ABC Reveals Franchise Alum as Next 'Bachelorette' Star

The Bachelorette is dipping back into its pool of talent for the 16th season.

Clare Crawley will be the next star of the ABC dating series, the network announced Monday — only two days after the Bachelor and Bachelor in Paradise star says she found out from the network that she had been picked to lead the season.

"I literally just found out. It's so unexpected, can you believe this? Six years later — what is happening?" she said during her reveal on ABC's Good Morning America. (Watch below.)

The surprising reveal breaks tradition, since Crawley does not hail from the currently airing Bachelor season with Peter Weber. Traditionally, a scorned (but popular) contestant from The Bachelor will go on to lead the female cycle. (Weber's season is still airing, with the two-night finale set for March 9 and 10.) Past Bachelors have broken the cycle timeline — Arie Luyendyk Jr. in 2018 and Nick Viall in 2017 — but this marks a first for The Bachelorette.

Crawley, who is 38, was last seen by franchise viewers on the 2018 Olympics-themed spinoff, Bachelor Winter Games, where she was briefly engaged to The Bachelorette Canada star Benoit Beauséjour-Savard. The fan-favorite couple split two months after their live TV proposal and while Beauséjour-Savard returned to the franchise shortly after on summer series Bachelor in Paradise, Crawley last addressed Bachelor Nation with the news of their split. "We think the world of each other, and we were both hoping we could make this work," they said, in part, in their joint announcement.

Crawley was first introduced on the 2014 Juan Pablo Galavis season of The Bachelor, where she memorably finished as his runner-up. Though her name was reportedly in the running at the time for The Bachelorette, the following cycle's gig went to Andi Dorfman, who had finished third on that season.

She then appeared on Bachelor in Paradise twice, for seasons one and two in 2014 and 2015, respectively — where Crawley again made a name for herself when (thanks to producer editing) she appeared to constantly pour her heart out to the animals on the beach. She then returned three years later for Winter Games.

Crawley, who will turn 39 when her season begins filming later this month, is the oldest Bachelorette in the show's 17-year history. On GMA, when it was pointed out that none of Weber's finalists are older than 25, Crawley joked, "Babies. I feel like I could be their mom."

She then added of her age, "It's more years under my belt; more learning what I want, what I don't want and what I won't settle for. I'm more wondering if they're ready for me, for my age. I feel so much younger at heart than my actual age. I'm proud of my age, but I just feel so much younger."

A big point of criticism for the past few years of the franchise has been the lower age range of contestants. For two Bachelor seasons in a row, the majority of contestants have been in their low-to-mid 20s. Weber's season especially has faced backlash over the catty drama from the women in the house and, unlike in previous years, no one contestant had yet to stand out as a frontrunner for the starring gig.

Crawley's casting course corrects the majority white franchise over diversity criticism when it comes to age. In terms of what she's looking for, the California stylist says, "The most important thing is, I want a man that will take off his armor. I want a man who is strong, willing to take off the body armor and be vulnerable. I think that is some serious strength right there. A lot of people have seen that side of me that stood up to Juan Pablo and said, 'Don't mess with me,' and I am that strong woman still, but what even more so is added to that is, like I said, taking off that armor and actually saying, 'I'm strong enough to let somebody in, to be vulnerable, to open up and share that with them.'"

Adding, "It's all what's on the inside for me. There's no one thing that I'm looking for physically. It's more if they go out of their way, if they make me feel special. Because this is about me now and I'm ready for it."

Bachelor alums Tia Booth (Luyendyk Jr.'s season), Tayshia Adams (Underwood's season) and Kelsey Weier (Weber's season) were also reportedly in the running for the Bachelorette gig, according to spoiler blogger Reality Steve.

Weber's women reunite on The Bachelor: Women Tell All tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC, followed by next week's two-night Bachelor finale. The Bachelorette typically premieres in May.