From Dud to Stud

updated 03/22/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/22/2004 AT 01:00 AM EST

Adam Mesh was nervous before greeting the busload of women who would be vying for his heart. "I didn't know what to expect. I had all these scenarios...just crazy stuff." Including a replay of the Average Joe premiere last fall, when Melana Scantlin stared in disbelief as Mesh and 16 other less-than-perfect-looking guys stepped off a bus to meet and woo her. But Mesh needn't have worried. "This isn't Average Jane," he says of his new NBC reality series, Average Joe: Adam Returns, which starts March 15. The producers "actually delivered really great girls."

Of course, they had a lot of women to choose from. The day after the Dec. 8 Joe finale, during which Scantlin dumped the lovestruck stock trader for hunky L.A. waiter Jason Peoples, Mesh, 28, came home from work to discover what he says were "hundreds of messages" from female callers on his answering machine. "I would have picked you," said one. "I want to set you up with my daughter," said another. Sorority girls called and just screamed. (He has since gotten an unlisted number.) "Millions of people called in, wrote, e-mailed, wanting dates with Adam," says Average Joe executive producer Stuart Krasnow. 'It only seemed natural to give Adam his own show."

Though he would now be the rejecter, Mesh—who post-Joe briefly dated a neighbor in his Manhattan apartment building—decided a little self-improvement wouldn't hurt. He started working out three times a week and got a personal trainer. "I lost 4 percent body fat and 7 lbs.," he says. Then, a few days before taping began, Mesh heeded a fan's advice left on the Average Joe Web site's message board. "I actually went to a spa and had my back waxed," he says. "It was the most painful thing. I was yelling for my mother, but it's really soft now." He has kept his 5 o'clock shadow, however. "My mom always said I look better with a little facial hair," he says.

Aside from getting bumped up to first class on a recent vacation, "my lifestyle is the same," says Mesh, who became wealthy in the stock market before Joe. "I go out a little less, because it's crazy when I do go out." Would he prefer, say, hanging out on a movie set instead? "I'm not opposed to [acting]," says Mesh. "I'd love to be in Rocky VI."

On the first day of taping at the same Palm Springs mansion where the first Joe took place, Mesh ran a mile up a nearby hill, getting pumped to the Rocky soundtrack blaring in his headphones. He also got encouragement from Melana herself, whom he'd phoned a few days before. "I just said, 'Good luck. I know that all these women are already in love with you,' " says Scantlin.

And that's what allows him to shake off the Average Joe tag once and for all. "My dad said to me the other night, 'Your only job is to live it to the fullest, because everyone is living it through you,' " Mesh says. "That's what I'm trying to do: live out everyone's fantasy."

Michael A. Lipton. Brenda Rodriguez in Los Angeles

From Our Partners