History-Making 'Bachelorette' Opens Up About Pressure to Pick a Black Man

The ABC star says she won't let race define her pursuit of love: "I'm not choosing a man for America, I'm choosing a man for me."
Courtesy of ABC The Bachelor
Chris Harrison and Rachel Lindsay on ABC's 'Women Tell All' reunion special

Rachel Lindsay, the 31-year-old lawyer from Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor, will soon begin her historic journey as ABC's first black lead of the franchise. A first after 33 seasons between The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Lindsay would be lying if she said she didn't feel the pressure.

"To be the first African-American woman is a beautiful thing," she told The Hollywood Reporter three months after filming on The Bachelor has wrapped. "I’m honored and humbled to be the one chosen. Because that’s how I feel: like I was chosen to be in this role."

Lindsay, a civil defense litigation attorney in Texas, first made history on the franchise when she became the only black woman to ever receive the first-impression rose on Viall's premiere of The Bachelor. The early frontrunner also broke barriers by landing in Viall's final three. She was eliminated on Monday night's episode — one week ahead of the finale.

Though production has yet to begin on her season, which typically airs in the spring, Lindsay now faces the potential of breaking yet another franchise barrier if she were to pick a black man as her winner.

"That is a very common question that I get from black people," she said when speaking to THR at the taping of the Women Tell All reunion special, which also aired Monday night. "Honestly, I don’t want to go into this process with any preconceived notions or any pressures to do something for somebody else. I hate to sound selfish, but it’s my process."

She continued, "It’s my journey in finding love. And whether that person is black, white, red, whatever — it’s my journey. I’m not choosing a man for America, I’m choosing a man for me."

ABC's early announcement of Lindsay as the next Bachelorette came five weeks ahead of the March 13 finale, essentially spoiling part of the ending to The Bachelor. Appearing as a seasoned professional on the Women Tell All, the star of the 13th cycle said the response to her casting has been overwhelmingly supportive.

"I know there are going to be people who criticize what I do no matter what, but I’m just trying to not get caught up in it," she said to THR. "I feel like it was meant to be and that outweighs any fear or pressure that I have in being the first African-American Bachelorette."

Previewing what to expect from her upcoming season, Lindsay said she hopes what viewers will be tuning in to is the most diverse group of contestants seen since the franchise's 2002 launch. And while she's open to dating men of all races, she sees ABC continuing on its trajectory of including more diverse contestants year-over-year. JoJo Fletcher, the most recent Bachelorette, led a group that included 21 white and six nonwhite contestants, while the previous year, Kaitlyn Bristowe's season, featured four nonwhite men.

"I’m hoping that as a black Bachelorette you’re going to get to see a more diverse cast, a cast that’s reflective of what America looks like," Lindsay said. "And not just Bachelor Nation or whatever else, but what America looks like."

Looking back, Lindsay's casting almost didn't happen. No exception to ABC's habit of picking the next lead at the last minute, Lindsay, too, said her road to being the Bachelorette was a roller coaster.

"It wasn’t official until right before the announcement [on Jimmy Kimmel Live!]," she said, remembering how heartbroken she was over her split from Viall. "I was approached not too long after I was let go, but I didn’t believe it. Talks kind of ceased and then it picked up again, and I started to begin the conversation of possibly being the Bachelorette."

She was actually in trial the Friday before her casting was announced on Monday, Feb. 13.

Though she plans to take a sabbatical during filming, she has the full support of her Dallas law firm, the coworkers who initially signed her up for The Bachelor, as she embarks on her very public reality dating series.

"I feel very indebted to my job," she said, adding that her boss is a fan of the show. "I support the loyalty that they’ve given me —  it’s very rare, especially in my profession, that you find people who are not just supportive of who you are as a person, but supportive of you finding love and your happiness."

A believer in giving back, Lindsay said she won't stop working until the last minute, and that the firm's door remains open for her to return: "That’s why I just feel like this is so meant to be. Jobs just don’t do that. Not legal jobs."

The University of Texas at Austin and Marquette University Law School grad also has the support of her family, including that of her father, who was absent on The Bachelor. While viewers were introduced to her mother, two sisters, brother-in-law, cousin and nephew, the federal judge missed the on-air meeting of Viall due to a work conflict.

"My dad is very supportive about me being the Bachelorette," Lindsay said. "He realizes what an amazing experience it is. And then seeing how I was portrayed on Nick’s season, I think it took away the skepticism that he had about the unknown."

While Lindsay said her father's appearance on her season remains up in the air due to the timing of one of her sisters being pregnant, it's possible he would meet Lindsay's final two men offscreen, like he did with Viall. 

"Nick’s conversation with my dad, I wasn’t there for it purposely. I didn’t want to see it," she said of the face-to-face, which occurred when The Bachelor's cameras were not rolling. "I just wanted them to have their moment. I talked to Nick briefly about it and he thought it went well. It was a real-life experience without the cameras. He got to talk to my dad and talk about me, the possibilities of what we could have, and I love that! No cameras involved."

Will you be watching The Bachelorette when it returns on ABC? Tell THR in the comments below.

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