Monday's Bachelor: Women Tell All special included the usual drama we've come to expect from the show -- but it also got serious, shedding a light on the hateful, racist comments which have been directed at some of Peter Weber's contestants, and encouraging a stop to the behavior.
Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay led the emotional segment, reading some of the hateful speech and racist slurs which have been sent to contestants like Kelsey Weier, Sydney Hightower and more. The women, who spent the beginning of the special arguing over past drama with each other, broke down in tears, offering each other support against the disturbing comments.
"That was a moment I will never forget, that's for sure," Hightower told ET's Lauren Zima after the taping, which took place on Feb. 21. The 24-year-old opened up to Weber during a one-on-one date on the season about the racism she experienced as young woman of mixed race growing up in Alabama. After that episode aired, Hightower was subjected to more bullying, as some former classmates tried to discount her story by sharing former yearbook photos of her smiling among fellow students.
"No one will ever be able to take that pain away, what I went through, no matter what speculations they wanna say about me. People that are hurt do things to be accepted and that's what I did my whole life was try to be accepted and whether that was in a beauty pageant or a club or a whatever it may be," Hightower said. "All you try to do is be accepted by the people who don't accept you so and that's what I'm still doing today."
Hightower told ET that she hopes her strength in the face of racism and bullying inspires others. "People don't realize we are human beings at the end of the day, that their words hurt. And especially for someone that's been through this their whole life, having those wounds reopened is hard," she said of the segment. "I just want to be a voice for those girls that are going through this, and just be there for them to look up to."
Victoria Paul was one of the women who offered Hightower support throughout the difficult WTA segment. "Hearing Rachel Lindsay speak, it was so powerful," she shared. "I think ABC's doing a great job of being inclusive, and I was really excited and happy to have Rachel Lindsay in the segment tonight."
"I think that was a discussion that really needed to be had. And I'm really grateful that Bachelor Nation was there to hear it," added Shiann Lewis. "It's hard when you're on the other side and you're getting all [hate] that every single day and it's just... it really does affect you."
"When you try to block out the negativity and just hear the love, [the hate is] still loud and you still see it and you still hear it and it hurts. We are all people. We do have hearts," she continued. "We came here to find love. Yes, it's reality TV, but we didn't sign up to be like bashed like that."
One of the messages displayed onscreen was a death threat directed at Weier.
"The 'Go kill yourself,' that one is actually [a message sent to me]," she told ET. I had put that out there on social media but I didn't put the username and I got mixed reviews on it. I think at that moment I was just sick of the hate and I purposely didn't put the username so other people couldn't hurt them like they hurt me, but I wanted to put it out there."
"My hate messages have gone down ever since #ChampagneGate, as the season went on, but I still get them and just because I had a moment of weakness with #ChampagneGate, and I overreacted, doesn't mean that you can send me mean messages and treat me the way that you did. That's what I wanted to bring to the surface is just... I'm a human being," she shared.
While Weier and Tammy Ly didn't see eye-to-eye during the season (or even at the Tell All), they both agreed that the hateful messages crossed a line.
"I am so happy to be part of [that segment] because for too long now, people were getting away with this and the things that people say to us, we would never say to each other," Ly said. "That is the crazy thing, like, coming after me for racial slurs and death threats is unacceptable."
"At the end of the day, we all are human and we all went through this together, so I think that is one thing that we can all come to a common ground on and appreciate about each other -- whether we agree with each other or not," Weier expressed. "We can all appreciate each other."
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. ET's Lauren Zima will be recapping next week's season finale, directly after the episodes on Monday and Tuesday. Watch ET Live on your Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV or you can stream on Pluto TV and Samsung TV Plus.