ABC Chief Addresses 'The Bachelor's' Race Problem

"We're doing a whole lot of tweaks," says Paul Lee. "I'd be very surprised if 'The Bachelorette' in the summer isn't diverse."
'The Bachelor'  Courtesy of ABC

Over 20 cycles of The Bachelor and 11 of female-focused spinoff The Bachelorette, the titular competitors have had more in common than the fact that most of their reality TV romances did not end happily ever after. With just one exception, they've all been white.

The Bachelor's casting issue has been a lightning rod for more and more criticism in recent years — this latest season features a group of 28 predominantly white women vying for another white man — and ABC Entertainment Group president Paul Lee is aware. When pushed about the issue after his Television Critics Association winter press tour panel on Saturday, he implied the all-white streak would be coming to an end.

"We're doing a whole lot of tweaks," Lee told reporters. "We have the farm team, right, which allows us to then pick the next one. But I'd be very surprised if The Bachelorette in the summer isn't diverse. I think that's likely."

Lee was quick to note that the franchise did have one non-white competitor. That was American-born Venezuelan Juan Pablo Galavis, who ultimately caused the franchise more grief than anything when he referred to gay people as "perverts" in an interview and earned a reputation for being something of a player. (His was one of the few Bachelor seasons that did not end in a marriage proposal.)

Both installments of the Bachelor franchise have come to draw from the pool of previous seasons. And if that is indeed the case for the next Bachelorette, the "farm team" Lee spoke of includes only three women of color. That includes 24-year-old veteran Jubilee Sharpe, one of the few contestants to get a surplus of screen time during the Jan. 4 season premiere.

Word on the woman chosen as the next Bachelorette likely won't arrive until the current season of The Bachelor draws to its end, but Lee also suggested that diversity won't be the only change that its creator and executive producer has planned: "The tweaks that Mike Fleiss has put in place will get us where we want to go."

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