The former 'Bachelorette' is opening up about her franchise journey.
Rachel Lindsay is detailing her rocky relationship with the Bachelor franchise. In an essay for Vulture, the 36-year-old former Bachelorette holds nothing back as she reveals how she went from Bachelor contestant, to the first Black Bachelorette, to frequent franchise critic.
Lindsay first came into Bachelor Nation when she was cast on Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor. In 2017, she became the Bachelorette herself. However, it wasn't until after the conclusion of her season of the show when she "started to feel uneasy" about the franchise. She explains she felt the show went "back into old patterns" during Becca Kufrin's season.
"She got engaged to Garrett Yrigoyen, who had a history of liking offensive tweets," Lindsay writes of Kufrin's now-ex. "They tiptoed around it and gave him an opportunity to explain. It was as if they’d checked off a box with me, and once they’d done that, they went right back to doing what was comfortable and easy."
Yrigoyen has since apologized for his posts.
Still, Lindsay recalls thinking, "Maybe they’ll get it right for the next person of color." Then fan favorite Seinne Fleming, who is Black, wasn't chosen as the Bachelorette. Then Mike Johnson, who is Black, was not chosen as the next Bachelor, a decision that left Lindsay "livid."
"He is a veteran, and there’s never been a veteran lead. He has got a million-dollar smile. He’s handsome. He was a fan favorite," she writes. "They chose someone with a pubescent haircut: Peter 'Make Sure You Know I’m Half-Latino' Weber. That was my breaking point. I was like, You know what? I’m going to use my platform to call out the show."
Lindsay grew frustrated with production's response each time she spoke out. It wasn't until May 2020, when a video of former Bachelorette Hannah Brown singing the N-word came to light, that things became "untenable," though. Brown has since apologized.
"I laughed. 'Mighty timely of you,' I said. We were living in a world where corporations posted black squares, vowed to donate money, and aligned themselves with Black Lives Matter," Lindsay writes. "'What you really need to do is apologize,' I continued. 'For 18 years, you’ve been part of the problem.'"
The franchise did put out an apology and Lindsay thought, "Wow, maybe change is coming." Instead, Lindsay writes, "the cycle repeated itself."
"Watching Matt’s season felt like reliving my own," she writes. "The focus was on his white mother and his popular white friends in the franchise. This man runs a nonprofit. He’s close with his family. But they gave us his whiteness. The end of the season centered on the absentee-Black-father narrative, yet again playing into a stereotype."
Then came Rachael Kirkconnell, James' eventual winner and current girlfriend. She came under fire after photos surfaced of her at an Old South plantation-themed party while in college. Kirkconnell has since apologized and asked people to stop defending her actions.
After the photos and other social media accusations came to light, former franchise host Chris Harrison sat down for a now infamous interview with Lindsay. Harrison's exit from the franchise was made official earlier this month.
"I knew my relationship with The Bachelor was over in February 2021, when Chris Harrison, the host and face of the franchise, showed his true self on national television," she writes. "... He wasn’t defending Rachael, he repeated over and over during the 15-minute segment in which he essentially did just that."
During the interview, Harrison brought up the "woke police" and referred to Kirkconnell as "this poor girl." He has since apologized.
"He said all this with a passion I had never seen him assert. And neither, I think, had America," Lindsay writes. "We had only seen Chris Harrison perform as a host; this was like catching him with a hot mic."
While Lindsay notes that she and Harrison, whom she'd once referred to as her "fairy godfather," weren't great friends before the interview, she writes that "there had been mutual respect" until that moment.
"By the time that segment with Chris aired, I was known as the contestant who was always starting trouble," she writes. "'That Rachel Lindsay,' the one who couldn’t stay quiet, who bites the hand that feeds, Bachelor Nation’s public enemy No. 1. Later, I would be known as the one responsible for Harrison eventually leaving the franchise."
After the interview, things within the franchise only worsened for Lindsay.
"There is a Bachelor Nation, and there is a Bachelor Klan. Bachelor Klan is hateful, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic. They are afraid of change. They are afraid to be uncomfortable. They are afraid when they get called out," she writes. "Some fans on social media started trying to dig up dirt on me. I received death threats and personal attacks. I had to hire people to protect me."
"I couldn’t even pretend to want to be involved anymore," she continues. "I didn’t want to give people a reason to talk about me because everything I was saying was becoming a headline. And so I decided to remove myself from it all."
Years before she decided to exit the franchise, Lindsay's colleagues encouraged her to apply for the show, as she had just gotten out of a five-year relationship and wasn't fulfilled by her job as a lawyer.
"I walked into another room, and it was a sea of people. Nobody was Black. In the front, there were three chairs: two for the executive producers and one for me," she recalls of the casting process. "The first thing one of them said was 'So you’re Black. As you can see, we’ve had a really hard time casting people like you.'"
After expressing her concerns about Black people not being "represented" within the franchise, she agreed to appear on the show. When Viall awarded her the first impression rose, Lindsay writes, she "instantly fell for the fairy tale."
As Lindsay made it further and further into the season, she and fellow frontrunner Vanessa Grimaldi were told by producers to talk out their differences. The exchange left Lindsay concerned that the audience would view her as "an angry Black female."
Still, she continued on to the Fantasy Suite dates with Viall, during which, she writes, they did not sleep together.
"The day before had been the 2016 presidential election -- I stayed up all night and watched Trump win. I ended up getting drunk on the date because I was so upset," she recalls. "... Nick said he did not want to sleep with any women because he had been so sexualized on Bachelor in Paradise. We didn’t get there, anyway. I blacked out. Nick gave me Tylenol and carried me up the stairs."
One day after Viall sent her home, producers approached Lindsay about being the next Bachelorette. While she was initially against it, she decided to accept the offer in an attempt to show "a positive representation of a Black woman."
"I expressed my concerns [to producers] about being the first Black lead. I talked about the fact that there were no Black people behind the camera and how I wanted that to change. I wanted them to come to me if they didn’t understand something. I wanted a diverse season. I wanted it to be Black in every way," she writes. "They deferred to me and asked questions... I felt like they were listening to me. So I said yes."
When she began her Bachelorette journey, though, Lindsay was disappointed that there wasn't "more diversity" among her contestants. Among the men who were Black, Lindsay writes, "several" of them "were not into Black women."
Then, the Lee Garrett situation happened, as it was revealed that his "Twitter was full of hate toward Black people and other marginalized groups." Garrett apologized on the After the Final Rose special.
"It didn’t fully dawn on me until later because I didn’t know Lee was racist during filming. As details about him started to come out, I tried to give the show the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t know," she writes. "But as I reflected on it, I thought, No. Let’s say the producers didn’t know about the tweets -- you still brought on a guy who has no experience with Black people, who is from Mississippi. You brought him on knowing he was ignorant. You brought him on to see what could happen. You can play the 'We didn’t know he was racist' card, but there’s no way you didn’t know he would cause a problem in the house."
Lindsay adds, "There’s always one story line that causes drama each season, and for their first Black lead, they allowed it to be a racist one. They chose the low-hanging fruit. It told me everything I needed to know."
As she got further and further into the season, Lindsay felt that she had "nobody to talk to," a feeling that continued through her finale, when she was left with Peter Kraus, who's white, and her now-husband, Bryan Abasolo, who's Latino. The depiction of the two men on the show, Lindsay believes, left audiences confused about why she ultimately picked Abasolo.
"In the finale, Peter infamously told me he wasn’t ready to propose even though he loved me. It was difficult to break up with him -- when you toy with the idea of it could be this person, and you realize it’s not, it’s hard. But he was my ex personified -- giving me enough to stay, never fully committing. I could tell he didn’t know what he wanted in life," she writes. "Yet so much of my finale made it seem like I’d settled for Bryan because Peter couldn’t give me what I wanted. Publicly, I was robbed of my love story."
When Lindsay faced Kraus on her After the Final Rose special, she felt as if he "became the victim in that narrative" and that her "reputation was over in that moment."
Now, looking back on her season, Lindsay wishes she'd "think about the diversity of the stories on my season," and highlight positive stories from the Black contestants.
"As I’ve continued to watch the show, I’ve realized they don’t seem to understand the stereotypes that are placed on Black men. They, too, only see them as fitting into one of these stereotypes: angry, absentee, or worthless," she writes. "If I had watched the show before going on, perhaps I would have navigated that differently. I wasn’t thinking about the machinations."
After her turn as the Bachelorette, Lindsay continued to participate in franchise events, as she was "hopeful I was making a difference. That my role would create opportunities for more leads and better stories for people of color."
Those hopes were dashed again and again, amid social media scandals, potential Black leads being passed over, the way James' season was handled, and, finally, with the Harrison and Kirkconnell drama.
Now, Lindsay, who criticized the headline of her essay, "Rachel Lindsay Has No Roses Left to Burn," in a lengthy Instagram post, is no longer making herself available to the franchise.
"I am no longer a figurehead. I am no longer a spot-filler. I am no longer the face of what is diverse," she writes. "The goal for me was always to be that person until I could step away because the change had happened, and I could sit back and enjoy it."
Still, though, Lindsay plans to "cautiously sit back and watch the upcoming season with Michelle Young -- the next Black Bachelorette -- to uplift and support her."
"I was a token until I made sure I wasn’t. The thing is, the day I went on the show, I didn’t wake up and say, You know what? I’m going to start standing up for myself," she writes. "I was taught at a very young age to speak up about injustices. It was no different with Bachelor Nation. And I don’t think they ever saw it coming."