7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelorette' Becca Kufrin Defends Mounting Social Media Controversy
Becca Kufrin wants viewers to keep an open mind while watching the rest of her season of The Bachelorette despite the off-air controversy surrounding the show's early frontrunner.
"I came into this knowing I was going to meet a handful of men that came from different backgrounds and different walks of life," the ABC reality star told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday — one week after the premiere of her season — about the post-show development. "I wanted to just be open to everyone, and I hope that the viewers can do the exact same thing."
Becca was put through the ringer as a final contestant on The Bachelor. Only hours after her own season premiered, however, the publicist from Minnesota was again faced with an unprecedented franchise scandal when stories came to light about the social media activity of a contestant on her season, Garrett Yrigoyen.
Shortly after Bachelorette viewers had tuned in to watch Garrett win Becca's first impression rose and cement himself as a serious contender, it was revealed in real time that the medical sales rep from Nevada had previously liked a series of offensive Instagram posts. The posts he liked, which were captured in screengrabs, mocked undocumented immigrants, the trans community and liberal feminists, and spread misinformation about Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg.
During the first days promoting her journey to find love, Becca found herself fielding questions about Garett's off-camera behavior. The reality star has confirmed she is engaged — though she is unable to identify the winner until the finale airs later this summer. But the story had ignited, and ABC's cameras weren't around to capture the developing drama. Typically, contestants do not speak out until their exit from the show, but on Thursday night, Garrett took responsibility for the posts and apologized for the hurt that a "mindless double tap on Instagram" can cause. "I did not mean any harm by any of it," he wrote in a lengthy post on Instagram. (His account was temporarily down on Monday but is now back up.) "I am not perfect, and I will never be anywhere close, but now I will always be more informed and aware of what I am liking and supporting, not just on Instagram, but in life."
Becca spoke with THR about her uncharted first week as ABC's new franchise star and asks viewers to trust her choices as her season continues to air: "I got to know these guys and they got to know me, and that’s what matters."
Why is it important to be able to speak up now about stories surrounding your season instead of waiting until the end? Is it a sign of changing times?
I’m actually so happy and fortunate that I get to talk with everyone; it’s experiences that I probably would never have gotten to do had I not been the Bachelorette. Last week, I was able to meet Michael Strahan — my celebrity crush. At this point in my life, I’m so happy. So I’m excited I get to share it with the world. I know I can’t give everything away, but to share in that happiness and the engagement announcement means a lot to me. I am busy, busy, busy, but it’s good, because this time around, this is my journey. I did everything my way, on my terms, and it means so much more because of that.
I want to talk about what’s been going on with your season off the air. But first, how big of a role does social media play as you're going through this process?
Social media is a prevalent thing in people's lives. I’m having fun, especially on Instagram, just promoting the season and tweeting when I watch the show, because it's a fun way to interact with the fans. But it really doesn’t play at all into the season, because I don’t have my phone. All of that is taken away, so when I’m actually filming it is just me and the guys getting to know each other without any distraction whatsoever.
You spoke about being a rule-breaker at the beginning of your season. There isn’t a rule book for how to handle what happened with one of the contestants, Garrett Yrigoyen. When you found out about his social media behavior, what was your reaction?
All I can ask is that people watch the season and get to know not only me for who I am, but get to know these guys as well. I think that everyone is different. I came into this knowing I was going to meet a handful of men who came from different backgrounds and different walks of life, and I wanted to just be open to everyone, and I hope that the viewers can do the exact same thing.
Would it have changed the course of the show if you were able to check social media as you were going along? Should that be allowed?
No. I think the great thing about this process is that we didn’t have social media. We didn’t have a distraction. So I was able to truly get to know these guys for who they are without any added fodder or any distraction. I stayed open and really got to ask the right questions and open up to them as well.
The show tends to steer clear of conversations that have to do with politics. Do you think that should be allowed more?
It depends on the person. I had the right conversations with a few of the guys that had to be had. It’s up to some people. If it’s important to them, then they should, and if not, then it’s totally up to them.
Garrett released a statement taking responsibility for the posts that he liked and apologizing for any hurt they caused. What do you make of it, and are you happy he spoke out?
If that’s what he felt like he needed to do, then that’s what he needed to do. For me, these past weeks, I’ve just really been focused on my journey and trying to promote the show. It’s still just the very beginning, and I’m just excited for people to see the rest of it. Again, I just want everyone to stay open to me and to the 28 guys who came on it with me.
As a former contestant, you're familiar with the overnight spotlight that comes with this show. You also went through something everyone had a lot to say about. What is your advice for making it out the other end?
Everyone handles it differently. For me, it’s to stay focused on the important things. To focus on what I actually went through and not what people are saying, because at the end of the day, I lived it. I got to know these guys and they got to know me, and that’s what matters.
Now that Garrett has commented, should viewers give him a fresh start?
Yes. And I want that for everyone. I want them to stay open to all of the guys they meet throughout the journey.
On this second episode, you have a rage-room date where you physically smash reminders of your Bachelor ex, Arie Luyendyk Jr. Was that therapeutic?
I went into it wanting to have fun. At that point, I had moved on from Arie, and I genuinely wished him the best. It was a fun date with a guy I was getting to know, and really just [a chance to] break free from the past and move on. The hardest part of that first week of filming was balancing so many different relationships and trying to stay focused on what was important to me and what I wanted out of the relationships. It’s difficult to navigate when you have so many guys. It was a good problem to have, but it wasn’t always easy, because I wanted to stay open. I wanted these guys to be excited about me and get to know me for me. There’s also no rule book for how to date multiple people. I was trying to go about it my best way, but it’s tricky to navigate.
You confirmed Arie will make an appearance, and that you have a face-to-face later on the season. Was that your idea for closure?
I don’t think I needed closure. We'd had that prior. But it’s a discussion and conversation that I think had to happen. I really want the viewers to tune in to see how it all unfolds. I feel good about how it all plays out.
You also said you developed feelings for two people in the end. [Arie told both Becca and the other finalist, his current fiancee, that he loved them on The Bachelor.] What was it like in the end for you, and will it be difficult to watch?
I don’t think it will be hard to watch, because I lived it and I know how it played out. It was one of the happiest points of my life, but it was difficult because I knew each week I was going to have to send some great guys home. I didn’t know what to expect, and my feelings of course grew. I didn’t want to hurt anyone, and that was the hard part — it was inevitable that I was going to have to say goodbye to people.
Arie has since said that your Bachelor breakup was "edited." Was what the viewers saw an accurate depiction of what happened?
Yes. What you saw is what you got. That was real, raw emotions, and that was what actually went down.
You have been put in a position where things have come up after filming on both your season of The Bachelor and now on The Bachelorette. Does it make your journey more authentic, since viewers are brought along for what’s happening on and off the camera?
I don’t think it’s more or less than anyone else’s; it’s just part of my journey and story. What happened in my situation is obviously not the average occurrence, so it’s a unique situation. It’s really what’s shaped me and pushed me into this position and finding my ultimate happiness. I’ve always tried to be as open as possible, and I just hope that viewers can appreciate that.
Why did you decide to announce your engagement ahead of the show airing?
I knew it would be easier to have it out in the open. I knew I was going to be questioned a lot about it, and I don’t have a poker face, so it feels good to give that little tidbit of information and to just share how happy I am. I knew that we were going to have to stay private for some time, that wasn’t unexpected. Of course, I want to shout it from the rooftops, but I know that will come in due time. We’re really just trying to focus on us and enjoy our time together before it comes out in public. We’re surrounding ourselves with our friends and family and getting to know each other.
Will there be other times coming up on the season where you push back on show rules?
I wouldn’t say I’m breaking rules, because I don’t think there are really rules in this situation. It’s just the way people handle things. But I definitely knew what I wanted, and there were times where I had to be open and honest and have the right conversations to really drive home how serious I was taking this entire process. I think you’ll get to see that week by week.
What is it like to be in the Bachelorette spotlight, or did it never dim down for you since the Bachelor finale?
It’s interesting, because when we’re filming I’m just focused on that. I don’t have my phone, TV or magazines, so it’s just me focused on the journey and finding love. It definitely has changed since I’ve been back. Even what is to be expected when you get your phone back and as the season airs. But for the most part it’s been positive feedback and support, which is all I can ask for.
Have you and your fiancé been able to meet up with your families and friends since the show has ended?
We did meet families on the show. That was amazing, to get to meet all four families, really. We’ve just been having us time. Being alone and getting to know each other, just the two of us. When I met with [former Bachelorettes] Rachel Lindsay, JoJo Fletcher and Kaitlyn Bristowe that first day [on the premiere], they all gave me good advice that was really helpful. They’d all been through it before and know how difficult it can be, but they just said, "Have your partner’s back. Have the right conversations. Stay supportive, and one day soon, it will all be worth it when you can be in public and start your actual life together.” So that’s what I’m looking forward to most.
Are you still happy, and do you have any regrets at this point?
I’m very happy, and honestly, no regrets.