The Bachelorette Jojo Fletcher
Courtesy of ABC

Jojo Fletcher is officially the next “Bachelorette” for ABC’s hit dating show.

The announcement was made during Monday night’s live episode of “After the Final Rose,” following the Season 20 finale of “The Bachelor,” in which Ben Higgins picked his winner.

Fletcher, a 25-year-old real estate developer from Dallas, Texas, was the runner-up on “The Bachelor.” Tonight, she lost out to Lauren Bushnell who is now engaged to Higgins, after accepting his proposal on the finale.

Fletcher’s announcement comes as a surprise, as “Bachelor” contestant Caila Quinn was rumored to have been selected as the next “Bachelorette,” partly because she is half Filipino and the ABC reality show has faced much criticism for its lack of diversity. However, Fletcher’s mother is Persian. On the hometown dates episode on “The Bachelor,” Higgins visited Fletcher’s family’s home and spent time with her mother, father and brothers. On “The Bachelor’s” official website, Fletcher describes her cultural background, stating: “I’m proud of my mother’s background despite what social opinions are. It’s important for me to stand up to people stereotyping Iranians.”

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ABC’s hit franchise has never cast an African-American “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette.” Both shows have had a multitude of non-white contestants, but, only one non-white lead has been featured with the Latino Juan Pablo Galavis who was at the forefront of the flagship’s 18th season (but he brought on much controversy to the network when he made anti-gay remarks).

Earlier this year, former ABC president Paul Lee said that “The Bachelorette” would feature a diverse lead. Speaking to reporters in January, before he was replaced with new prez Channing Dungey, Lee said: “We’re doing a whole lot of tweaks. 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.”

Quinn, who came in third place on Higgins’ season, was also widely speculated to have been chosen as the next “Bachelorette” since the franchise has a pattern in selecting “The Bachelor’s” third-place finisher to be “The Bachelorette.” The Season 11 “Bachelorette,” Kaitlyn Bristowe, also came in third place on her season of “The Bachelor.”

“The Bachelorette” Season 12 will premiere May 23.

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