JoJo Fletcher — the new Bachelorette who made her debut last night on the season premiere — is of Persian descent. But after years of mostly Caucasian Bachelors and Bachelorettes, many viewers were still quick to judge the network for its pick earlier this year, especially after former ABC boss Paul Lee promised a diverse leading lady would helm the summer spinoff.
Speaking to reporters, including Variety, on a recent press call, Fletcher was asked about the ABC franchise failing to become “more diverse.” She said the suitors on her season make up one of the most diverse casts “The Bachelorette” has even seen.
“I will say that we have a great group of men,” Fletcher said. “I think there is a little more diversity in my group, but to be honest, you know, I can’t remember all of the other seasons before me so I don’t know how much diversity was there. But I can definitely say that I have a very diverse group of men that come from very different parts of life and they all just bring a lot to the table.”
On last night’s premiere, which ranked as the night’s most-watched show, Fletcher met a crop of more than 25 men. Only a few were of color, and one was booted off during the rose ceremony. However, in the preview for the upcoming season, Fletcher was seen getting close with Grant, one of the show’s diverse contestants.
“The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” have been criticized for years for the lack of diversity, both in its crop of contestants, but more so in the leads. Aside from Fletcher, whose mother is Persian, only one non-white lead has been featured in the entire franchise: season 18’s Juan Pablo Galavis, the Latino Bachelor who put the show at the center of controversy with anti-gay remarks.
“We’re doing a whole lot of tweaks. We have the farm team, right, which allows us to then pick the next one,” ABC’s former president Lee told reporters earlier this year, before Channing Dungey took over his position. “But I’d be very surprised if ‘The Bachelorette’ in the summer isn’t diverse. I think that’s likely … The tweaks that Mike Fleiss has put in place will get us where we want to go.”
With only a couple of men of color still standing in Fletcher’s season, the “farm team” is not boasting much diversity for ABC’s “Bachelor” selection when the flagship show returns with season 21 this fall — though, Grant did get a lot of screen time.