This Woman Had A Shot At Being The First Black Bachelorette 5 Years Ago

Photo: Courtesy of Misee Harris.
On Monday night, season 13 of The Bachelorette will premiere, starring 31-year-old Dallas attorney Rachel Lindsay. The series and its predecessor, The Bachelor, have been on air for 15 years with a combined 33 seasons between them. And, incredibly, this will be the first time in the franchise's history that a Black lead will be doling out the roses. But it might surprise even the most informed member of Bachelor Nation to learn that five years ago, another woman took a shot at becoming the first Black Bachelorette. Meet Misee Harris.
In 2012, Misee Harris tried out for season 17 of The Bachelor, starring Sean Lowe. She drove up three hours from Kentucky, where she was close to finishing up her dentistry residency, to Dayton, Ohio to audition. After making it through the first rounds, she was flown out to L.A. for the standard series of tests — background, psychiatric, drugs — and found out a few months later that she made the cut. But Harris declined. With just one year left of her residency, the then-26-year-old decided she wasn't willing to put her career on hold only to be booted off the show after a few episodes — what happened to virtually every Black contestant before her. (We reached out to ABC for their side of the story, but they declined to comment.)
"I felt like, if I’m going to do something like that, I don’t want to be the token minority that’s always kicked off the show," Harris tells me in her sweet Southern accent over the phone in between patients. "And so I thought if I’m going to take the time off and lose money, I’m going to do it and do it big, you know? I’m going to be the one picking, I'm not going to be the one jumping into the limo crying!" ­­
A few weeks after she rejected the offer, a former staffer on the show reached out to Harris and urged her to do it big: To kick off a campaign to become the first Black bachelorette. It took off on social media and was picked up by outlets like Jezebel and The Huffington Post. But, as we know, Harris never became the Bachelorette — and five years later, she’s sure as hell glad about it. Here's a lightly edited rundown of our chat.
What were your first thoughts when you heard the news that Rachel was becoming the first Black Bachelorette?
"I thought it was great! From what I can tell, I think she’s going to be fantastic. She seems very charismatic, and she’s definitely educated, so I think it’s going to be fun. I think they picked a good girl, I do. She has an education and is more than just pretty. I think that’s wonderful. And it’s exciting to see a minority in the lead role. I’m excited for her. I don’t actually watch the show anymore, but who knows? I might tune in this season if I have time — I have a few businesses — but maybe I can DVR it and catch a few episodes."
Did you feel any pang of regret, like, ‘That could have been me’?
“No, it doesn’t need to be me. I’m glad. I think everything happens for a reason, and I thank God that one thing did not happen for me. I think she is definitely a better pick. She doesn’t seem to mind, it seems like, being on camera and being able to interact with that many men.
Looking back, I would say it’s good that I didn’t end up doing it. I’m really outgoing and everything, but me going on that many dates? Nah. [Laughs] Honestly I can’t hardly stand to go on dates once a month! I’m kind of a homebody; I like to work a lot… I’m kind of an introvert.”
Did anyone from the show or ABC ever reach out to you about it? What was their reaction?
­­­“The producer Mike Fleiss, we would talk on Twitter and stuff, and it was really funny. I think they knew that it was all in good spirits, and I think they knew we were making a good point. But I think that at the time they were like, ‘If it’s not broken, we’re not going to fix it.’ So if you decide not to come to the show, you don’t have a chance to be in that role.
It was kind of awkward though, because I think the following season was Desiree’s season and it was horrible. [Laughs] It was awful, so we were like, ‘You know, maybe you should’ve picked me!’ But like I said, I’m definitely not the one though. I’m glad it’s Rachel being able to represent.”
I know you said it was more about making a point than anything, but if they had decided to actually make you The Bachelorette, would you have done it?
“I couldn’t have, because I was in residency, and that’s so serious. You have to finish. I went through that for 10 years, from 17 to 27. I was about to finish finally; I think I was in my ninth year. So I really would’ve had to make a big decision. I’m not going to say 100% I wouldn’t have, but it would have been a very hard decision to make. I don’t even know if the hospital I was doing my residency at would’ve allowed it."
So you're excited to tune back in and watch Rachel?
“I think I should maybe watch this season. I did see who they had picked for her suitors, and I don’t know about that. [Ed. Note: though ABC hadn’t yet released the official cast bios when we spoke, reality TV blogs have leaked photos and info on several of the men.] “I don’t know, I wouldn’t say they’re the cream of the crop. There’s like one doctor and one attorney, and the rest are, like, wannabe actors. That’s why I said I’m definitely not the one to do that, because I’m so picky.
Do you think Rachel will encounter any issues regarding race that might come up?
“I think it might be tough for her, simply because a lot of minorities [in the audience] are probably going to want her to keep the minorities, and there will probably be a little backlash if she doesn’t. But I think she’ll be able to handle that, I think she’s probably well aware that that could be an issue. I think there are a pretty good number of Black men who are going to be on there.
But the thing is, I wonder, it might pull in a bigger Black audience to watch too. Before, I don’t think a lot of people did; I know a lot of my friends didn’t. And so who knows, they might. I honestly think when they will really watch is when there’s a Black male. That’s when they’ll really be interested! [Laughs]"
So that’s what you’re holding out for, a Black Bachelor?
"Seriously! That’s what I’ll be looking forward to. Maybe I’d go on then. "

More from TV

R29 Original Series