The Bachelor is back, literally. The 21st season of show that sets the standard for competition dating premiered last night, and serial television dater Nick Viall returns with it. He’s looking for "real love." It’s Bachelor tradition that on the first episode of the season, in addition to sharing some info about himself and getting to know all of the girls competing for his heart, the Bachelor gives out a first impression rose that saves one of the contestants from elimination the following week. The gesture is a sign that the lucky lady stood out and gave off some pretty good vibes, setting her apart from competitors who all want the same thing. This season is off to an interesting start, because for the first time in the show’s history, the first impression rose went to a woman of color. Rachel is a Black woman from Dallas who is also an attorney. Nick says he gave her the rose because he was captivated by her “aura” and “presence.” Rachel is excited that this could be the first step toward an engagement between the two of them. And while both of them stuck to The Bachelor script, the significance of this moment was not lost on viewers at all.
Everyone's already well aware that The Bachelor franchise is not known for being a model of diversity. With about nine women of color among the 30 contestants, this season is actually one of the most diverse in terms of race. You would think that with so few women of color on the show each season, more of them would get the coveted first impression rose: Let’s be real, people of color stand out in majority white spaces. Rachel being the first Black woman to receive this honor isn’t a “great job, Bachelor!” moment as much as an “about damn time, Bachelor!” one. I also can’t help but wonder how much this historic Bachelor moment can be credited to an announcement from ABC’s programming head in August about intentionally diversifying the show. Sprinkling a few more women of color into the contestant pool isn’t necessarily a “commitment to diversity” in the way viewers want. Giving a woman of color the first impression rose, however, sends the message that race isn’t working against contestants, as a 2012 lawsuit against the show's producers alleged. Hopefully this is the beginning of a major shift for the franchise to help align the Bachelor with other ABC shows, like Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, Quantico, and Modern Family, which are proving that diversity matters.
We’ll be watching closely to see if this is really the case. At this point, Rachel is clearly one of the best choices. She’s really setting herself apart by being a confident career woman. And these aren't the only things she has going for her. Jennifer Aniston predicted that Rachel would be among the final four for this season. So in addition to breaking racial barriers on the show, she has the best co-sign in Bachelor history. In fact, many are already calling for her to be the next Bachelorette.