How ABC Finally Named a Black Bachelorette Nearly 15 Years After 'The Bachelor' Premiere
By Desiree Murphy
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For the first time in 15 years and 33 seasons, Bachelor Nation will finally get to cheer on an African-American contestant as they attempt to find love on national TV.
During Monday night's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC announced that Rachel Lindsay, a 31-year-old lawyer from Dallas, Texas, has been cast as The Bachelorette for season 13. She's technically one of the final four ladies vying for Nick Viall's heart on season 21 of The Bachelor, which is currently airing on the network, but with this announcement, we now know she's not the 36-year-old's final pick (it's down to Corinne, Raven and Vanessa).
ET has learned that production for Rachel's season of The Bachelorette will begin shortly after Nick's finale episode airs on March 13. In anticipation of her historic season, we're breaking down the timeline of how, after years of being slammed for lack of diversity, the network ultimately chose a black male or female to lead their popular franchise.
March 25, 2002: The Bachelor premieres on ABC.
Fifteen years ago, Bachelor Nation was introduced to the reality TV dating game show. Hosted by Chris Harrison, the series featured Alex Michel, a management consultant from Charlottesville, Virginia, as its debut Bachelor. The first season's suitors were predominately white females looking for love. Four women of color were cast, but all were eliminated by the third episode.
Alex ultimately chose Amanda Marsh as the winner, though he did not propose to her during the finale. They called it quits several months after the show aired.
Jan. 8, 2003: The Bachelorette premieres one year later.
Following the massive success of The Bachelor, ABC announced its first spin-off, The Bachelorette. (Even though it premiered just one year after The Bachelor, the sister show has fewer seasons to date as it's been on and off the air since its debut.)
Former Miami Heat cheerleader Trista Rehn, a Caucasian woman from Indianapolis, Indiana, was the show's first lead, selecting Ryan Sutter (also white) as the winner. They wed in December 2013, and their love is still going strong.
Nov. 24, 2004: Byron Velvick chooses Mary Delgado as Bachelor season 6 winner.
At the time, the Cuban-American TV presenter was considered the most successful woman of color to ever appear on The Bachelor after she won Velvick's heart during the season 6 finale.
The two-time WON Bass U.S. Open champion fisherman asked Delgado to marry him in Spanish, in order for her parents -- who came to the U.S. from Cuba when she was just a year old -- to understand his proposal. They ultimately called it quits after five years together.
March 15, 2011: Creator Mike Fleiss opens up about the show's lack of diversity.
Following more backlash from fans, the media and TV critics, Bachelor creator Mike Fleiss spoke out on the franchise's lack of diversity, which he says all starts with the casting process.
"We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism," he told Entertainment Weekly, when asked if fans will ever see a lead that isn't white. "[Like], 'Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there!' We always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."
April 18, 2012: Two black men who auditioned for The Bachelor file a federal lawsuit for racial discrimination.
Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson both auditioned for The Bachelor in August 2011, but neither made it to the second round of interviews. Following their rejections, the two filed a federal lawsuit against ABC, the show's production companies and creator Mike Fleiss, claiming they were "rushed" through their auditions and intentionally excluded from the show due to their skin color.
According to CNN, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger dismissed the case on Oct. 15 of that year, ruling that casting decisions by the network and series producers are protected by the First Amendment.
Jan. 7, 2013: The Bachelor's 17th season premieres, features six non-white contestants and a half-Filipino winner.
Following three seasons (13-16) of The Bachelor with no black suitors, four African-American women (six non-white women total) competed for Sean Lowe's heart during season 17, the most of any season to date. During the finale, Lowe proposed to Catherine Giudici, a half-Filipino graphic designer from Seattle, Washington. They said "I do" one year later, and welcomed son Samuel on July 2, 2016.
Jan. 6, 2014: Season 18 of The Bachelor premieres with its first non-white star.
To this day, Juan Pablo Galavis -- an American-born Venezuelan former soccer player who was eliminated halfway through Desiree Hartsock's season of The Bachelorette -- is the series' first and only Latino lead. He chose Nikki Ferrell as the winner, opting to end the show without a proposal, but the pair split in October 2014.
While many fans were originally happy with Galavis' casting, others were livid that this was ABC's solution to moving towards diversity. The New York Post even went so far as to state the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Bachelor looked "so white he could easily slip into a Mitt Romney family photo."
Jan. 4, 2016: Season 20 of The Bachelor premieres with Ben Higgins as the lead, fans fall in love with two non-white suitors.
The majority of viewers were ecstatic that Ben Higgins ended up proposing to Portland, Oregon, native Lauren Bushnell at the end of season 20, but there were two other fan favorites -- Jubilee Sharpe, an African-American military veteran, and Caila Quinn, the daughter of a white man and Filipina woman. The girls later joined the season 3 cast of Bachelor in Paradise.
Towards the end of Higgins' season, Bachelor Nation predicted the adorable, bubbly Quinn would be cast as the next Bachelorette, with some media outlets even reporting she had locked it down.
Jan. 13, 2016: UnREAL casts black bachelor as their season 2 lead.
Perhaps as a way to bring even more attention to The Bachelor's diversity issue, African-American actor B.J. Britt landed the role of a fictional bachelor on the Lifetime series, which famously pokes fun at reality dating shows.
Ironically, ABC president Paul Lee teased that season 12 of The Bachelorette would feature a woman of color (which fueled even more rumors that Quinn would play the lead) while speaking at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, California, a few days before Britt's casting was officially announced.
"We're doing a whole lot of tweaks" he said at the time. "We have the farm team, right, which allows us to then pick the next one. But I'd be very surprised if The Bachelorette in the summer isn't diverse. I think that's likely … The tweaks that [creator] Mike Fleiss has put in place will get us where we want to go."
March 14, 2016: JoJo Fletcher named season 12 Bachelorette over Caila Quinn during After the Final Rose ceremony.
As fans of the franchise know, Quinn didn't lock down the coveted season 13 Bachelorette role as expected. It ultimately went to Higgins' runner-up, JoJo Fletcher, who is of Persian decent.
A source told ET at the time that both Quinn and Fletcher filmed their Bachelorette intros in their hometowns before producers made their final decision.
Aug. 4, 2016: ABC's new entertainment president teases changes to the franchises may be coming.
Channing Dungey, the first black woman to lead a major broadcast network, addressed The Bachelor and The Bachelorette's diversity issue at the network's summer Television Critics Association press day.
"One of the biggest changes that we need to do is we need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning, because part of what ends up happening as we go along is there aren't as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next Bachelor or Bachelorette," she stated. "That is something we want to put some energy and effort towards."
Sept. 12, 2016: Host Chris Harrison tells ET casting the franchise "isn't a black or white issue."
Prior to the season 21 premiere of The Bachelor, Harrison insisted that ABC was trying to diversify the casting process while chatting with ET.
"This isn't a black or white issue, it's 'Let's find the best person to be the Bachelor or Bachelorette,'" he explained. "I don't care what anyone looks like. … It does start with casting. I think they've made a concerted effort to do a better job. Hopefully word has gotten out so that people understand that's what we're looking for ... I think they didn't."
Jan. 2, 2017: Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor premieres, Rachel Lindsay makes franchise history.
The Dallas, Texas, native made franchise history during The Bachelor's season 21 premiere episode as the first African-American contestant to ever receive the show's coveted "first impression rose."
"There is a lot of diversity [amongst this group] … it is very noticeable," Lindsay told ET of Viall's suitors. "It just shows how open Nick is to dating women regardless of their cultural background or ethnicity … that is really exciting. We are halfway through this process and there is still a number of girls from a lot of ethnic backgrounds present. I'm not the only one left."
Feb. 13, 2017: ABC announces Rachel Lindsay as first black Bachelorette.
During Monday night's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, ABC announced that Lindsay was cast as The Bachelorette for season 13, marking the first time there's ever been an African-American male or female lead in franchise history. It's also the earliest a Bachelor or Bachelorette has ever been announced by the network.
A source told ET at the time that the reason for the early announcement was due to the timing of production (which kicks off shortly after the season 21 finale episode of The Bachelor airs on March 13) and "the desire to cast the best bachelors they can find."
While many fans were beyond excited to hear that Lindsay was cast as the lead, others were upset over the timing of the announcement. Since the lawyer is still in the running on Viall's current season of The Bachelor -- she made the final four during Monday's episode -- Bachelor Nation felt that producers "spoiled" and "ruined the season," and should have waited to announce after she was eliminated.
Harrison later apologized via Instagram, posting a pic of himself next to the new Bachelorette.