Ali Fedotowsky-Manno On Family Taco Night, Nashville, And The Bachelorette - Exclusive Interview

Since Ali Fedotowsky-Manno appeared as the Season 6 Bachelorette in 2010, she's gone on to work in TV, get married, and have two kids. While her relationship with her final pick on "The Bachelorette," Roberto Martinez, didn't ultimately last, Fedotowsky-Manno can thank the show for helping her meet her husband, Kevin Manno. In 2012, she began hosting a late-night lifestyle series, "1st Look," for NBC, where Manno was a member of the crew.

Fedotowsky-Manno's latest opportunity is a brand collaboration with Old El Paso for their new tortilla pockets — and who better to rep the brand and the product than the wife and mom who shares taco night at home with the family for an event they've dubbed "the feast"?

The List had the opportunity to chat with the former Bachelorette, who moved from Los Angeles to Nashville, Tennessee with her family in 2021, about life at home, how they do taco night, and "The Bachelorette" Season 19.

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno on how she and Kevin Manno handle parenting duties

What's Monday morning typically like at the Manno household, and when do your kids return to school?

My kids just went back last week, so last Wednesday. [Monday] was officially their first full day of school. They had half days, and now it's officially their first full day, so I'm like, "I'm so excited."

I'm fortunate that my husband wakes up with the kids early. My kids love to wake up before the sun comes up, so my husband usually wakes up with them because he's an early riser. I think it's from years of working in morning radio, and then usually probably around 6:45, 7:00 sometimes, the kids all run into my room and jump on me to wake me up, which is the best. Every morning when it happens, I'm so lucky to have this and be woken up this way and get to sleep in a little bit.

Then usually, my husband and I are getting ready to start. He's making their lunch and I'm getting their backpacks together. It's always a team effort. We always do it together. Usually, he brings them to school while I jump on email and start thinking about what I'm going to do for work for the day [and] what my job entails for the day.

My husband and I are interesting because we have more reverse stereotypical gender roles — very stereotypical ones where he does more of the stuff with the kids and taking care of the kids. He's Mr. Mom, and I handle more of the finances and the business, and I'm the breadwinner, and I love that my kids get to see that because a lot of times in the media and on TV, you see it the other way around. I love that they get to see it all different ways. 

That's funny because that's similar to my own dynamic with me and my husband. He does the cooking and more of the housework.

One thing is I do all the cooking. He does all the cleaning, but I am the cook of the household.

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno talks family taco night

I'd love to hear about taco night at your house. I was told you call it "the feast"?

The feast, yes. My daughter came up with that term. That was not my term. Every time her Mimi or Grammy comes and visits or we do dinner, she's always like, "I want to have a feast." She loves seeing basically what the feast is. It's usually taco night, because that's the easiest way to do a feast or any meal where we have a bunch of bowls on the table with a bunch of different things in them. She likes to see a buffet, food in front of her, which a lot of kids like because they get to pick and choose what they want to eat.

Taco night in our house is all about having the feast. It's all about options, and I feel like it's the perfect meal for parents and kids for multiple reasons.

By putting all those little bowls out for the kiddos, they get to choose what they put in their taco. They get to choose, "Do I want lettuce? Do I want beans? Do I want rice?" and when you let a child be in charge of what they're eating, they're so much more likely to make adventurous choices.

The benefits of El Paso tortilla pockets for parents and kids

I'm sure that finding a mess-free dinner option that the kids enjoy is really a game changer.

It's one of those things that I get so excited to tell parents about. I have a bunch of kits always in my pantry, because it's an easy thing to do. It's an easy dinner, too. Sometimes you're like, "What do I do for dinner?" and I feel like taco night is always an easy thing to do, so I have so many in my pantry. I send moms home with them. I'm like, "Here you go. Thank me later. You'll be so happy to have these for your kids." They are so great.

If I were to give my son his taco and be like, "Okay, here's tomato in it," he'd be like, "I'm not eating that. Get that tomato out of my taco," but if I give him his tortilla pocket, which I'm going to tell you about in a second, and then let him choose what to put in it, he's so much more likely to make those healthier choices and get veggies in, and the most genius product ever is the Old El Paso tortilla pocket.

Taco night is fun. It's fun for you. It's fun for the kids. We love doing it in our house, and the Old El Paso tortilla pockets make my husband happy because he does all the cleaning and he's a neat freak, and he's like, "Oh, it's all contained. This is very nice."

I am telling you, when I have moms come over my house, I grab them out of the pantry and I'm like, "You have to get these, they're so amazing. They are the key to less mess at dinner time on taco night." It's a little tortilla pocket that the kids can put all of their goodies in themselves. It's sealed at the bottom, so that it contains the mess. It contains the ingredients, so when your child goes and takes a bite out of it, it doesn't all fall on the floor.

It's so genius. It's so amazing. You can use it for breakfast tacos, lunch, dinner. I use it for PBJs, for my kids' sandwiches for school. The teachers have even been like, "What is that? That's amazing. The PBJ stays in rather than falling out all over the place," and the teachers thank me. It's one of those genius products that I am so thankful for as a mom.

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno on life in a new city

You and your family moved to Nashville last year. How have you settled in? How has everyone in your house handled that transition?

It's been great. Moving to a new city is difficult. It was way more difficult than I anticipated, and it doesn't matter where you live. We could have moved anywhere. In my [mind], it's once you create a community in your new environment, that's all that matters. It's the people you surround yourself with — and sometimes the food — but we have found a great community of people, both for the kids, for us, for my husband and I, and so we love it. We love Nashville. We love that we get some of the seasons.

We feel really lucky to live here, but it's the type of thing [where] I don't think [any place] is the best place to live. It's the people you surround yourself with, so if you live in Baltimore, that's the best place for you to live. Find yourself that community. If you live in San Diego, that's the best place for you to live. Find your community. It's all about community, and we feel like we've found that.

And the struggles of work-life balance and mom guilt

With both of you having busy careers, how do you handle the transition from summer to back to school?

We're both so fortunate that we get to work from home, but one thing that has been hard for me, at least with the end of the summer, is that ... I'd wake up in the morning and want to spend time with my kids because it was the end of summer, and I knew that they were going to be going back to school, but then I also had work to do, so I knew I had to do that. I also wanted to take care of myself and get a workout in, so every morning, especially towards the end of the summer, [it gets tough]. 

During the beginning of summer, you're doing more stuff, fun stuff like trips and you're like, "Whoo, everyone's home, fun." But then that gets old, and towards the end, I would wake up in the morning and I'd feel guilty because I wasn't totally present with my kids, guilty because I wasn't getting my work done, getting stressed watching the emails pile up, and I was feeling down because I wasn't taking care of me and getting my workout in, and so I would wake up and then, instead of doing anything, I would do nothing, and I would sit there and worry about what I wasn't getting done. 

It's almost like a paralyzing feeling, and I talked to a lot of moms about this, and it's something that a lot of moms were feeling, and dads I'm sure, towards the end of the summer.

The transition back to school has been a healthy one, personally, because my kids go to school, and I can focus on my work. Then, when they come home, I can be like, "I got my work done and I can totally be present with them." I always say that time with kids is not about quantity, it's about quality, and with school back in session, I'm finally getting that quality time back in, and I feel like, "Whew, I can breathe." I know a lot of other parents are feeling the same way.

The former Bachelorette on Season 19 and her altered perspective of the show

I've been watching "The Bachelorette" for years. I'd love to get your thoughts on the current season.

I used to watch every season. It was like ... "My Bachelorette" time. The Monday nights, that was me. Kevin knew to take the kids. In the past few years, I don't know what has happened. A lot of it has to do with [the move], and things were crazy because we moved from California to Nashville, but I haven't watched the last few seasons. This season, I'm trying to catch up, and I was able to watch last week's episode. I'm going to watch [this week's] episode.

As I get older, you realize that the decisions you make in a relationship in your 20s are so different than the decisions you'd make in your 30s, in your 40s. As you grow up, you gain more wisdom or whatever you want to call it, so it's hard for me to watch, because I'm not in my 20s anymore, and I don't want to pick apart these girls' decisions because they're learning. They're in their 20s, they're growing. I was like, "Ugh, I wouldn't." I've been through the experience. I know so much. It's really emotional for everyone.

Would I get so emotional about something in my dating life outside of the show? No, but the show, everything's heightened, so you're getting emotional about things. It's hard for me to watch now because I love these girls so much. Every [season], we're a family, we have a group text message where we all talk, and I want to support them in everything that they do.

From what I've seen, the girls are handling it beautifully. They're all going through their own experience, and I always say to people who ask about the show, "Imagine if your dating life in your early 20s was on national television. You're figuring out life, you're doing all these things. These poor girls are then putting it on TV for everyone to see and talk about." They're doing a great job, and I hope that they find love and all.

That's very true. Whenever I watch, I try to take a step back myself, too, because they're doing the best that they can, and when you're that age, and, especially this season, thrown into a situation where everyone's trying to figure it out.

With Gabby, for instance — the date she had with Nate, who had the daughter — at first, I was thinking, "What is she doing? It doesn't matter. If you love someone, you'll make it work," and then I thought, "Wait a second. I'm thinking that as my 37-year-old self. She's not 37."

She's a lot younger than me. See, that makes sense, but then also I was like, "If he was really the one, if she really felt super strongly about him, I feel like she would've kept him. It was a mixture of "I like him a lot, but not enough to take on that role." That's another thing. It's hard for me to be like, "What do I think is going on in her brain?" because I'm viewing it through a totally different lens.

Rachel and Gabby's final picks this season

Who do you think Rachel and Gabby will pick? Who are your picks for them?

Zach is in a good position to get that final rose from her. Gabby, I don't know, but I feel like [for] Rachel, that's who she's going with.

I agree. Gabby's a little bit harder to read than Rachel. I think Rachel's going to pick Tino, though. That's my guess.

That's a good guess. Whoever starts getting a second one-on-one date, whenever that starts happening, it's pretty clear who the top two are because you like that person so much, and you want to get more time with them alone, so once that starts happening, you're like, "Okay, those two got second one-on-ones. They're in the top two, top three."

I didn't find love from that show, but because of that show, I got a career where I met my husband. That wouldn't have been possible [without] that show, so I was like, "If you don't find love on this show, you might find love as a result of it." You never know.

Ali Fedotowsky-Manno on how her career has shifted over time

You've had an interesting career so far. You transitioned to TV after "The Bachelorette," you have your blog. You had a small part in "Blue Jasmine" (a fabulous movie, I wanted to point that out), and then your brand collaborations. What else is on the horizon?

I have a small business now, with these hydration packs that I started with a business partner, and that's honestly been my baby. That is what I do day in, day out. It is so much harder to start a small business than I ever could have imagined, so I'm learning so much in that avenue of my life. When I wake up in the morning, I'm trying to figure out, "What new vendor do we need, or fulfillment center? Are the orders getting fulfilled? [There's] customer service ... [are] everyone's questions being [answered]?" It's so much more than I ever thought it was, but I'm loving it, and I love transitioning.

When I was in TV ... I really enjoyed TV at the beginning, but then I started not enjoying TV. I'm not the type of person that likes to wake up in the morning and put on a dress and heels and a full face of makeup. That is not me. Some people love that, and that's awesome. I'm the person that wants to wake up, put on a jumper, sneakers, throw my hair in a ponytail and easy makeup. I never like to put on mascara because it's a pain to take off at night, but when you work in television, you wake up in the morning, you sit in a makeup chair, and they put a full face of makeup on your face. You have to then put on a little dress and high heels.

It was so much, and I knew that wasn't the long-term path for me career-wise. To be able to start this small business, I feel so grateful, and I'm hoping it succeeds. We'll see what happens.

Visit the Old El Paso website to enter your zip code and find your nearest location to buy their new Tortilla Pockets Kits.

This interview has been edited for clarity.