Three fan favorite Bachelor contestants from Matt James' season were eliminated right before Hometowns — Abigail Heringer, Jessenia Cruz, and Pieper James. On their way home from Nemacolin Resort, all of them got potential future Bachelorette edits. Abigail tugged on Bachelor Nation's heartstrings when she said, "I feel like I'm the one that makes guys realize what they want next, but they never feel that way about me." Jessenia graciously talked about how being with Matt helped her learn to be more vulnerable for her next relationship. And a blindsided Pieper said that she felt like her "entire soul [was] being stomped on." There are already fans online campaigning for one of the three to become the next Bachelorette for that chance at finding love. But does the show even deserve to have one of them in that role after the way they were treated all season?
What we saw of Matt's episodes was all of the drama and very little of the frontrunners' journey to love. Week after week, we watched white women like Victoria Larson, Anna Redman, and MJ Snyder bully other women — often women of color — at the expense of these Bachelorette frontrunners getting time with Matt and having actual screen time for viewers to get to know them better, too.
Pieper got the group date rose during one episode and it wasn't even shown. Later, her one-on-one time with Matt was rudely interrupted by the producer-orchestrated arrival of Heather Martin. Jessenia was forced to patiently wait for her turn (and endure an insulting two-on-one) before a last minute date with Matt only to get eliminated the same day. Abigail was never afforded a one-on-one date at all.
All three of them are amazing women who said powerful things on their way off the show about deserving love and being ready to find it. Any one of them would be an excellent choice for the next Bachelorette. But why would they even want to return to this world after their respective Bachelor experiences? Especially when there's so much heat on the franchise for continuing to fail its viewers and leads by not running more extensive background checks and excusing racist behavior. For her part, Pieper tweeted that she wasn't even going to watch her elimination episode due to everything that's been going on outside of the show. "In light of everything going on, no I will not be watching tonight’s episode. I encourage those who do choose to watch to consider the lens in which each woman is being portrayed," she wrote.
In light of everything going on, no I will not be watching tonight’s episode. I encourage those who do choose to watch to consider the lens in which each woman is being portrayed. Stay safe and stay well 🖤— Pieper James (@pieper_jamess) February 16, 2021
Pieper, Jessenia, and Abigail also participated in a joint Instagram statement with other members of Matt's season denouncing racism. They said that they stood with Rachel Lindsay after Chris Harrison tried to use a guest spot on Extra, a series on which Lindsay is a host and reporter, to excuse Rachael Kirkconnell's racist behavior in the past. (Kirkconnell has since acknowledged her actions as racist and apologized. Harrison apologized and announced he would be "stepping aside" from The Bachelor franchise.)
All three of these women would have grounds not to jump into the Bachelorette spot just because it was offered. Especially right now and especially after the way all three were treated this season. The production put them in a hostile living environment, constantly interrupted their time by bringing in new contestants, and dragged them through group dates without any real focus on their themselves or their connections. How can they entrust their next big journey to the same group of people? The powers that be cannot magically escape the cloud over this season by rewarding one woman from season 25 the Bachelorette role. Each and every one of them deserve more than that.