Juggling his gigs as backstage presenter on Dancing with the Stars USA and the Kiwi correspondent for the E! channel, Dominic Bowden had a good thing going on in Los Angeles when he got the call asking if he’d host The Bachelor New Zealand. But he didn’t think twice about getting on the first plane home.
After almost a decade of setting – and smashing – goals in La La Land, the popular TV presenter tells Woman’s Day that the glitz and glam of the world’s showbiz capital just doesn’t do it for him any more.
“America has always been the place that’s fascinated me,” explains Dom. “In my line of work, it really is the top of the totem pole – I never ever thought I’d get a chance to exist and work there. Everything in Los Angeles just seems bigger and better, but after a while, you do get jaded.
“Once you’ve been to enough big concerts and the coolest parties, it feels a little like Groundhog Day, and what you really strive for are real and authentic experiences. That stuff about LA being a superficial city, well, it’s entirely true.”
When the 40-year-old star recounts his career highlights – including interviewing Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie just weeks before they announced their split – all roads lead back to the United States, but the one thing the bright lights of Hollywood could never offer Dom was true “inner happiness”, he says.
It finally dawned on him when his younger brother Liam, the founder of luxury handbag line Deadly Ponies, celebrated the brand’s 10-year anniversary. Dom explains, “It was a really big deal and here I was halfway across the world at work. That was around the time I was talking to Brad and Ange, which I should have been over-the-moon about, but everything felt so inconsequential. All I wanted to do was jump on a plane so I could be dancing on the table with my brother and sister.”
It was this realisation that made Dom question what he wanted in life. He continues, “These were the goals I always wanted, but when I got them, well, then what? I’ve got my green card and I’ve made all the noises about getting my citizenship, but if I stayed in LA, would I be truly happy? I knew I’d found my answer.”
While the Bachelor host insists he hasn’t closed the door on the US for good, he’s relishing his return to Aotearoa. Since coming back last December, he’s made spending time with his loved ones his top priority and managed to squeeze in a classic Kiwi summer, bach-hopping around the upper North Island with family and friends in between filming.
Dom even found time to hit up a few homewares stores in an attempt to deck out his own brand-new bachelor pad in Auckland’s Herne Bay, although he’s not 100% sold on living alone.
“At the end of the day, there aren’t many single people hanging out with Mum, Dad, my brother and my sister at Sunday night roast,” says Dom, whose marriage to former news reporter Claire Robbie ended in 2012.
“It’s not like I’m here pining for a girlfriend, but like most single men, I’d love to meet my partner in crime.”
The Three star has been dating both here and abroad. Earlier in the series, Bachelor intruder Karina Grant revealed she enjoyed a brief romance with Dom in 2015.
But when it comes to his success in the US, Dom says, “There’s that old saying about no-one going to LA to meet people – and it’s true. They’re all trying to find a way to make a name for themselves and that in itself is really tough. A relationship is all about compromise and those two things just don’t gel.
“I was on a dating app over there called Raya, which was really full-on. They audit your social media before they allow you to join, and it feels like it’s practically mandatory to have a helicopter shot and a really airbrushed professional acting headshot on your profile.”
After his unsuccessful flirtation with the celebrity app, Dom says he now wants to settle down with a typical Kiwi girl and he’s open to the idea of marrying again.
He explains, “I always thought I knew who my perfect woman was – it’s someone your friends get along with, someone fun who you can share great adventures with – but in truth, it’s so much more than that.
“I’d love to meet someone who has a good understanding of gratitude and compassion, someone who is thoughtful and kind. You can have fun and go on adventures with anyone, but it’s really about getting those other things right.”
Smiling, Dom concludes, “My parents have been married for 42 years – I’d be lucky if I can have even half of what they have! In some ways, I’ve got to be careful because I don’t want to set the bar too high for myself.”