeting! For the most part my mom uniform consists of jeans or leggings, a white T-shirt and a chambray shirt tied around my waist, with Converse. I can easily nurse or pump in that. I have the Willow pump and it’s the best pump in the world.
Do you have any brands you love?
I’m obsessed with Madewell. I love their white T-shirts and all their clothes. They have wearable loose pieces.
What’s next for you—any plans to return to daily TV?
I would never want to go back to doing TV full-time. TV is really difficult for me, honestly. I love hosting but when you’re on television and in hair and makeup every single day…I know that sounds great to some people but not for me. I like wearing tinted moisturizer and throwing my hair up in a ponytail. I choose to only go in a day or two a week because I love doing my blog so much. I get to be my own boss and write about things that I’m passionate about and work with brands I’m passionate about. Unless someone was like, we want to offer you your own daytime talk show! Tyra Banks’ show was so inspiring to me as a young girl. She made me want to be a better version of myself and I would love to do that for others in a heartbeat.
Okay, last question: For fans of The Bachelor, what’s your take on Colton and this season? You mentioned social media has changed things…
I was hesitant about Colton at the beginning, but I like him—he’s dorky and sweet and does a lot of good thing for this world with his charity. And yes, Caelynn did pageants, so already had a social following and Hannah, the one still on the show, is a fashion blogger. She had 100,000 followers before and now has over 500,000—and that’s her job. It would be silly if she didn’t think the longer I’m on the show the more followers I will get, and I respect that as a business person. So yes, I think it’s still possible to find love on the show and I hope someone does with Colton because they seem like great girls, but there are so many factors that make it impossible for love to be your only intention. Instagram wasn’t even really around when I was on the show, and we weren’t allowed to have social media accounts. I had watched the show once, and had no idea how much my life was going to change.
To learn more about Ali, visit Ali Luvs, where she shares everything from fashion finds to recipes to home décor tips!
This interview originally appeared on The Local Moms Network.