If you’re watching the current season of The Bachelorette, then you know Houstonian PJ Henderson is single once again. The 31-year-old Houston firefighter rode in on a fire engine on night one, but fortunately for the single ladies of Houston, things didn’t heat up with Bachelorette Michelle Young.
Texas has always been home to Henderson. He was born in Dallas and grew up in Austin, where his parents still live, before moving to Houston. After living in the Bayou City for eight years, he happily shares the place it holds in his heart. “I feel like I love Houston, it's a part of me now. I love everything about it, you know, music, the culture, everything is really laid back. I love it.”
Part of that love for Houston includes serving his community through healing.
Henderson and his family founded The Bakari Foundation in honor of his late younger brother, Bakari Henderson who was murdered on the Greek island of Zakynthos in 2017. The Foundation supports families dealing with the loss of a loved one. The group provides trips to families in mourning in hopes they will find “healing, peace, and clarity,” according to the Foundation’s website. Henderson believes travel can be a healing mechanism.
The Bakari Foundation plans to expand the program this year as a retreat for selected families, including the Henderson family, where they can meet for therapy sessions and experiences to learn how to cope and heal from their loss.
PJ spoke with Houstonia about his experience on The Bachelorette, his future wife and his family-founded charitable program.
Why did you want to be on The Bachelorette and had you watched the show previously?
A bunch of guys I grew up with are all married and settling down and I'm about at that point in my life where I'm ready to do the same. I actually had never seen the show before. We tried to binge watch a couple of episodes at the station when I knew I was going to be on the show. But yeah, I didn't really watch the show before, and it was all new to me, but it was just a journey that I wanted to embark on.
Were you nominated to be on The Bachelorette, and did you know it was going to be Michelle?
I was actually nominated for another show by a friend and I kind of started the process, but I got the details on the show and I kind of felt like it really wasn’t for me. So we just kind of backed out on that. And then I had the same producer reach out to me and they said, 'Would you be interested in this one instead?' They showed me Michelle and everything and I was like, 'Yeah, for sure!'”
You said your selling point for being on the show was knowing it was going to be Michelle. What attracted you to her the most?
Just the fact that she had already been on The Bachelor before and looking at how she carried herself there. She still seemed like she was just a regular person, you know, and she was a teacher. And I feel like we can relate on a level of service. She has worked with kids, and I work in the community as well. So, I feel like we can connect on that and we have similar values.
What was the most nerve-wracking part about night one of The Bachelorette, and how did you prepare for that night?
The most nerve-wracking part was trying not to trip climbing out of the truck. I knew it was like a one-and-done situation. I wanted to stop the truck in the right spot. I didn't want to trip over the hose when I pulled it and all this stuff. There were a lot of moving parts to my intro. I was like, I don't want to be that guy. She actually spoke to me before I said anything to her and that kind of threw me off, but it also made me feel really comfortable. So I was like, OK, this is a regular person and it made me feel like we knew each other.
What would you say was the best and worst part of the experience? Was it what you expected?
The best thing was that, aside from a lot of the guys were great guys that I plan to keep in touch with, was being able to come out of my comfort zone a little bit and do something I would have never thought that I would do in a million years.I feel like I grew a little bit in that sense. And I would say probably the worst part was a lot of the waiting. There's a lot of waiting that goes in a lot of certain parts, and you know, it's things you don't see when you're on the other side of it. But, I think I grew from it and I don't regret the experience.
If you had gotten a hometown date, where in Houston would be your date? What are your go-to spots?
I'm a big fan of Memorial Park. There's like a little secret hidden trail area over there with this rope swing. It's pretty cool. I would love to have taken her out there. I think she would have really loved the outdoors and really enjoyed that connection up there. Also, I liked to go to this place that actually just burned down a little bit ago, Henderson Heights. I loved the Patty Melts. It was a place to get good food and everybody's real cool and laid-back. I think she would have been able to get a vibe for me like I'm a laid-back person. I like to be one with my surroundings, if you will, but not like a big crowd, party type of guy.
Would you do it again? And if you were offered a spot on The Bachelor In Paradise, would you take it?
I don't think I would do The Bachelorette again. Not because it was a bad experience, but because there's so many guys, and I'm more like a laid-back guy. I kind of get to know people gradually and I feel like that kind of comes off, in this case, it kind of came off like maybe I didn't want to be there or that I wasn't interested in it.
That wasn't the case. I just didn't get a lot of time with her. There's a lot of guys who got gimmicks and things like that and have things planned and that's not really me. So I don't think I would do that again. But Paradise, I mean, I'd love to do that. I think that just as far as like, the dynamic of it, you know; a group of guys and a group of girls would be a lot more natural as opposed to the 30 to one. I think that would be a better experience for sure.
When you think of your future wife, what does that look like, and what do you envision her being like?
Somebody I can do everything with. I don't want to feel like I want to go do this, but she's not into it. Things like that, and not necessarily have all the same values, but somebody who is willing to be open to try something different. Definitely somebody who is big into sports because I'm big into sports. [Somebody] that likes to compete, and somebody that can laugh at themselves.
You know, a lot of people take themselves too seriously these days. And especially with work, you want to get home and like, you want to unwind, you don't want to feel uptight, you want to be able to laugh and relax and kind of separate yourself from that. So definitely somebody with a sense of humor. Somebody I can laugh with and have a good time with and somebody that likes to stay active, both with sports, and likes to be outdoors and stay fit and works out.
Can you tell me a little bit about the Bakari Foundation and how your brother inspired the program?
We like to use the term healing through transformative travel. His thing was he was a big traveler. What we try to do is we raise money and try to give back to the community, kids in different schools and things like that. But most importantly, our main focus is to give back to families who've lost loved ones to tragedy.
COVID kind of slowed things down a little bit for us, but initially, we have our board, and we take submissions from family members who've got their story of their loved one, and what they meant to them, the story of how they lost their lives and what happened. We take it to the board, and we find the families that we feel like would benefit the most, or are able to comply with everything and make it happen. And, we try to give them a trip so that they can kind of get away as best they can, and heal in that sense.
Is the application process for 2022 still open?
The application process is always open. So we're taking at any time applications, and we just keep people posted on as far as when we'll be able to do it, because we normally do a ceremony every year. We had to do it online last year, but hopefully we can meet in person again this year. We will invite down the families that we choose, and introduce them and celebrate them. It's a big deal and we have a good time with it. We're always open for submissions, always.
Any way that the Houston community can get involved to help?
Spread the word. Even if it's not your family, if you know somebody that you feel would benefit them and their family can benefit from it, definitely reach out to us. And we also take donations as well.
If you feel in your heart that you want to help us out. All these things take money of course [and] we're definitely grateful for anything that we get. And also, anybody that just feels like they would like to incorporate this into something that they're doing. We're always open to work with other groups and other healing and therapy, and things like that, and partner with them and make it all one big thing. So we do that as well. So whatever you feel in your heart. You know, we take it all and we're happy to have it.