'The Bachelorette': Who Will Be ABC's Next Star?

6:30 AM 3/2/2018

by Jackie Strause and Kimberly Nordyke

THR's 'Bachelor' franchise experts break down the frontrunners ahead of Tuesday's reveal.

Becca Kufrin, Lauren Burnham, Bekah Martinez and Tia Booth - Split - Publicity - H 2018
Courtesy of ABC

Things are different this time around. Not only is this season of The Bachelor signing off with a five-hour, two-night finale for the first time in the ABC franchise's 16 years of existence, but ABC has also bucked tradition to confirm early that Tuesday night's live After the Final Rose special will also bring with it the announcement of the new star of The Bachelorette.

The Hollywood Reporter's franchise experts, Jackie Strause and Kimberly Nordyke, have identified six of the most-likely candidates for the gig. If this were any other season, some of the later finalists might have a better shot. But the ending to Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s cycle has been touted as having — wait for it — the most dramatic ending, ever, which makes it all-but guaranteed that Arie's runner-up will win America's heart and become the new Bachelorette. Though Chris Harrison makes that declaration every year, all signs point to him being correct. Spoilers aside, ABC's time-slot devotion should be all the proof any Arie skeptic needs.

Below are the pros and cons to THR's top six picks. Check back in on Monday and Tuesday nights for coverage as The Bachelor concludes and ABC gives its rose to the new Bachelorette.

  • Becca Kufrin

    Since these predictions are spoiler-free, let's talk about Becca K. and Lauren B.'s chances on the hypothetical that they each end up being Arie's runner-up...

    Jackie StrauseI'm slightly frustrated with the editing this season in that we have only seen a sliver of Arie's time with his finale two. Monday's episode gave us the biggest glimpse into Becca's personality, showing how she would handle surprise-attacks of drama when her ex showed up in Peru. That interaction made her easily the most relatable of all the women on Arie's season, and it showed that she firmly knows what she wants — a trait that Arie could learn from, given that he told both Becca and Lauren B. that he loved them; a big no-no in anyone's book (except for Ben Higgins'). If Becca doesn't end up with Arie in the end, she will be absolutely blindsided and I imagine her rebuke of her ex is just a warm-up to the smackdown that would be in store for Arie. She has already proven herself, in my opinion, but if that's what's ahead on Tuesday night? America will be eating out of the palm of her hand by the time Chris crowns her the next star.

    Kimberly Nordyke: To me, Becca seems like she'd be the most predictable and most popular choice. I'm not saying I'm opposed to her as the next Bachelorette — for many of the reasons you mentioned above — but I'm saying if the producers want to play it safe, she's the most obvious pick. Of course, if she ends up as Arie's runner-up, the big question is: Will she still be too heartbroken to accept an offer? If she's the runner-up and isn't the Bachelorette, it would have to be because she turned them down.

    Verdict: 4.5/5 roses

  • Lauren Burnham

    Strause: Lauren B. seems like all the nice words you can say about someone mixed into one. She comes across as sweet, genuine, adorable, playful, etc. But even if she ends up blindsided as Arie's runner-up, I don't think she is extroverted enough for the part. We haven't seen her interacting with too many of the other women and — again, this is likely an editing issue — but by the time we found out that she was in love with Arie, we have no idea how she even got there. If you look at nearly every single one of the past Bachelorettes — especially the more recent ones — they have all been outspoken, confident and very sure about what they are looking for. Being nice just won't translate into the type of season producers and Bachelor Nation want.

    Nordyke: I have the same problem with Lauren's edits that you do. I feel like we didn't see much of her until halfway through the season, and that's when she was already declaring how strong their connection was and how much she liked Arie, while I was still trying to figure out what her name was! I like that she's drama-free and not always clamoring for attention unlike some others (cough, Krystal, cough), but that doesn't really make for an interesting Bachelorette. There's nothing wrong with being shy and quiet — I myself have always been both of those things, particularly in group settings, so I can empathize — but I think the Bachelorette needs to be someone with a vibrant personality, and we haven't seen that from her.

    Verdict: 2/5 roses

  • Tia Booth

    Strause: If the Bachelorette doesn't go to the heartbroken runner-up, I think Tia has the best shot. After her fourth-place elimination, Bachelor Nation was calling for her to star, and she even told THR she would "definitely" consider doing the Bachelorette, as well as Bachelor in Paradise. Tia's commentary, along with pal Caroline Linny's, of villain Krystal Nielson made for some of the funniest moments of the season. She also wore her heart on her sleeve by being open with Arie, proving that this process works for her when it comes to finding love. To me, she's a good mix of all the right traits and I also love what she had to say when asked about the Bachelor airing in the #MeToo climate: "Yes, we were competing for a man, but it's also about realizing our worth. I think it’s something we forgot a lot, but these amazing women around me reminded me of that. We are worth more and our identity is worth more than just a single rose and we know that.”

    Nordyke: I actually think Tia may have turned off a segment of the audience by her act of what some perceived as backstabbing her friend Bekah M. by telling Arie she wasn't ready for marriage. That's one of the last images of Tia viewers were left with before she was sent packing the following week, and I think it put her in a negative light right before she was dumped by Arie. I fully expected Chris Harrison to announce that Tia was going to be on Bachelor in Paradise during the Women Tell All special, and I was shocked when he didn't, which leads me to believe that producers are leaving her available as an option for The Bachelorette. Bringing her back also would give the show a great opportunity to also bring back fan-favorite Raven Gates — a friend of Tia's — who is still in a relationship with Adam Gottschalk after they started dating on Paradise last summer.

    Verdict: 4/5 roses

  • Bekah Martinez

    Strause: I thought that Bekah M. would make a great Bachelorette from the first night of Arie's season. Her personality immediately shone through and she became a refreshing foil to the majority of the other women who appeared to be enamored with Arie before even getting to know him. Case in point: When THR spoke to her at the Women Tell All taping, she told us of the experience: "I felt like I got to be my true self and be valued and appreciated for it." Her age (22) is irrelevant and has been a silly argument as to why she couldn't lead her own season — JoJo Fletcher was 25 when she starred as the Bachelorette and she is still engaged to Jordan Rodgers; on the flip sideArie is 36 and he clearly has no clue what he wants if he can fall in love with two people in two months. If they cast her season with a wide age range and didn't fill it with social media influencers, I have no doubt that she would be entertaining and very fun to watch. But, since Chris all-but confirmed this already, we are probably more likely to see her on Bachelor in Paradise this summer.

    Nordyke: Yes, Bekah's young, but — as she rightly pointed out — she also showed more maturity than many of the other competitors (and, dare I say, Arie) during this season. She's got a great, quirky, bold personality and would be a lot of fun to watch. I think she got a lot of sympathy after Tia's "backstab." I was actually disappointed to hear that she was going on Bachelor in Paradise, which in my mind effectively puts her out of the running to be Bachelorette given the franchise's history of not casting Bachelors/Bachelorettes from the Paradise pack (Nick Viall being an exception). From her pixie cut to her declaration to Arie that "I don't need you," she was truly a breath of fresh air.

    Verdict: 3/5 roses

  • Kendall Long

    Strause: Kendall was awesome to watch. She was fun, light-hearted, intelligent, articulate and — dare I say it — quirky. Aside from Arie continuously calling her that, you could tell that they genuinely got along and I think that is because most people probably get along with Kendall. It would make for an interesting season if every guy fell for the cool chick. My only hesitation is that, sadly in this world of Bachelor Nation, I don't think her heart was shattered enough for America to root for her to lead her own show. Traditionally, the Bachelorette is someone who was left devastated by the previous cycle, and I have no doubt that right now, Kendall is doing just fine.

    Nordyke: As much as Bekah was a breath of fresh air, so was Kendall, but for different reasons. I can't believe toward the latter part of the season, I was rooting for a girl who is obsessed with taxidermy to make it all the way to the end. I thought that producers were setting her up to be the weirdo when they first introduced us to her and her unusual passion, but she seems to be one of the most grounded women on this season. She clearly wasn't ready to rush into marriage — I mean, let's be real, these couples get engaged after what is essentially only a few dates — and I liked that about her. (It's the same reason I liked Peter Kraus, from Rachel Lindsay's season — maybe those two should just get together?) I love her — yes, quirky — personality and that she was being realistic about her feelings and not getting swept up in the moment. But like Peter, I don't think Kendall will be chosen for that very reason.

    Verdict: 2/5 roses

  • Seinne Fleming

    Strause: Seinne had more air time on The Bachelor: Women Tell All special than she had nearly all season long. I applaud the franchise for attempting to throw her name into the ring by spotlighting her story after her elimination. Hearing her dissect the opinion that she was too intellectually intimidating for Arie made for interesting conversation, and she made a franchise that has been knocked for its lack of diversity relevant the moment she started opening up about the lack of representation for black women on big and little screens everywhere (last season saw the franchise's first-ever black lead with Rachel Lindsay). When she spoke to THR at the Women Tell All taping, which was filmed last week, she confirmed that she hadn't yet been approached. But she had a message that is worth repeating: “I was the only woman of color to make it to the top 10, so maybe in a few seasons there will be a few more. I just hope people aren’t like, ‘Oh, she’s black and she’s smart.’ That instead it’s just, 'She’s smart and she’s beautiful and that’s it’ — without having to mention race."

    Nordyke: Let's first acknowledge that Seinne was unwittingly responsible for Arie's single best (and most self-aware) line of the season, when he compared himself to the Yale grad: "I barely graduated high school and worked at Pizza Hut." Yes, I think we all knew that Arie was out of her league from their first conversation. That being said, I was surprised to see Seinne get so much time the Women Tell All special given her lack of screen time up to that point, which instantly made me think they were positioning her to be the next Bachelorette. I actually think she's a great pick and she'd get my vote out of everyone we've discussed. She's well-educated, cultured, traveled and exactly what the franchise needs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar rightly noted that this season of The Bachelor was a step backward on the heels of Rachel's season, and Arie brought with him a reputation of being a bit of a playboy. Seinne seems like the right person to bring this franchise back around to where it was last summer when people were applauding it for taking a step forward. I would welcome a second African-American Bachelorette in a franchise where people of color are still woefully underrepresented.

    Verdict: 2/5 roses

  • Wild Cards

    Strause: I have an eerie feeling that Corinne Olympios (Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor, last summer's Bachelor in Paradise) and this franchise have not fully parted ways. I can't imagine she would ever return to Bachelor in Paradise, but I also can't picture her ever shooting down the opportunity to be the star if producers came calling. It seems like they have enough solid options this time around, but I wouldn't be surprised if they kept her in their back pocket for a redemption season — a la Brad Womack 2.0 — down the line. If they are looking for a fiery choice this time around, my vote goes to Arie's ex and Winter Games star Bibiana Julian. 

    Nordyke: Arie came out of left field, to be sure, so I wouldn't put it past producers to throw us another curveball. (Did I just mix baseball metaphors there?) That being said, I can't even begin to imagine who they might pluck from a past season for another 15 minutes of fame — er, shot at love. Becca Tilley, runner-up from Chris Soules' season? (Not opposed to this idea considering how likable and down-to-earth she is.) Courtney Robertson, Ben Flajnik's former fiancee, who actually dated Arie? (Given that they are still friends, Arie could coach her on why telling two people you love them both is not a good idea.) Tierra LiCausi, from Sean Lowe's season, and her uncontrollable eyebrow? (Let's not even go there.) No matter what, all of Bachelor Nation will be waiting with bated breath for the announcement — and we'll surely be watching, regardless of who it is.