By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
After 15 years and plenty of public pressure for greater diversity, ABC has named the first African-American to headline one of its hit dating series.
Rachel Lindsay, 31, a Texas lawyer and popular contestant on the current season of The Bachelor, was announced as the next Bachelorette Monday on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. The 13th season will premiere May 22, ABC announced.
Lindsay, who appeared on Kimmel with Bachelor/Bachelorette host Chris Harrison, will be the the first black lead on either dating show when she takes center stage on Season 13 of The Bachelorette, handing out roses and choosing and dismissing suitors. Lindsay has been one of the women seeking to win the affection of Nick Viall on The Bachelor, which launched in 2002 and is now in its 21st season.
The upcoming Bachelorette, generally a runner-up or other popular contestant from the previous season of The Bachelor (and vice versa), is usually named after The Bachelor finishes its season. The announcement is a pretty good indication that Lindsay, who received Viall’s first-impression rose and made the final four during Monday’s Bachelor episode, doesn’t end up as his true love.
Robert Mills, who oversees ABC’s alternative series, praised Lindsay in a statement accompanying Monday’s announcement.
“We’re thrilled to have Rachel Lindsay as our next Bachelorette,” he said. “This coveted role is always reserved for a fan-favorite from the previous season, and Rachel is no exception and has been the fans’ choice since she exited the limo. She is an accomplished, confident and beautiful woman who knows what she wants in life. We all look forward to joining her on the joyous journey as she looks for that one special man.”
ABC executives and producers of the two dating shows have often been asked when the franchise, which has selected a white person as the Bachelor or Bachelorette in previous seasons (American-born/Venezuelan-raised Juan Pablo Galavis was the first Latino Bachelor in 2013), would more broadly reflect the diversity of society.
ABC Entertainment chief Channing Dungey, the first African American to head programming at a major broadcast network, expressed her commitment to greater diversity at the Television Critics Association press tour last summer.
“I would very much like to see some changes there. And I think one of the biggest changes that we need to do is … increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning, because part of what ends up happening as we go along is there just aren’t as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next Bachelor or Bachelorette,” Dungey told TV writers.
She continued: “The show has been very much in a cycle where the first runner-up in one cycle becomes the person who leads the next cycle, and it’s worked very well for us because the audience feels really engaged in helping to choose that candidate, so I think what we would like to try to do is just widen the pool of choices.”
Mike Fleiss, creator of the dating franchise, teased fans about a “historic” announcement before the Kimmel show and welcomed support for the new Bachelorette.