Rachel Lindsay Says 'Bachelor' EP Told Her They Want 'Change,' But She Needs Action Not Words (Exclusive)
By Jennifer Drysdale
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Rachel Lindsay says she's heard from the Bachelor production team about changes they'd like to make to the franchise, but has yet to see any of those changes actually be implemented. In an interview with ET's Lauren Zima on Tuesday, the former Bachelorette opened up about her powerful blog post on Monday, in which she said she'd cut ties with the franchise if they didn't make real strides toward diversity. She told ET that she needs to see a lead of color on The Bachelor for its upcoming season 25.
"Since the blog, no, I haven't heard from anyone," Lindsay shares. "In the past week, yes. I have heard from an executive producer just saying that they hear me and they want to make changes."
"It does [feel good], but this isn't my first rodeo with hearing an executive producer say, 'We want to make some changes.' I believe you want to, or I used to believe you want to. But I'm not seeing anything," she adds. "I've been affiliated with this franchise for almost four years and I hear you. But I'm not seeing any action behind those words."
Lindsay remains the only black lead in the Bachelor franchise's 18-year history. The Bachelor has cast two Hispanic men (Juan Pablo Galavis is Venezuelan and Peter Weber is half-Cuban) in the lead role, but no black candidates. In recent years, the franchise has made larger efforts to diversify its casts, but has yet to name any more leads of color. Contestants like Tayshia Adams, Seinne Fleming and Mike Johnson have made it far enough in past seasons to be possible contenders for Bachelorette or Bachelor, but have not been cast.
"I have heard them say, 'You've seen it more diverse,' and it's great for that first picture, that first night when everyone's standing in the mansion and you can see all the different races and ethnicities represented in that one picture. But if you don't cast a lead who is genuinely into dating outside of their race and open to a new experience and has done it before then, by the time you get to the second half of the season, it looks nothing like that picture," Lindsay says.
The attorney noted Natasha Parker from Weber's season as an example. Parker finished sixth on Weber's season, but was sent home on the first one-on-one date she received, right before hometowns.
"It's very evident that they're more there to fill a spot than they are to pursue a relationship," Lindsay says. "And the audience calls it out every single time."
Casting leads who are truly interested in dating outside of their race was Lindsay's first suggestion, but she also urged the franchise to diversify producers to make contestants feel more comfortable. Lindsay told ET that the guideline wasn't born out of any uncomfortable experiences she had during her time on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, but rather from what she's heard from other contestants.
"I've heard people of color say maybe they didn't feel comfortable opening up. It's all about who you can relate to," Lindsay explains, noting that a dating show like The Bachelor thrives on contestants revealing their personal feelings. "If you want to see [people of color] go far and not tap out or just break down with the stress of the whole experience, then you need to have people that can talk to them."
According to Lindsay, the franchise did make an effort to hire more producers of color on her season of The Bachelorette. "They worked with my contestants, and I noticed that they asked me a lot of questions because they wanted to do things right because it was the first time [they had a black lead]. But after I was the lead, those changes went away," Lindsay claims. "They only have one black producer that's in the house with the contestants."
As for her other guideline, to "stop creating problematic storylines for people of color," Lindsay had several examples. She noted how she was portrayed as "angry" during her three-hour season finale, but also how the black contestants on her season were portrayed similarly, especially at the beginning.
"Eric [Bigger] was ... shown to be angry. Kenny [King] was shown to be angry at the beginning of my season, and it played into a stereotype that you have of black men," she shares. "I think when you have very few people of color already on the show, when you play into certain stereotypes of them and their storylines, it just perpetuates this thinking that the audience already has for people of color."
To Lindsay, it's important that the Bachelor franchise make these changes, and in her blog she called on the franchise to release a statement acknowledging "systemic racism." As the co-host of the Bachelor Happy Hour podcast, she's under contract with the franchise, but told ET she's "serious" about walking away because she's "embarrassed" by the franchise's inability to recognize its failure.
"I have talked to some producers and I have said that I'll leave if they don't make changes. So it's conditional, so I'm waiting to see what changes are made. To date, they haven't made any type of statement, which baffles me," she shares.
"So many companies have made statements in regard to what is happening in our country and I thought for sure we'll get [a statement from The Bachelor] before [The Greatest Seasons -- Ever!] airs, and we haven't," Lindsay said. "I'm trying to be patient and wait and give them an opportunity to respond and see how they respond. Then I'll make my decision [about whether to leave] after that." Lindsay says she expects a next step within "the next week, but it will be at least a couple months before we hear anything about a lead of color being announced."
Since she was cast on Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor, Lindsay said she's been told "everyone wants diversity. It just doesn't work out."
"I think it goes back to the business of it all," she posits. Lindsay is aware that her season of The Bachelorette received lower ratings than others and recognizes how that may have factored in the franchise's lack of casting more leads of color after her.
As Lindsay notes, the franchise has often explained their decision-making process for leads as "it's just about having the right person."
"I'm not quite sure what [the right person] is, because ... the past few seasons, they haven't been stellar," Lindsay quips. "So, I'm just not sure that what we're measuring it against as far as what makes a good lead, other than the fact that you want to give the audience what it is that they want -- which are white leads."
"You're either on the wrong side or the right side. And the franchise, to me, has been on the wrong side for 18 years. For 40 seasons. So, are you going to step on to the right side at this point?" she asks. "That's what I am trying to put the pressure on them to do. I'm hoping also that the audience will as well."