The 'Bachelorette' Has A Black Lead For The First Time Ever
Rachel Lindsay from her time on The Bachelor. (ABC)
The Bachelorette is getting a black lead for, shockingly, the first time ever in the show's history. The news first cropped up on Monday on RealitySteve.com. Both The Bachelorette (which began airing in 2003) and its companion show The Bachelor (2002) have never featured a black lead before.
Rachel Lindsay, a 31-year-old attorney from Texas, will serve as the new, groundbreaking lead in the upcoming season of The Bachelorette. Lindsay is actually a contestant on the current season of The Bachelor; her appointment to The Bachelorette, then, suggests that she failed to
win the contest find love in her latest conquest.
The official reveal was made on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on Monday:
When asked by Good Morning America on Tuesday if she felt an added weight, Lindsay brushed it off and said that it was business as usual (as far as partially-scripted realty programming goes). "I don't feel added pressure," Lindsay told host Michael Strahan. "'I'm honored to have this opportunity and to represent myself as an African American woman." You can watch the rest of the interview here:
The call for more diversity on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor has been ongoing for some time. The shows have featured black, Latino, and Asian contestants, but white men and women have predominantly been installed in the lead role. It's also worth noting that the minority contestants often drop out in the early stages, as if the show were some kind of '80s slasher flick.
The only lead of color was Juan Pablo Galavis, who starred in the 18th season of The Bachelor (he is, apparently, universally loathed, and was described by Time as "every awful boyfriend you ever dated").
People have argued that the lack of diversity may have an appreciable affect on audiences. "This is reenforcing unfortunate, deeply rooted stereotypes," Cyrus Mehri, a civil rights attorney, told the L.A. Times in 2016. Mehri represented two African American men who had unsuccessfully auditioned for The Bachelor and later filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2012 (the case was dismissed). "You're sending the message to African American women that they're less beautiful, and vice versa for men. I think it's a poison," said Mehri.
In 2014, members of The View got into a fairly insightful discussion on why there hadn't been a black Bachelor yet. "I think maybe ABC is not as comfortable with this because they don't want the folks who really don't get it at all to get on top of them and make it difficult for the show to go on," said host Whoopi Goldberg, according to Jezebel. Co-host Sherri Shepherd said that, perhaps, "executives feel that if there was a black Bachelor, if there was a female Bachelorette who was black, the numbers would not support—the ratings [would be bad]." The criticism was especially pointed, when considering that The View also broadcasts on ABC (the same channel that houses both The Bachelorette and The Bachelor ).
The series' whitewashing has been satirized (fairly savagely, too) on the stellar Lifetime series UnREAL, which deals with a fictionalized reality dating show. As noted at the Times, in one episode a producer proclaims that an African American contestant doesn't have "wife potential" because she's black. "It is not my fault that America's racist, people," the producer reasons. UnREAL, during its second season, would put a black lead in Everlasting, its fictional, in-story reality dating show.
So who, exactly, is Rachel Lindsay? According to the New York Times, she received a law degree from Marquette in 2011 and currently works as a personal injury lawyer in Texas. She's a noted fan of both Michael Jackson and Prince, according to Entertainment Tonight. And, as a testament to her amicable nature, she's still hanging out with the other contestants who've been eliminated from the show. She's also funny to boot (as evidenced by the Instagram post below).