9:00am PT by Jackie Strause
Cosmopolitan Pulls 'Bachelor' Cover Over Contestant's Modeling of White Lives Matter Apparel
Monday night's episode of The Bachelor featured a group date competition where the winner was offered the chance to appear on a future cover of Cosmopolitan magazine. Victoria Fuller ended up winning the Costa Rica fashion shoot competition, which was filmed months ago, and the ABC series showed her and Bachelor Peter Weber posing for Cosmo's cameras for an upcoming issue.
On Tuesday, however, Cosmo editor-in-chief Jessica Pels, who appeared on the episode, announced that the magazine would not be running the digital cover as planned. (The magazine had already printed the fashion shoot in its March issue along with a cover inset, but would not be publishing the digital cover on its website or social feeds.)
In an editor's letter titled "Why We’re Not Publishing the Cosmo ‘Bachelor’ Cover," Pels explained that they pulled the digital cover because Fuller had previously modeled for a "white lives matter"-themed ad campaign.
"As you probably know, the details about upcoming plot points on The Bachelor are as closely guarded as nuclear codes. When my team and I flew down to Costa Rica for our challenge, we weren’t told who our models were going to be," she explained. "So when it came time for me to choose the winner of the challenge — whose prize was a digital cover of Cosmo — all I knew about the contestants were their first names and the energy they conveyed through the camera lens. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I found out that the woman I’d chosen had, in her past, modeled in an ad campaign wearing White Lives Matter attire."
Referencing a report that the campaign was part of a fundraiser for marlin conservation that used “white lives matter” (for white marlin fish) and “blue lives matter” (for blue marlin) messaging, Pels added, "In my view, the nature of the organization is neither here nor there — both phrases and the belief systems they represent are rooted in racism and therefore problematic."
Pels said her team had long discussions about how to handle the new information, given that the magazine version had already gone to print. "Ultimately what felt right was choosing not to publish the digital cover on our website or social feeds, and simply being honest with you, the audience we respect, about what happened and where we stand," she says. "Unequivocally, the White Lives Matter movement does not reflect the values of the Cosmo brand. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and any cause that fights to end injustices for people of color."
As of Monday, Fuller remained a contestant on the current season of The Bachelor. THR reached out to ABC for comment.
Fuller, a 26-year-old medical sales representative from Virginia Beach, Va., has yet to comment on the situation. In recent weeks, however, she took to Instagram to address being the center of other controversial reports, stemming from spoiler blogger Reality Steve. "The RUMORS you are hearing are FALSE. There will be a time & place where I can defend myself, but for now I choose to wait," she wrote, in part, ahead of the season's January premiere.
Tuesday's drama is the latest example of off-camera reports impacting contestants during their runs on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. In a bid to combat social media surprises during the season, franchise producers have even released the names of the last two seasons of contestants early, in hopes that the fandom (collectively referred to as "Bachelor Nation") could help producers weed out any potential bad seeds, based on their online footprints. Last season's Bachelorette with Hannah Brown memorably ended without an engagement, or even relationship, when Brown uncovered unsavory off-camera details about her winner, Jed Wyatt, after the finale had wrapped.
"For lack of having a better process, two seasons into trying it this way, it’s as good as we have," host Chris Harrison had explained to THR, ahead of the season, about releasing the contestant names early. "We’re trying to evolve as well [by] giving everybody a chance to see who’s on the show and hear anything that’s out there — we do our best to do our due diligence — [about their] backgrounds and trying to find out the true story behind our contestants. We do the best we can and that’s all we can do, and this is a step in doing that. And if someone comes up with a better idea or a new idea, then we’ll implement that as well."
After news broke about Cosmo pulling the cover, Weber appeared on a Build series where he addressed the controversy. "All I can speak on is the time I was able to spend with Victoria throughout this experience. I truly enjoyed my experience with her. I really feel like she's a good person and she's got a lot of endearing qualities," said Weber, adding that he didn't know anything about the campaign at the time. "I just hope that people can form their opinion on her based on what they see between the two of us and her time on the show. She's not perfect, I'm not perfect. No one's perfect."
Two weeks after the news broke, Fuller took to her Instagram Story to post an apology, where she said her intention in participating in the campaign was "only to support an endangered species" and called the controversy an "educational" moment.
She wrote, "I want to say that I unequivocally reject the beliefs of the white lives matter movement or any propaganda that supports racism of any kind. I would like to specifically apologize to people of color that are affected by racism daily. It was never my intention to add fuel to the racial fire in this country."
Feb. 5, 3 p.m. Updated with Weber's comments.
Feb. 17, 12 p.m. Updated with Fuller's apology.