It’s a good time to be Hannah Brown.
Just over a year ago, the 25-year-old former pageant queen was nearing the end of her reign as Miss Alabama USA, sitting in a Colorado airplane hangar and getting broken up with by Colton Underwood on The Bachelor. It wouldn’t be the last time her heartbreak would be captured for the cameras thanks to her dramatic Bachelorette breakup with Jed Wyatt — but a few months later, she was shedding happy tears as she was crowned champion of Dancing With the Stars.
As Brown told ET’s Katie Krause, some of her experiences over the last year “were not so fun, [but] some of them were amazing opportunities.” “I feel like this whole year has really given me opportunities to really have to think hard about my decisions and who I am and what I want,” she shared.
If the saying, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” was personified by one person, it might just be Brown. After all, she wasn’t dubbed “Hannah Beast” for nothing. Here’s everything to know about the Bachelorette’s milestone year, and why 2020 just might be even better.
The pageant queen made enough of an impression with Underwood on night one of The Bachelor to earn the season’s first one-on-one date — but it didn’t exactly go well. In fact, her toast during the date (which occurred on her 24th birthday in September but aired in early January), went down as one of the most awkward in Bachelor history.
Underwood found himself questioning whether he and Brown could find a connection, but she managed to open up on the night portion of the date, getting candid about the guilt she felt after losing her virginity before marriage, and how she learned to overcome it.
“Honestly, my faith has grown so much and I’ve realized what a relationship with the Lord is really about,” Brown previously told ET. “I don’t have to carry that [guilt].”
As the season progressed, it was Brown’s relationship with another person — her rivalry with fellow Miss USA contestant Caelynn Miller-Keyes — that gained more attention. The women’s back-and-forth comments about each other to Underwood ended up labeling both as Bachelor villains. After weeks of feuding, they put an end to their beef — but shortly after, Underwood put an end to his and Brown’s relationship.
The blonde beauty was the only woman to meet Underwood’s family during a special one-on-one date in his hometown of Denver, Colorado, during week seven of the season. They all got along great, and Brown opened up about how she was falling in love — but something was missing for Underwood. He broke up with her during their intimate dinner at the airport and sent her on her way. She finished seventh in the season.
The next time viewers saw Brown was weeks later at the Women Tell All special, where she redeemed herself in more ways than one. She cleared the air about her feud with Miller-Keyes, opened up about her split from Underwood and delivered a flawless toast, cheers-ing to the “fierce love” she hoped to find in the future.
Brown was an unexpected choice to be named the Bachelorette when the announcement was made in March. She was the first woman to hold the position who didn’t even make it to hometowns. She was also the first Bachelorette to have been labeled a villain — and told ET at her first Bachelorette photo shoot that even she was surprised she got the gig.
“I wanted it so bad and I felt like it could be me, but, yeah, this never happened before,” Brown said of her becoming Bachelorette without even making it to Underwood’s final four. “I think I’m just real, and that’s why it’s me, and I want to continue that. And I promise that the man that walks through that door, they’re gonna see me, and I’m going to expect that in return.”
“I was the villain. I was the emotional trainwreck,” she admitted. “I didn’t just coast through at all. I wasn’t just coasting in the back corner, that’s for sure.”
Brown kicked off her season on Underwood’s After the Final Rose in March. It was rocky, and enough to have host Chris Harrison start to have doubts about whether Brown was ready for the job. However, by the time night one rolled around, she proved she was lead material.
She sent a man home on premiere night after getting a tip he came on the show with a girlfriend back home and proved to be a force to be reckoned weeks later when it came to standing up for her right to be a woman of faith and one who embraces her sexuality.
The Bachelorette’s most memorable moment of the season came when she confronted finalist — and fellow Christian — Luke Parker over his statement that he believed the marriage bed should be “pure” and he wouldn’t want to be with her if she had been intimate with any of the other contestants in the fantasy suites. “I have had sex, and Jesus still loves me!” she hissed back at him, later revealing that she and Peter Weber had sex multiple times on their windmill overnight date.
“To ever have anybody make me feel [ashamed], it’s a little messed up, and I’m not going to stand for that,” Brown told ET. “Because if I feel that way, I know there’s other people out in the world that feel that way, and maybe if I can stand up for myself, other people can feel like they can too.”
“Regardless of anything that I’ve done that people might think, ‘Oh, well, that deserved a scarlet letter,’ that’s not how it works,” Brown continued. “I can do whatever. I sin daily, and Jesus still loves me. It’s all washed, and if the Lord doesn’t judge me and it’s all forgiven, then no other man, woman, animal — anything, I don’t know! — can judge me!”
The drama didn’t end there, however. Weeks after filming had wrapped and she had accepted Wyatt’s proposal, news broke that the musician had been in a relationship at home in Nashville. Brown broke off the engagement, and her happily-ever-after crumbled before her eyes.
“You got to see all of me, I didn’t get to see all of you,” she told him in an emotionally charged conversation. “This [ring] doesn’t mean the same thing. That’s not what I said yes to.”
Brown was celebrated on After the Final Rose, where she revealed that amid her healing from her split from Wyatt, she still had feelings for her runner-up, Tyler Cameron. She then asked Cameron out for a drink.
Things didn’t work out between Brown and Cameron (he went off to New York City days later, and started a relationship with Gigi Hadid. That romance has since fizzled out), but she had other things to focus on — like Dancing With the Stars. The Bachelorette put the breaks on her journey to find love, and instead started one for the mirrorball trophy, as she was among the 12 celebrities announced to compete on the show’s 28th season. After weeks of hard work and emotional breakthroughs, Brown and her partner, Alan Bersten, came out victorious.
“I’m in complete shock. When they said our names, I thought it was for the runner-ups, so I don’t think I even know how to process how I feel right now,” Brown told ET just after her win. “But I’m super thankful for the experience. Even the hard times, the fans just stuck it out with us. I cried a bit earlier today, but I just felt a sense of peace come over me because I knew that I gave it my all … I’ll probably cry later when it actually sinks in.”
“I think I learned that I can be confident. I just felt so empowered on this journey and people have just really made me feel like this — I sometimes don’t understand why this is happening to me, but the fans and the people who have loved me around this whole experience have made me feel like I do deserve it,” she continued. “Thank you, guys. I love you all!”
Brown — who will be joining DWTS‘ upcoming tour — is already looking forward to what comes next. “I thought I wanted a break. I’ve had a break for, like, a week, and I hate it,” she told ET. “I think I love crazy. I love a crazy life. I want to be booked and busy.”
As for her milestone year, the Bachelorette couldn’t pinpoint just one moment that changed everything for her.
“I feel like this whole year has really given me opportunities to really have to think hard about my decisions and who I am and what I want,” she shared. “Those hard times and those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that I’ve had have really grown me not as a woman and a person in a relationship to be able to give later on. Right now, that’s not the case and I’m great being a woman on my own. But I really think I’ve grown a lot for whenever that day comes for me.”
The 25-year-old is thinking about writing a book about “things nobody knows about me and I haven’t shared with the world,” she revealed — but she’ll also be back on our TV screens. Brown is set to make several appearances on Weber’s upcoming season of The Bachelor; in the trailer, he’s seen asking her if she’ll join his season as a contestant.
“I feel like if we put two and two together, like, I worked my a** of to win that mirrorball, so I don’t know — I was in the studio eight hours a day [for DWTS],” Brown teased of what she tells Weber about his request. “You should do the math and watch in January.”
It’s onward and upward for the Alabama girl as she takes on Hollywood and beyond.
“I’ve had a lot of my bucket list things come to me this year… Like, what is my life?” she asked. “I feel like there’s more of that in store. I have a feeling and I’m going to keep doing what I do to work and gain more experience and knowledge.”
“2020 is going to be my year. We’re putting that out there,” she added.
The Bachelor returns Monday, Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.
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