How The Bachelors’ Yuri Flipped The Narrative Of The ‘Tokenistic’ Woman Of Colour On Reality TV

Image courtesy of Channel 10
The 2023 season of The Bachelor is undeniably different to previous years. Most notably, it's called The Bachelors, thanks to there being three men handing out the roses, plus, it's filmed in a luxe Gold Coast mansion, and the pool of contestants is larger.
What's not so different is the lack of cultural diversity amongst the cast, with three straight, white men cast as the leads and only a handful of women of colour (WOC).
Last night the show's only contestant of Asian descent, Yuri, decided to leave the show, telling basketballer Felix there was no connection before he began handing out roses.
"I came here chasing a spark, and since I've arrived at the mansion I haven't felt anything," she told him at the rose ceremony. "Felix, you're a great guy but there are certain qualities I desire in a man which you don't possess, so don't spend a rose on me."
Immediately, Twitter erupted in celebration and praise of the 21-year-old for calling the shots and walking away from the mansion.
While many called for Yuri to become the next Bachelorette or applauded her for giving Felix a needed reality check (not everyone is going to be into you because you're the Bachelor), what particularly struck me was the significance of a woman of colour leaving the show on her own terms.
Over The Bachelor's decade-long run on Aussie TV, we've so often seen people of colour eliminated relatively early on in their seasons. Some have claimed they felt like a tokenistic casting choice, used merely to reflect more cultural diversity on the screen.
Carlos Fang (aka Carlos Jay F.), who appeared on Georgia Love’s season of The Bachelorette in 2016, was eliminated at the first rose ceremony. At the time, some viewers expressed disappointment that "the Asian guy didn’t even make one episode".
"I knew going on a show like The Bachelorette there would always be a ‘token’ guy,” the Chinese Australian reality star previously told HuffPost Australia.
"It’s your advantage because you know there’s always one person cast to represent that mix but it’s likely to be a disadvantage for the final outcome of the show. Rarely is there a person of colour standing there at the end of the season."
In 2021, Bachelor contestant Ritu Chhina said at times she felt as though she was the token queer South Asian woman.
"I wouldn't say I had any major concerns around racism but as to be expected, I did feel tokenised purely because I was one of the only few queer POC (people of colour) actually involved with the show," she told Refinery29 Australia at the time.
"Sharing the parts of myself that are more Indian-centric seemed to become a focus but I didn't initially see this as a concern."
In a statement to Refinery29 Australia, a Network 10 spokesperson said the TV channel is committed to diversity. "Eligible contestants on all Network 10 shows are considered regardless of race or background. Network 10 takes its commitment to diversity seriously and we cast as broadly as possible across our entire slate," read the statement.
What struck me about Yuri's appearance on The Bachelors this year is that she wasn't eliminated in the first week. In fact, she appeared in the first four episodes, giving hope to fellow women of colour like myself that there could be potential for a WOC to make it to the end. There was the opportunity for Yuri to continue enjoying reality TV fame, while flying the flag for those of us who have longed to see more diversity on dating shows.
But despite the pressure so often placed on women of colour to represent our communities, follow the rules of mainstream society and be the quiet, obedient high achiever, Yuri chose to put herself first.
She so easily could've indulged in the extravagance of the Bachie experience, formed a stronger connection with Felix and seen how far that took her in the competition, but she chose to follow her gut instincts and leave early — and that too without waiting for rejection from a man.
"I wanted to make sure he knew, and all of Australia knew, that it was my choice and my decision to leave," Yuri told 10 Play after the episode aired.
"Even if I was going to be sent home, I wanted it to be done on my own terms and give him a piece of my mind. It's 2023 and I wanted to remind my girls, gays and theys that we have a choice."
Despite her early departure, a future in reality TV is not completely off the cards, with Yuri saying she's open to appearing on The Bachelorette and Bachelor In Paradise — though the future of those shows hangs in the balance after they weren't commissioned to air in 2023.
There are still 20 contestants remaining in the mansion, vying for the hearts of Felix Von Hofe, Jed McIntosh and Thomas Malucelli. Interestingly, the only two other women of colour, Eboni and Krystal, are also paired with Felix. Meanwhile, promos have shown there will be three more contestants walking out of the mansion tonight, and I'm secretly cherishing the fact that women are claiming their power on national TV.
The Bachelors airs Sunday to Wednesday at 7:30pm on Channel 10 and 10 Play.
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