bottled water company based in Lindon. “She gave me the best present of my life — my fiancée, Emily.”
But not everyone on the family tree was initially rooting for their free-spirited brother to seek love on high definition television. Jef’s parents begged him from their post as LDS mission presidents in South Carolina to not accept this rose of an opportunity. But once the show wrapped and the episodes began airing on Monday nights, family night included calls and texts from his parents and five siblings who were rallying around their entrepreneur brother. Jef even confided in his dad after the eighth episode that he made it to the finale and left with a fiancée.
“I told him that the women in our family are really bad at keeping secrets — so don’t tell mom,” Jef recalls.
Spoiler alerts predicted Jef’s victory weeks before the reality show finale aired on July 22. Locally, “Jef sightings” and “guess who I met” Facebook pics were common all summer as this former UVU soccer player ate at his favorite spot — Costa Vida — and played his favorite golf courses — Hobble Creek, Sleepy Ridge and Talon’s Cove.
Jef frequently posts his own pics and quips on Twitter and Instagram, which is how we knew he was home from an African charity project and was ready to sit down with Utah Valley Magazine on Aug. 9, 2012.
UV: How has your life changed?
Jef: I used to just wake up, go to work at People Water and hang out. Now everybody knows about my personal life, my family and my relationships.
UV: What happens when you go out and about? What do people say to you?
Jef: I went golfing this morning, and random guys kept coming up to me, and then there was a group of girls waiting and giggling when I got to the clubhouse.
UV: You got engaged when the finale was taped in May, but it didn’t air until July. What happened during your two-month secret?
Jef: Almost every weekend after the final rose, ABC sent me and Emily to secret locations so we could see each other. I told my friends I was doing media engagements.
UV: What was the hardest part of keeping the secret?
Jef: Some people would come up and say, “I’m so sorry you didn’t win.” I would just say, “Yeah, that sucks.” When people would ask me if I won, at first I would just say, “I can’t tell you. You’ll have to watch it.” I was under contract — I think it was for $5 million — that if anything came out or leaked because of me, I was liable. After about a week, I got pretty good at deflecting the question.
UV: How did your co-workers at People Water react?
Jef: That was hardest because I saw them every day. Emily would call me, and I’d excuse myself. A couple of times, I ended with, “I love you.” Then my colleagues would look at me like, “Who was that?” I would say it was my mom or sister.
UV: What was it like to watch yourself on TV?
Jef: When the first episode aired, I still wasn’t home from doing the show. I was sitting in Barbados on the edge of the bed in my hotel room, and I watched myself roll up on my skateboard. I covered my face with my hands and thought, “This is going to be so embarrassing.”
UV: Why did you go on the show?
Jef: I’ve always been a free spirit, and I believe you don’t know how love will find you. Risks give you the greatest rewards, and this show has been the greatest reward of my life. It’s been an awesome experience and a rollercoaster.
UV: What did your business partners think about you going on the show?
Jef: They were nervous. If I wasn’t portrayed in the best light, that would be bad for People Water.
UV: What did your parents think?
Jef: Both of them begged me not to do it. They knew the show had hot tub scenes and trashy situations. But I kept assuring them that the producers were telling me this season was different. Emily was a mom and didn’t want that stuff on the show. But parents always want to protect their kids — that’s what loving parents do.
UV: Did you talk to your parents while the show was airing?
Jef: Yes, after every episode we would talk on the phone. They began to warm up to the idea. By the third or fourth episode, my parents were telling me they were proud of the way I portrayed myself and the choices I made on the show. Before long, my mom would call me crying saying she wanted to know how it ended.
UV: What have you learned from your mom?
Jef: She is so loving and always dedicated to helping her kids. Family comes first for her. I have awesome parents who are madly in love, and they taught me how to have a solid relationship.
UV: What did you learn from your dad?
Jef: I get the entrepreneurial spirit and business sense from him, but I also get my soft-spokenness from him. I never heard him raise his voice. I never heard him fight with my mom. He also taught me about helping and serving people, which is why I started People Water. When I was younger, my dad took us on a trip to Guatemala because he wanted to teach his kids how to work hard — and to learn humility. We built homes, and right then I knew I wanted to be dedicated to people in need. I can’t count how many times my dad has woken me up at 6 a.m. to do service projects — or to fix fences on the ranch. Or to go golfing.
UV: How did your dad give you a business foundation?
Jef: I grew up doing odd jobs for him. I cleaned up things at his job sites, and I put packets together for his sales guys. I’ve built stuff on his properties. I spent a lot of time hanging out with him and learning from him as a leader. Now that I’m a business guy, I realize how much I learned from him.
UV: What are you looking forward to about being a dad?
Jef: I just found out this week that I’m going to be the head coach of Ricki’s Green Beans soccer team. Ricki is the cutest little girl. She’ll get on the phone and say, “Jef, when are you coming out? Can you come tonight?” And she’ll say, “Mom, you love Jef.” She knows I’m not just another guy.
UV: One reason viewers were rooting for you is how you interacted with Ricki.
Jef: Being an uncle — I have one niece and seven nephews — really prepared me for that moment. The producers said they wanted me to sit down and talk to her, but no kid wants to “sit down and talk.” They want to do something. So I suggested we go swimming, and it went really well. I’m excited to be a dad — I want Ricki plus three or four more kids. I like big families.
UV: You obviously come from a big LDS family, which made a big splash in the media.
Jef: Being raised in a Mormon family is a big part of who I am. I served a mission in Minnesota, and my family is very active in the church.
UV: What did you tell Emily about your Mormon background?
Jef: We talked a lot about faith and about family service projects we wanted to do. A lot of the principles from being raised Mormon and going to church every Sunday are still with me. On the show when Emily and I had to decide whether to go to the overnight fantasy suite, I told her we should bridle our passions. I didn’t think it was the time or place for us to spend the night together. So yes, that phrase came from the Book of Mormon, and the media picked up on that.
UV: What was it like when Emily met your family?
Jef: I was debating whether to take Emily to St. George to meet my family or whether to bring her to Utah County where she could meet my friends and see where I make my living. My family is very private — I haven’t taken that many girls home. But the biggest thing Emily and I have in common is that we both want a solid family — and that’s exactly what I have. I wanted to show her what we could have.
UV: Did you prep your siblings about what to say and do on the show?
Jef: No, I didn’t have a lot of communication with them beforehand. The show wants it to be genuine, so I didn’t prepare them for what to say or do. I just kinda sprung it on them. And the conversations were natural — as natural as you can get with the cameras rolling.
UV: Were you happy with the editing?
Jef: I think our chemistry was cool for people to watch and experience. I also loved that people fell in love with my sweetheart right along with me. The editors used the material we gave them, which ended up being a positive and uplifting story about two people falling in love. It’s hard for them to twist that.
UV: How involved are the producers in what happens?
Jef: The most common thing I get asked is if the show is scripted. But the producers want you to be yourself — from the way you dress to the things you say. There were times they wanted us to repeat something because they didn’t get the right angle.
UV: How does compensation work on the show?
Jef: The guys don’t get compensated, but Emily made a lot of money. In our contract, it says that if we get married ABC can bid on filming our wedding. So that could be crazy money, but we’re not sure we are going to do that.
UV: So what are your plans now?
Jef: I’m buying a house out in North Carolina to be near Emily and Ricki, but I plan to spend one week each month in Utah taking care of business with People Water.
UV: What are you going to show Emily during her first trip to Utah?
Jef: I definitely want to take her to Sundance, Park City and downtown Salt Lake City. And I want to show her Utah Valley. Provo Canyon is beautiful in the fall. I also want to take her to Brighton — Emily doesn’t like snow sports but Ricki does.
UV: And I know you like a variety of sports — having played soccer at UVU. Tell me about your college experience.
Jef: School isn’t for me. I don’t do well sitting in a classroom listening to somebody teach me about business when I feel like I should be out there doing it, but I got a big education at UVU. When I dropped out after about three years, it was a huge relief. I left and took my passion and drive and commitment into starting a business.
UV: Lastly, you’re known as “Jef with one ‘f around our office. Is that your given name?
Jef: It’s actually Jeffrey. But in the fifth or sixth grade, I had a friend whose name was Mat with one “t.” One of my friends suggested that I drop an “f.” So I did and it stuck.
UV: And now all of America knows how to spell your name.