“I remember waking up the next morning with Nick and feeling like it was just meant to be, the way things happened, the way that we met. It just feels so natural,” says Grimaldi. But adapting to life in Los Angeles has been a bit of a tougher transition for this St-Leonard girl. Grimaldi acknowledges that being a reality TV star is not as glamorous as people may think. “You don’t get your hair done, you don’t get your makeup done, you barely sleep, you’re shipped away from your support system back home. It’s not as easy a process as people probably imagine. What they see on TV is just a fraction of what actually happens,” she explains. “It definitely taught me how to rely on myself.”
Although Grimaldi is slowly settling into life in the golden state, the 29-year-old admits she misses having Sunday lunch with her big Italian-Canadian family, and she’s been craving her Nonna Veneranda’s cooking. “Once you taste my grandmother’s food, nothing else tastes the same,” she laughs. Viewers of The Bachelor were invited to the Grimaldi Sunday table in an episode of the show where Vanessa brought Nick to Montreal to meet her family. She says Viall got along famously with the famiglia – and nonna made sure he got some cotolette for the road. “Nick loves my grandmother’s cutlets. I always end up making them for him once a week,” explains Grimaldi. “I also make nonna-style tomato sauce, but I haven’t made my own pasta yet in LA. I just haven't had the time.”
It’s no wonder; since The Bachelor finale aired, the couple has been inundated with media interview requests, followed by paparazzi, and Viall has been spending long hours in the dance studio rehearsing for Dancing with the Stars – until he was eliminated from the competition on May 1. Life under the media microscope has taken some getting used to for Grimaldi. “I’m a creature of habit and I really miss home. I miss going to Galeries d’Anjou, I miss going for drinks at the Old Port, I miss waking up in my house and spending time with my mom and my brother,” she says. “I also really miss my students and being in the classroom.”
Before being cast on The Bachelor, Grimaldi had been working as a special needs teacher at the Galileo Adult Education Centre in Montreal-North. Grimaldi considers the students and staff at Galileo as her extended family – and they have been fierce supporters of their beloved Miss Vanessa. Martina Schiavone, the principal of the school, recalls that “the day after the finale of The Bachelor aired all the students came to class cheering, they were so excited. It was like we had won the Stanley Cup.”
Grimaldi’s appearance on the show also served as an invaluable opportunity for the staff and students at Galileo. It helped put the spotlight on special needs education, and Schiavone has been fielding calls and emails from people around the globe. “This has given Galileo so much positive exposure and we are educating people around the world about what we do here at the school,” she says. “It’s wonderful because most people think education for adults with special needs ends in high school and then they go into the medical system. We’re showing people that there’s so much more they are capable of.”
Although Grimaldi left her position at the Galileo Centre in March to move to California, the former teacher says the strong bonds she created with students and staff have inspired her to start a foundation to raise funds for adults with intellectual and physical challenges. “I want to use this platform to do something meaningful for my students because the resources for adults with learning disabilities are really lacking in our education system,” she explains.
Grimaldi’s recently-launched foundation, No Better You, aims to raise funds and awareness for people living with special needs. The organization’s website features a song written by PI2 that is available for purchase on iTunes, proceeds of which will go to the foundation. Students from the Galileo Adult Education Centre star in the video for the song. “This charity is my way of staying connected to my students and the community back home. It’s my baby right now and I’m really proud of it.”