Channing Dungey, the First Black president of ABC Entertainment, has finally broken one of the most long-standing racial biases in TV – her network has cast a Black Bachelorette. Despite the show’s popularity, it has remained a mostly white dating show which links a bachelor or bachelorette with suitors competing for an engagement.
Rachel Lindsay, a Texas attorney, and current contestant on Nick Viall’s The Bachelor, will be announced as the next Bachelorette on Monday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!. The star of the next cycle is usually announced after the current season wraps, but ABC is breaking tradition by revealing the news weeks before the finale.
ABC declined to comment. News of Lindsay’s casting was first reported by the Reality Steve website.
Lindsay is becoming The Bachelorette after years of controversy surrounding the long-running reality dating franchise. ABC and its executives have come under fire over the series’ lack of diversity, as the starring roles have almost exclusively gone to white leads on both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.
ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey, the first African-American woman to run a broadcast entertainment division, told reporters at the 2016 Television Critics Association’s summer press tour that the issue lies with booking more diverse candidates from the start of the show, since the Bachelor or Bachelorette is usually a popular contestant picked from the previous cycle.
“It’s worked very well for us because the audiences feel really engaged [in choosing] that candidate” she said of the process. “What we’d like to do is broaden that. We need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning. That is something we really want to put some effort and energy towards.
Viall’s season, which premiered Jan. 2, featured the most diverse pool of contestants to date. At its start, the group of women included 22 white and eight nonwhite contestants. By comparison, the previous Bachelorwith Ben Higgins featured five nonwhite contestants and 2015’s Bachelor season with Chris Soules featured only one.
Viall also became the first Bachelor or Bachelorette in 15 years to give the coveted “first impression” rose — usually a precursor to either winning or becoming a finalist — to a black contestant when he handed Lindsay the night-one trophy.
On the current season, which airs its next episode ahead of Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, Lindsay is still in the running. Lindsay’s appointment not only breaks race barriers for the franchise, but it is also the first time the network has announced its next star while she or he is appearing on the current cycle, essentially spoiling part of the ending as to who Viall ultimately picks.
PHOTO: ABC Screenshot