Drama continues to follow “The Bachelor” franchise, with backlash brewing after former “Bachelorette” star Hannah Brown used the N-word on Instagram this past weekend, while singing lyrics to a rap song.
The controversy is the latest in off-camera scandals that seem to constantly surround the franchise, consistently keeping the ABC hit in the headlines, even when production is shut down during a pandemic.
With nearly 3 million Instagram followers, Brown is one of ABC’s most popular alums from the world of “The Bachelor.” She also competed on the most recent season of “Dancing With the Stars,” winning the mirror ball trophy in 2019.
Brown went live on her Instagram this past Saturday night, singing lyrics to rapper DaBaby’s song “Rockstar” out loud — including the N-word.
On Sunday, the reality star issued an apology on her Instagram Stories, writing, “I owe you all a major apology. There is no excuse, and I will not justify what I said. I have read your messages and seen the hurt that I have caused. I own it all. I am terribly sorry and know that whether in public or private, this language is unacceptable. I promise to do better.”
The social media backlash was immediate after Brown used the racial slur. Comments section on her posts have been flooded with negative remarks from fans like, “really disappointed,” “you should offer a since apology that shows the gravity of the situation” and “your apology just shows your white privilege,” while others have commented that they’ve unfollowed her account. An account for an accessories brand that was promoted by Brown responded to an upset fan, writing that the company “could not have predicted what happened on her Instagram.”
Representatives for Brown declined to comment, though sources say the reality star has not lost any brand partnerships or endorsement deals at this time.
Alums from “The Bachelor” franchise tend to amass gigantic social media followings after appearing on the broadcast series, and their sizable platforms enable them to pursue lucrative careers online, making well into the six figures or higher annually from brand partnerships and sponsored posts. Major talent agencies benefit from representing reality stars who turn into social media sensations with single sponsored posts bringing in upward of $10,000 for many personalities. Brown is one of the most-followed “Bachelor” alums on Instagram, if not the most followed.
ABC has invested in Brown’s popularity among viewers, casting her on “Dancing With the Stars” and thereby making her one of the more promoted “Bachelor” stars on the network. After she won “Dancing With the Stars,” she was set to take part in the “DWTS” live tour, which has been canceled for 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the live tour is based on “Dancing With the Stars,” ABC is not involved with the touring event. The production company behind the “DWTS” tour did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.
ABC did not respond to Variety’s request for comment regarding their association with Brown moving forward. Warner Bros. TV, which produces the series, also declined to comment.
ABC is airing a new “Bachelor” series this summer, “The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever,” which will recap previous seasons and bring back franchise alums for video interviews with host Chris Harrison. Insiders tell Variety that prior to the N-word controversy, there were no plans to have Brown’s season featured on the show, and she was not set to participate in a video interview for the series, which premieres June 8. (Brown was not featured in the first promo for the show, which was released last week.)
Following Brown’s usage of the N-word, many Bachelor Nation stars reacted to the controversy, including Brown’s ex Tyler Cameron; one of the most popular people of color associated with the franchise, Mike Johnson; and former “Bachelor” contestant Bekah Martinez, who wrote, “It’s a word that holds so much historical weight that the black community is still healing from … so no, it’s not cool to just sing it along the lyrics of a song especially not on your platform with millions of followers.”
Most notably, Rachel Lindsay — “The Bachelorette” from Season 13, and the only black lead in the franchise’s 18-year history — went on her Instagram to deliver a lengthy response, alluding to the fact that she had connected with Brown, but was not pleased with the outcome of their conversation.
Sources close to Brown tell Variety that the two former “Bachelorette” stars did, in fact, connect, and spoke on the phone for quite a while, prior to Lindsay’s Instagram broadcast.
“To be honest, I’m tired. I’m so tired of feeling like I have to be the one to say something,” Lindsay said on her IGTV. “It’s not an opportunity to call someone out, it’s not necessarily an opportunity to drag them, it’s an opportunity to maybe educate them. … I thought, ‘Let me challenge this person to use their platform because last night it was used in a different way, so let me challenge them to use it in a better way.’ Maybe it was a mistake, maybe they didn’t realize the intention behind it … so let me give them opportunity to now use their platform to correct that mistake. I am personally hurt and offended that I gave someone the opportunity to do that and it wasn’t done. Now, I understand that an apology was made, but when I know what could have been done, when I know what I challenged someone to do … they refused to do it, or they did not do it.”
Lindsay reached out to Brown on Sunday morning, after she had said the slur, and the two women had a conversation, sources say, though representatives for both women did not respond to Variety‘s request for comment.
Lindsay appears to have wanted Brown to discuss her mistake further and continue a dialogue surrounding the use of the N-word, but Brown chose not to offer an additional apology, aside from her Instagram statement, because she is taking time to reflect on her mistake. According to a person close to Brown, she is an “emotional wreck, mortified, embarrassed and upset with herself,” and is talking to her pastor.
“This clearly was not intentional. But she did it, and she knows she did it,” a source says of Brown. “She’s learning. It’s an educational process. She’s reflecting right now.”