ABC has cast its first black lead on “The Bachelor” franchise.
Contestant Rachel Lindsay will be the next “Bachelorette,” Variety has confirmed with sources close to the show.
Our insider says the network wanted to wait until after tonight’s episode to announce the news, but famed “Bachelor” blogger Reality Steve leaked the news early. Our source says his report is true. ABC did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment, and the network typically does not weigh in on casting rumors.
The official announcement will come tonight on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” another source adds.
Lindsay, 31, is an attorney from Dallas, Texas. She is currently in the running on Nick Viall’s season, which airs Monday nights. Typically, the next “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette” is one of the fan-favorite runner-ups from the latest pool of contestants.
“The Bachelor” franchise has long endured criticism of its lack of diverse casting, especially among the leads. While the crop of contestants have become a bit more diverse over the years, for more than 30 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” an African-American man or woman has never held the main title.
In fact, the only non-white lead was the Latino Juan Pablo Galavis in Season 18 of the flagship series — and he ended up bringing controversy to the series when he made anti-gay remarks.
Back in early 2016, former ABC boss Paul Lee teased an upcoming black “Bachelorette,” telling press members at the Television Critics Association, “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.” Following his remarks, Jojo Fletcher, who is half Persian and half Caucasian, nabbed the main role for Season 12, causing fans to slam the network’s choice on social media, saying Fletcher was not diverse enough.
This past summer, ABC president Channing Dungey — the first-ever African-American woman to lead a broadcast network — was asked by reporters at TCA about “The Bachelor’s” diversity problem. She said, “I would very much like to see some changes there. I think one of the big changes that we need to do is increase the pool [of contestants] in the beginning.”
The current season of “The Bachelor” has had the most diverse pool of contestants. From Viall’s original 30 ladies, eight were non-white, in comparison to five diverse contestants the season before with main man Ben Higgins and just one non-white contestant in Chris Soules’ season.