Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay has never been shy about criticizing the Bachelor franchise and holding the popular and problematic series accountable for its actions. Recently, it's felt like Lindsay had aired all of the show's dirty secrets while shining a light on the show's litany of systemic issues, but Lindsay recently revealed a new and particularly dismaying experience.
In a candid op-ed for the cover of New York Magazine, Lindsay wrote about not only the show's "toxic fandom" that she encountered after her 2017 stint as the Bachelorette, but also her experiences feeling tokenized and set up to fail by the show's producers during her season.
She felt the cast producers didn't choose men based on compatibility; instead they were more focused on finding men who would create drama that was "largely centred around race." Season 13 included a handful of Black men who were not into Black women — her awkward one-on-one with Will Gaskins, she said, was for the producers to "explore the narrative of a Black man who had barely dated any Black women" at her expense. Lindsay also believes Lee Garrett, who had a history of racist and bigoted tweets on social media, was a plant to start drama, and the producers knew about his past racist behaviour when they cast him. "I didn’t want to use the show to tear the Black men down," she wrote. "But I was constantly put in situations where there was a little bit of that going on."
However, she wrote that the moment that "things came to a head" was when she wanted to send Lee and Kenny home (who fans felt was unfairly characterized as the "angry Black man" stereotype) because even though she wasn't fully aware of the extent of their fighting, she wanted to quickly get rid of the drama. But the producers wouldn't let her send Kenny home.
"I wasn’t thinking, I have to keep this many Black people and this many white people," Lindsay wrote. "And the response I got was, 'You can’t send a Black man home.' They didn’t want to lose the season’s sheen of diversity."
She told the producers that was their fault, “'because of how you cast this season,'" she continued. "'You didn’t give me enough men of colour — not just Black men, men of colour.' I was getting angrier and angrier. I didn’t care that I was miked up. The fact that we had to ration the Black men was extremely upsetting. And I said, 'You have no idea what it feels like to be the first person representing Black people to your lily-white audience.'”
Of Lindsay's original 31 potential suitors, only 11 were Black, and four others men of colour. She also stressed that even though she asked for more Black producers and people behind the camera for support, there was nobody around who was able to understand her experience. "Nobody was with me," she wrote. "I loved my producer, Caitlin, whom I had connected with during Nick’s season. But she was white, and there were certain things she was not going to be able to understand. I told them, 'You are leaning on me to guide you through what it’s like to handle a Black lead. And I have to be the Black lead. I have to educate y’all and navigate my system.'"
The former attorney goes on to further emphasize how contrived and exploited she felt throughout the entire season — from feeling set up when finalist Peter introduced her to two interracial couples during hometowns and being "robbed of her love story" with her now-husband Bryan, to seeing Peter painted as the victim and her the "angry Black woman" stereotype at the After the Rose special. Even after her season, when she stayed involved with the Bachelor franchise with the goal to make positive changes, she continued to feel used and became the target of further harassment. However, she concluded by saying that while she chooses to not longer be a figurehead, she'll continue to give advice to anyone who wants it, and support the next Black Bachelorette, Michelle Young.