Black and The Bachelor Franchise

The Bachelor & Bachelorette are some of my long time favorites TV shows. It provides two outlets – two hours of romance and two hours of drama. Who doesn’t love that. But what attracted me the most was watching the lack of diversity (specifically black men and women) on the show and then guessing how long the token black contestant(s) would last. It became a game that I played every week.

I had my own theories on why this major franchise struggled with black contestants, but it never made much sense until I read Amy Kaufman’s Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of Americas Favorite Guilty Pleasure.


There are two interesting things I discovered while reading Amy’s first book, which I finished in 4 days by the way.

Bachelor vs Bachelorette proposals 

One of the most interesting parts of Amy’s book (in my opinion) was not within the chapters. It was at the end when she listed all of the Bachelors and Bachelorettes. Twenty-two gents and fourteen ladies had the power to accept or deny their top two suitors over the past 16 years.

Of the twenty-two men, 7 of them elected not to propose and 1, the infamous Brad Womack, denied both of the women and there was no winner in season 11. But out of the 14 women, every last woman accepted a proposal.

Did the women feel like they had an option to decline the proposal and ride off into the sunset as boyfriend/girlfriend? Did they feel pressure to accept the proposal because they are women? These are questions that still pop in my head.

The women are actually better at picking their final suitors than the men. 50% of the Bachelorettes are either currently married or engaged. Only 9% of the Bachelor’s are currently married (Sean Lowe) or engaged (Arie Luyendyk Jr.) – yes it is only two. Not surprising. 

Bachelor creator, Mike Fleiss, was not sold on the Bachelorette spin off at first, but it looks like the ladies are leading the franchise.

Scripting overload

It is no secret that this series will have some scripted segments. But the amount of producer influence that Kaufman revealed was beyond shocking. It made me think, why do people sign up for this show. Contestants have zero control over what is aired during the season or their participation level after the season.

For example, Sharleen Joynt, opera singer from Juan Pablo’s season, was my favorite tea-spiller¹. She told Kaufman in a video chat interview that producers would hold her in an interview room for hours trying to convince her that she was falling in love with bachelor-villain Juan Pablo. Joynt shared that sometimes she would be held captive to the point to where she would say to herself “OK, maybe I do love him.” Cray. Cray. 


Since it’s start in 2002, the Bachelor franchise has seen 919 contestants and 36 leading men and women. Out of almost 1,000 people, 38 black men (6.5%) and 32 black women (9.4%) appeared on the show. Bachelor airings between 2009-2012 had zero black women. And no black men appeared on The Bachelorette between 2009-2011. How sway²??

Scott Jeffress, Bachelor producer from 2002-2005, said that ABC would require the team to cast a black girl or two. They gave all contestants nicknames and often the black contestants were called “The Black Girl/Guy”. Jeffress felt that it was tokenism. Of course it was. Nothing was authentic with the early casting of the black contestants. The network had to do this in order to keep the back lash minimal. However that did not work because there was a lawsuit that two black men filed against the network.

After reading Kaufman’s tell-all book it became apparent why black men and women are not rushing to submit their application to appear on this show — We are not going to allow someone have this much control over us.

When someone signs up to be a contestant on the show, since they no longer pick randoms to be the actual bachelor or ‘rette anymore, it is like signing your life away for the next 3 years. You have no control over your privacy, social media, wherabouts, love interest or even commentary while on the show. You are at the mercy of the producer, camera crew, ABC executives and anyone else the franchise has on payroll. Even after the show you are at the mercy of the network. As a Bach alum you have to make so many TV appearances post your season to fulfill your “contract”. Your life does not technically belong to you once you enter the Bach-world.

The network will dig up things your past. If you have one milometer of dirt or good-for-TV drama from your past, it will be aired with no remorse. Growing up in a black family, we value privacy. Lie about your business and tell the truth about everything else is what my family always told me. That doesn’t exist in the Bach-world.

(FRONT) MILTON, BRYCE, JEDIDIAH, JACK, FRED, IGGY, RACHEL LINDSAY, KYLE, JAMEY, MICHAEL, LEE, KENNY, BLAKE E.; (MIDDLE) MATTHEW, BRYAN, PETER, JOSIAH, DEAN, GRANT, KENNETH, BLAKE K., ERIC, ROBERT; (BACK) JONATHAN, WILL, ADAM, DEMARIO, ALEX, MOHIT, LUCAS, ANTHONY, BRADY
 

Rachel Lindsay’s season. Courtesy of ABC.com

 

You also have to be 100% willing to date outside your race as a black man or woman joining the show. There was no hope for the rose-giver to be a black man or woman until Rachel Lindsay was named The Bachelorette in 2017.  It only took 15 years for this to happen. So if you are someone who strives for #BlackLove, then you are automatically excluded from the series.

Every person that watched bachelor-pro Nick Vaill’s 2017 season knew that he wanted to keep Rachel, if not pick her, longer than he was able to. Her elimination was very telling of what Nick’s intentions were. If I remember correctly, he said “Selfishly, I hope this isn’t goodbye forever” to Rachel as she departed. It doesn’t sound like Nick wanted her to go, but the producers found the “one” and, in my opinion and most of Twitter at that time, told him that he had to let her go. Rachel became a fan favorite on night one when she received the first impression rose.

#BlackTwitter was on fire throughout Vaill’s season. Their was an increase of black viewers. We were all glued to the TV to see how long Rachel was going to last. We had never seen this before. We never saw a black woman make it past week 5.

To add more context to this, see below the table. It shows the number of black contestants on both shows and when they departed.

black bach contestants

Pretty interesting huh?

As an avid watcher of the bachelor series, I have seen diversity increase since it’s early 2000 airings. But it’s still lacking. From the outside looking in, it appears that casting producers search far and wide for picture perfect white contestants, however the black contestant caliber didn’t really rise until late in the game.

If the franchise wants to see more black men and women apply to be on the show, they have to up their casting game and relinquish some of the behind the scenes control. I know there has to be some “structure” to keep story lines going, but it should not require a 6 hour interrogation on why you do not love suitor yet. We all can’t be helpless romantics like Annaliese Puccini. Plus that wouldn’t make for great TV.


Amy Kaufman’s book includes “Why I’m a Fan” excerpts from celebrity fans. I felt the only way to end would be to share my reason.

Why I’m a Fan 

I have been watching the series consistently since Desiree Hartsock’s season of the Bachelorette. I had seen episodes from at least every season, but I was never a consistent watcher until then. As mentioned before, I was addicted to the show to watch how long the minorities would last. There was only one black contestant on her series. But after Will Reese was voted off in week 2, Juan Pablo Galavis, American-born Venezuelan, became my new favorite contestant. And this was only because he was a person of color. There was no other reason I was cheering for him. Juan Pablo made it to week 6. Not bad.

I was not watching the show for a love story at that time. I was watching to see how far people of color went. I wanted to see if they would make it past episode one or two. I soon realized that we, black men/women, do not make it far on the show. That was until Rachel Lindsay stepped onto the set.

The Bachelor franchise has become my favorite guilty pleasure, as Amy Kaufman states in the title of her book. Now there is more I enjoy when watching. I watch it for the comedic humor from contestants like Krystal Nielson or sassy comebacks from Bibiana Julian, both from Arie’s season. To get romantic destinations ideas for my beau and I. And of the course cringe-worthy hometowns like when Dean Unglert took Rachel Lindsay home to his estranged father who converted to Sikhism. No clue what that is.

I get excited for night one when the ladies and gents show us their creativity, personality or lack thereof. I enjoy making predictions on who is going to get the first impression rose and make it to hometowns. The thrill of the 2 on 1 dates always keep me glued to the TV. And let’s not forget all the drama that happens when you put over 25 strangers in one house together with no TV, internet, phone or even gym. Come on Fleiss, what were you thinking.

To the new Bachelor, Colton #notmybachelor Underwood….I hope your season is everything you want it to be. But if the blogs are true, it appears your season will heavy with blonde hair and blue eyes. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens on January 7.

~JY


 

Footnotes:

¹ – Tea-spiller: This means someone who shares a lot of gossip. Some phrases you could see would be “sip the tea”, “I have some tea” or “This is some good tea”. This has no correlation with the actual tea drink. Check the urban dictionary for more insight.
² – How Sway: This is a question that questions the impossible. Kanye West coined this term in an interview with VJ Sway with saying “How Sway” on air. It took off after that. The urban dictionary gives more examples of this word.

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