Photo by Brigita Przybylski
It is no secret that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have had problems with racism and a lack of casting diversity, for both the leads and contestants. But it was surprising to realize that the first women to ever host The Bachelorette were former bachelorettes Tayshia Adams (season 16) and Kaitlyn Bristow (season 11), who have co-hosted the show together for the past two seasons (seasons 17 and 18). They replaced previous male host Chris Harrison who hosted both The Bachelorette and The Bachelor since the shows’ inceptions. For Tayisha and Kaitlyn, such characteristics of being women and former bachelorettes result in greater emotional support they are able to provide to the bachelorette lead, having been in that position and on the female side of a heterosexual relationship. Tayshia and Kaitlyn have been seen providing support, advice, and compassion to Katie Thurston and Michelle Young, in a way that a male host isn’t able to.
The Bachelor has yet to have a female host, where Jesse Palmer, a previous bachelor (season 5), is the new host for the current season starring Clayton Echard (season 26). Which again is helpful to The Bachelor lead for the host to be a former bachelor, but Jesse Palmer is another white man that fans even joked about having an uncanny resemblance to Clayton. Although it is slightly comedic, the similar casting choice for The Bachelor host and lead speaks loudly of the show’s need for greater diversity and representation. And how did The Bachelor even end up with another white male lead despite the Black male contestants on Michelle and Katie’s seasons?
This brings up the question: beyond hosts, how is diversity represented on-screen with leads? There have only been three Black bachelorettes and one Black bachelor in the franchise with Rachel Lindsay (season 13), Tayshia Adams (season 16), Michelle Young (season 18), and Matt James (season 25). In 2017, 15 years into The Bachelorette, Rachel was the first Black lead in the whole franchise. And in 2021, Matt James was the first Black bachelor. However, I believe it is necessary to point out that all of these leads, except for Rachel Lindsay, have mixed backgrounds. Tayshia is Black and Latina, where her and Clare Crawley (season 16), who is white and Latina, were the franchise’s first Latina bachelorettes. Michelle and Matt, although they identify as Black, have a white mom and Black dad. Therefore, even though the franchise has attempted to become more diverse with their leads, it feels like the shows push for more lighter skinned or racially ambiguous casting choices.
So where is the greater representation for Black and Laintx leads? And what about an Asian or Native American lead (which hasn’t occurred yet)? Such casting choices with people of color have been and would be considered historic for the franchise, even though they should be commonplace decisions. And in addition to the lack of racial diversity, what about the lack of diversity in sexuality, body type, disability, etc? All that being said, I still enjoy watching The Bachelor and The Bachelorette as well as other reality TV and dating shows. But I believe these shows can improve in their casting to showcase the diversity and inclusivity that is reflected in our society. Especially with the upcoming season 19 of The Bachelorette, hopefully there will not be another white blonde woman as the lead.