Skip to main site content.
Rachel Lindsay (YouTube).

'When you're ready'

ABC names Texas lawyer 1st African-American ‘Bachelorette’

February 14, 2017

It took a while, but ABC is finally ready to add some genuine diversity to one of its top reality TV franchises. Some 14 years into its run, The Bachelorette has named Rachel Lindsay, a 31-year-old lawyer from Dallas, to be the first African-American lead on the show — meaning a gaggle of men will compete for her affections, doled out weekly in the form of a symbolic rose, until only one suitor remains and an ostensible engagement to marry results. Lindsay is a contestant on the current season of The Bachelor, from which The Bachelorette was spun off in 2003. ABC made the reveal on Monday night’s episode of the late-night show Jimmy Kimmel Live, a sign that her run on the current season is about to end.

One of the show’s signature catchphrases, uttered by its cardboard host Chris Harrison, is “When you’re ready,” and while the two incarnations of the Bachelor franchise have welcomed the occasional person of color as a contestant on the show, the network apparently hadn’t been ready to select a black man or woman to be the romantic lead on the series. The show had faced mounting criticism for what many fans and critics saw as an omission. Three years ago, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepard and their co-hosts on The View, a talk show owned by ABC, harshly criticized the series for its lack of diversity, according to Jezebel.

“I think they feel the numbers will not be good, I think it’s a money thing, I think it’s a corporate thing,” Shepard speculated at the time. “I think the 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 Bachelorette actually saw a ratings increase during its last season, according to Nielsen numbers reported by The show averaged nearly seven million viewers per episode during its last season and tied for the 31st most-watched show on TV last season, according to Indie Wire.

The issue of race didn’t come up in the brief interview with Kimmel following the announcement, and Lindsay, in an interview with People magazine, downplayed the color of her skin as factor that will have a dramatic impact on the show. “I’m happy to represent myself as a black woman in front of America and I’m happy for America to rally behind me and see what it’s like for me to be on this journey to find love,”  Lindsay said. “Honestly, it’s not going to be that different from any other season of The Bachelorette.” She added, “I don’t feel added pressure being the first black bachelorette, because to me I’m just a black woman trying to find love.”

On Instagram, Lindsay only mentioned the historic nature of her selection in the hashtags she used along with the message she posted expressing her excitement at the decision.


Read the full story at The New York Times.