For 20 years, millions of viewers have deemed themselves part of “Bachelor Nation,” tuning into ABC to watch scores of competitors search for love. With more than 40 total seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, as well as spin-offs like Bachelor in Paradise, The Bachelor Winter Games, and The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart, The Bachelor is the biggest reality TV dating franchise in the U.S. But it took 15 years, in which the shows faced mounting criticism for their lack of diversity, for the creators to cast a Black person as a romantic lead.
In 2017, Rachel Lindsay, a lawyer from Texas, became the franchise’s first Black lead. Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette featured what was then the most diverse set of contestants in Bachelor franchise history: 14 men of color out of 31 total suitors. Despite taking steps toward diversity in the casting, it quickly became clear that the show was unable to properly support her. One cast member engaged in racist behaviors, fueling drama in the house, and Lindsay was left to manage the tensions. Many of the episodes ranged from uncomfortable to downright inappropriate—but Lindsay achieved her happy ending, finding love with Colombian American chiropractor Bryan Abasolo, her husband today. And, even following her disheartening experience with racial dynamics on the show, she went on to become its strongest voice fighting for change. After earning a platform through the show, Lindsay led a segment of a reunion special about racism and online harassment, advocated for future leads of color, and lent cast members her support.
In 2021, after conducting an interview with host Chris Harrison, in which he made problematic comments about race that led to his removal from the franchise, Lindsay ultimately cut ties with The Bachelor. But she continues to be a leader in the ongoing conversation about equity and diversity in reality TV casting and production, a movement that extends beyond The Bachelor and its spin-offs. In 2020, CBS announced that the casts of Survivor and Big Brother would include at least 50% people of color, and the 2020 premiere of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City featured the most diverse cast in the franchise’s history. —Annabel Gutterman
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