Luke Parker is hoping to turn Hannah B. to Hannah P. at the end of their journey on this season of “The Bachelorette.”
The show, which premiered May 13 on ABC, began filming in early March, so Luke, a Gainesville resident, was sworn to secrecy about all the details. His phone and all other forms of communication were confiscated upon arriving in Los Angeles to record the show and he's not able to reveal any details until the season finale has aired.
Hannah Brown, an Alabama native, is this season’s bachelorette, and was also on the just-concluded season of “The Bachelor.” When she was announced as the new bachelorette on the March 12 finale of “The Bachelor,” Luke and four other men on the show met her for their first time on live TV.
“You are absolutely stunning,” Luke, 24, said as he met Brown and went in for a hug — all in front of a studio audience. “You are the only one that I wanted to be the next bachelorette. And now that I’m here actually holding your hands, in real life, seriously this is just blowing my mind and I seriously cannot wait to get to know you on a deeper level and just go on this adventure with you.”
Luke, originally from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, grew up playing baseball. He played at Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida, then at High Point University in North Carolina and finally at Faulkner University in Alabama, where he ended up graduating.
He works for the family business, Parker Warehouse, an import and export company that has been around for 45 years.
There’s not much of a first-hand account as to how everything up to this point happened for Luke, but it’s safe to say he never saw it coming.
“This time last year, he went through a bad break up,” said Hannah Parker, Luke’s sister-in-law. ”I watch the show, so my husband and I were just sitting there and I was like, ‘I’m going to apply Luke for the show and just see what happens,’ thinking he had no chance of getting on the show.”
She filled out the application without her brother-in-law knowing and decided to let the chips fall where they may. A few months later, Luke got a call from some people with “The Bachelorette” and things started to fall into place.
“He and I had a conversation before he left and they hadn’t told him who it was going to be yet, but he didn’t want it to be anybody else,” said Mike Parker, Luke’s brother. “He didn’t really want to be on the show if it was anybody else other than (Brown).”
As Mike and Hannah did some digging online, they had a good feeling Brown would be the next bachelorette. But they still didn’t know for certain until it was announced March 12.
But the biggest surprise of all came when Luke appeared on screen just after Brown was announced as the bachelorette.
“We were just watching and all the sudden he was the first one to come out and we were freaking out about it,” Hannah said.
As the interview process began, the family started watching “The Bachelor,” trying to pick up on different personality traits of each woman to see if Luke would fit with any of them — a person from the previous season of the show is typically named the next bachelor or bachelorette. Brown immediately stuck out to everyone, especially Luke.
“We didn’t know that it was going to Hannah B., but we hoped it would be,” Hannah said. “Just because of how she handled herself … And they showed on the season, when the girls were at the house, they showed her a couple of times where she was reading her Bible, and writing in her journal and stuff.”
And that’s important to Luke. He’s a member at Christ Place Church and helps out with the college ministry whenever he can. He’s taught Sunday school classes and is part of a small group at the church, too.
Mike Robertson, also a Sunday school teacher at Christ Place who’s gotten to know Luke, said they’ve talked quite a bit about what the show will be like.
“Our guys are praying for him every day,” Robertson said.
Luke will be taking a study guide on the book of Hebrews with him. While he’s on the show, he’ll be reading through the book while his friends back at Christ Place do the same.
“He wants to share his faith and he wants to share his faith on national TV,” Robertson said. “He believes God has given him this opportunity to go out there, and he doesn’t know what‘s going to happen to him there, but he’s praying for opportunities.”
For Luke and his family, finding a woman who has the same values was important, and after even more online research, Hannah found out that Brown and Luke actually went to the same church — albeit different campuses — when they were in college in Alabama.
The more everyone learned about Brown, the more they felt Luke would be a good fit for her and the show in general.
Jesse Foster, Luke’s fitness coach and friend at North Forsyth Training and Fitness, said Luke is genuine, encouraging and the kind of guy anyone would want to get to know.
Everyone at his gym knows Luke’s name.
“Guys, we battle with our egos,” Foster said. “But Luke is the opposite. When he meets people, he is 100 percent meeting them and getting to know what they're about. And he’s really looking to learn … If he meets you he wants to know about you.”
That’s the kind of personality Mike has seen all his life from his brother and the kind of personality he knows will help him stand out among the crowded field of bachelors.
“It was always kind of a joke,” Mike said, laughing. “But in the back of our minds, we knew Luke would be great for it. He’s a good looking guy, he’s very outgoing, he’s got a great personality.
“And I know I’m his brother and everything, but he’s the most genuine guy I know.”
That’s what Mike and Hannah saw when Luke first introduced himself to Brown.
“When I saw him on there — I can read my brother better than anybody — and I saw him being real, I saw him being Luke when he smiled, I saw the Luke everybody loves,” Mike said. “And when I saw that … I was able to take a deep breath.”
When Mike saw his brother being himself, not pulling out any gimmicks as some of the other men who met her March 12 did, he knew he was taking things seriously.
But, for anyone who’s seen the show, things aren’t always easy. The show is filled with drama as it travels across the country and sometimes the world. That’s the one thing Hannah thinks her brother-in-law might struggle with most.
“I know that it’s a reality TV show, and I’ve never been on one so I don’t know how it works, but I imagine it’s going to be kind of tough and they’re going to put him in situations to maybe try to get him to act a certain way,” Hannah said. “So for him to stick to his guns and have character in all those situations they put him in, I think that’s going to be the toughest part.”
Regardless of the outcome, Mike is sure the experience is going to help his brother become a better person — hopefully by way of a proposal at the end of it all.
“I believe that God is using Luke,” Mike said. “I don’t know what this whole thing is going to look like for Luke at the end. It might just be one big learning experience for him. But at the end of the day, I want him to grow in maturity, I want him to grow in his faith, I want him to grow as a man and I can already see it happening.”
This story has been updated from its original version.