*ABC has cast its first black lead for “The Bachelorette.”
Rachel Lindsay, a Texas attorney, and currently a contestant on “The Bachelor” with Nick Viall, was revealed as the next “Bachelorette” on Monday’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” She is the first African American lead in a Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise that has spanned 33 seasons.
Viall congratulated his “ex” on Instagram last night:
Bachelor Nation doesn’t know how it all goes down yet, but as you’ll surely see saying goodbye to Rachel was one of the most heartbreaking moments of my life. I have met very few people who possess as much beauty, grace, and charisma as Rachel and after hearing that she’ll be the next Bachelorette I couldn’t be more excited. Bachelor Nation is so lucky to have her but not as lucky as the group of men who will have a chance at winning her heart. No one is better prepared to show Bachelor Nation, and the world, the beauty of embracing diversity. Good luck Rachel, not that you’ll be needing it. I’m so proud and happy for you, I’m honored to be able to call you a friend. I can’t wait to watch your journey!! #thebachelor #thebachelorette
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that her casting comes under ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey, the first African American woman to run a broadcast entertainment division.
Dungey told reporters at the 2016 Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that the show’s diversity issue lies with the lack of minorities chosen for the pool of contestants vying for final rose, since the Bachelor or Bachelorette is usually chosen from popular contestants from the previous season.
“It’s worked very well for us because the audiences feel really engaged [in choosing] that candidate” she said of the process. “What we’d like to do is broaden that. We need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning. That is something we really want to put some effort and energy toward.”
The current season, which premiered Jan. 2, featured the most diverse pool of contestants to date. The season began with a pool of 22 white and eight nonwhite contestants. By comparison, the previous “Bachelor” with Ben Higgins featured five nonwhite contestants and 2015’s “Bachelor” season with Chris Soules featured only one.
This season, Viall also became the first Bachelor or Bachelorette in 15 years to give the coveted “first impression” rose — usually a precursor to either winning or becoming a finalist — to a black contestant when he handed one to Lindsay on the first night.
Her appointment not only breaks race barriers for the franchise, but it is also the first time ABC has announced its next star while she or he is appearing on the current cycle, essentially spoiling part of the ending as to who Viall ultimately picks.