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Hannah Brown's journey as 'The Bachelorette' begins

Hannah Brown, the latest "Bachelorette."

 Hannah Brown, the latest "Bachelorette."  Credit: ABC / Ed Herrera

At 24 the youngest woman to star as "The Bachelorette," Hannah Brown caused consternation when her first impression didn't leave her smelling like a rose.

"Whoever was skeptical after the 'After the Final Rose' special and was scared: I was in that boat. I was scared to death!" longtime franchise host Chris Harrison told The Hollywood Reporter recently, referring to Brown's tongue-tied introduction as the star of season 15, which premieres Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC. "I left that special thinking, 'Oh, dear Lord, did we just make a huge mistake?' "

Harrison, 47, added that he was quickly reassured, saying that "after night one — actually, about an hour into filming that first night — I realized: This was the woman. This was Hannah. She came in firing on all cylinders, controlled the situation, was funny, sweet, powerful and all the things that we knew she was." A contestant on the recently concluded 23rd season of "The Bachelor," starring Colton Underwood, she wound up a respectable seventh place out of 30 women.

The Tuscaloosa, Alabama-born Brown did even better on the beauty-pageant circuit, where she has competed since age 15 and was crowned Miss Alabama USA 2018. By that time she already had been named senior class vice president at Tuscaloosa County High School, and was one of just three magna cum laude graduates in 2017 from the University of Alabama's College of Communication and Information Sciences.

While still in school, Brown had begun working at the Northport, Alabama, interior-design shop Gracefully Done. "It quickly became clear that this job was not just a hobby, and after graduation I decided to continue my work study [there]," she wrote on her LinkedIn page. "Soon, I was rewarded my own clients and promoted to interior designer."

"We love her," Gracefully Done owner Collette Day told The Tuscaloosa News in March, shortly before ABC's announcement. "She was very talented and I think she could have had a good career in interior design if that's what she chooses to do. Obviously, she might have a lot of opportunities to come her way through this."

All this hardly sounds like a self-described "hot mess." It may just be that a national spotlight and live television can get to anyone. But Harrison says he believes there's a deeper issue with Brown, who as Miss Alabama USA advocated for people suffering from depression and anxiety — something that, as ABC says in her "Bachelorette" bio, "she battled with during her teenage years."

"She really embraces the fact that she's got some issues," Harrison told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's only one way for her to go through this and that's her way, and it's very particular. She needs time to process things. Sometimes things can be overwhelming and she needs to slow it down and really think about it. And I really respect and love that about her. That she embraces it, owns it, puts it out there for everyone to see and that she's not ashamed."

"I believe 1,000 percent that you can find your person and fall in love," Brown told The Tuscaloosa News sometime before being named the new "Bachelorette." "If that is something that can happen for me, I would love the opportunity, but I think you can fall in love anywhere," she said. "I could fall in love at a coffee shop tomorrow or on national television. Who knows?"

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