7:00pm PT by Jackie Strause
'Bachelorette' Spotlights Black Lives Matter Movement in Rare Conversation About Race
Three weeks into Tayshia Adams' unprecedented starring turn, ABC's The Bachelorette devoted a significant amount of air time to racial issues.
On Tuesday's episode of the reality dating competition, Adams opened up about how the death of George Floyd and reignited Black Lives Matter movement has changed her perspective as a Black and Latina woman. Adams took over as the Bachelorette mid-season, after original star Clare Crawley's early engagement, and filmed the rest of the 16th cycle this summer, amid the country's racial reckoning and shortly after protests of police brutality against Black people had swept the nation.
Before filming, Adams had attended a Black Lives Matter protest and posted to social media about the profound impact. On Tuesday's episode, while on a date with a contestant who is also biracial, Ivan Hall, Adams broke down in tears when trying to put her feelings into words.
"Being in Orange County and surrounded by a lot of people that don't look like me — being the only person that looks like me — I'm realizing that I've been trying so hard my whole life to blend in because I knew I was different," said Adams of her California upbringing. "I didn't really want to cry about it or open up about it, but hearing people yell 'Black Lives Matter,' it hit me more than I realize just because those are people in my backyard that I've been trying to prove for so long that I'm the same as them."
Moments earlier, Hall had opened up to Adams about the mistreatment his younger brother had faced while in prison and at the hands of correctional officers. The contestant said he related to her as a biracial man who also has a Black father and who was inspired by the momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
Adams told Hall that the country's cultural reckoning helped her to realize what she wants out of a relationship moving forward. "It's opened my eyes in the sense of, 'What the hell are you doing? Wake up,'" she tells him of her past. "Having different, beautiful relationships with people that I probably wouldn't have [before], is amazing to me."
She then told the camera, "He understands me more than anybody else can. That's obviously what I've been looking for."
The spotlight on Adams and Halls' biracial upbringings and experiences with racism and police brutality in 2020 is proof of the ABC franchise's shift into becoming more diverse and inclusive heading into 2021. Adams, who is only the second-ever Black Bachelorette in 16 seasons, precedes the first-ever Black Bachelor, Matt James, whose season will air in January.
Both Adams and James' castings came after years of calls for more inclusivity. The outcry only grew louder in the summer of 2020 with Rachel Lindsay, the franchise's first and only Black lead at the time, calling out the Bachelor shows for "systemic racism" and asking for a top-down overhaul to diversify the mostly white casting.
In response, the franchise also made changes behind the camera to diversify its staff. "We made a concerted effort, before the pandemic, to make better strides for diversity and let people see themselves and their love represented on the show," host and producer Chris Harrison had told THR ahead of The Bachelorette season. "I think the best thing we ever did was realizing and admitting there was an issue, and then saying, 'Let’s get to work and let’s do better.'"
Last week, in a column for The Hollywood Reporter, Lindsay further detailed her ideas as to how the franchise could continue to diversity and shared her hopes that race would become a part of the narrative with Adams taking over. "I don't care if it makes America uncomfortable. It's our current reality," she noted of the need for necessary conversations that would be more likely to be addressed on camera with leads of color, like the challenges facing a biracial couple or the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement.
As Tuesday's episode aired, viewers took to social media to praise the franchise for its progress of shining a spotlight on such overdue and powerful conversations.
"Ivan and Tayshia having an actual real conversation about world issues - George Floyd, police brutality, race. This is new for the Bachelorette and I'm here for it," wrote one viewer. "Wow. Police brutality is being discussed thoughtfully on #TheBachelorette Huge moment, especially given the largely white audience," echoed another.
When speaking to THR earlier in the season about her potential platform, Adams had said: "Not only am I African American, but I am Mexican, and I’m going to have an opportunity to have a platform to relate to so many women who look like me, who haven’t had the opportunity to relate to someone in the past. How can you not want to take that opportunity and be an amazing role model for people? That was something that I took on and was really excited to be able to do."