Next season: the first black Bachelorette
After 21 seasons, hundreds of tears, hours of drama, and nearly 200 dozen red roses, The Bachelor franchise broke with tradition when announcing the new Bachelorette.
On Feb. 22, long time Bachelor host Chris Harrison went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! to announce the show cast its first black Bachelorette. In true Bachelor fashion, Harrison handed Kimmel the iconic red rose, showed pictures and clips from the prior season’s contestants, and added the long, unnecessary pauses. Finally, Harrison disappeared into the back of the set and out came Rachel Lindsay, 31, from Dallas, Texas. Lindsay will be the first black Bachelorette in the show’s franchise history.
The timing of the announcement seems very unconventional for the show, since Lindsay is still on the current season of The Bachelor. She was popular from the beginning, receiving the first impression rose from the Bachelor and two one-on-one dates. Lindsay also won over the hearts of the fans with her wit, intelligence, and confidence. It is no wonder producers chose Lindsay to become the next Bachelorette.
Lindsay is one of four women left on Nick Vail’s season of The Bachelor and has yet to be eliminated. Fans now know that Monday’s episode could be the end for Lindsay.
For many Bachelor Nation fans, this is an unprecedented announcement and a bit of a spoiler. For the past 21 seasons, the next contestant is announced after the finale of the prior season, a segment of the show called “After the Final Rose.” Historically, the next Bachelor or Bachelorette is chosen from a prior season and is usually one of the final four contestants. This person is typically a fan favorite or controversial character from the previous season.
Longtime fan of The Bachelor franchise and USD senior Stephanie Mazzuca watches the show with her mom regularly. She was shocked by the early announcement.
“I thought it was unusual because they keep [the next contestant] tightly under wraps and a well-guarded secret, but now they are spoiling it before she is even eliminated,” Mazzuca said.
Over the past 21 seasons, The Bachelor franchise has not had much diversity. Season 18 Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Venezuelan-American, was the first non-white Bachelor. The most diverse Bachelorette was Kaitlyn Bristowe, who is from Canada, but, racially-speaking, all the Bachelorettes have been white.
Since the first episode of the show, there has been some diversity regarding the contestants who are competing for the season’s Bachelor or Bachelorette. However, most non-white contestants do not make it past the first few weeks. Molly Fitzpatrick wrote about this on Fusion, a pop culture website, in an article entitled, “A history of black contestants on the Bachelor and Bachelorette.” She researched the lack of diversity in the franchise from the first season to season 20, Bachelor Ben Higgins’ season.
Fitzpatrick found there have been a total of 36 black contestants who’ve competed in both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. There was one contestant who returned to the show for a second season, but 59 percent of black participants were eliminated after the second week.
The lack of diversity in the show received much criticism from fans, which eventually led to a class action lawsuit in 2012. The suit was brought on by two black men who had auditioned for The Bachelor and alleged that they were not chosen due to racial discrimination. According to NPR, the case was dismissed on the grounds of the show’s creative nature and its First Amendment right.
“The judge decided that, in general, casting is protected by the First Amendment, and that means that, even if the plaintiffs were right that the show was in fact outright refusing to cast people of color, in part to avoid ‘controversy’ over interracial dating, its right to do that would be protected from interference,” NPR said.
Since the dismissal, fans have continued to voice their dismay with the lack of diversity with leading contestants.
Dominique Rougeau has been watching the show for several years. As a black woman, Rougeau said she is especially enthusiastic that the show chose Lindsay as the new Bachelorette.
“I am super excited that ABC has chosen Rachel to be the next Bachelorette,” Rougeau said. “I am a big fan of the show. I enjoy the plot of the show and the drama that comes along every season, but I’ve always hoped that the show would grow in diversity. So the fact that The Bachelor franchise will now have their first black Bachelorette (a black female lead) is a dream come true for me. My little sister, who is also a big fan of the show, literally cried when she heard the news. Tears of joy for sure. This is such a historical event not just for Bachelor Nation, but for the world of reality television and broadcast media as a whole.”
While fans wait and watch the last few episodes of season 21, filming for Lindsay’s season is about to begin. The show is set to air on ABC on May 22. Bachelor Nation will be waiting to see if Lindsay will get a second chance at love.
Written by Jennifer Givens, Assistant Feature Editor