Rachel Lindsay on the ‘ignorance’ behind her being the 1st Black ‘Bachelorette’: The show was just trying to ‘check the box’

American Age Official

Rachel Lindsay is talking about the Chris Harrison drama for the last time.

The Dallas lawyer turned reality star, 36, was of course the first Black Bachelorette in 2017, giving the dated dating franchise its first real dose of diversity. She was also behind the ABC show’s biggest shakeup — the ouster of longtime host Chris Harrison — after she pressed him on the past racist behavior of a contestant in a TV interview last year. Her new book, Miss Me With That, reflects on lessons learned on the show and in its wake, which she discusses with Yahoo Entertainment. 

Lindsay quips that she’s on her “farewell tour of talking about the Chris Harrison interview,” referring to the February 2021 conversation on Extra in which Harrison infamously defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell for past attendance at an antebellum party. In its wake, Harrison lost his job — though cruised out in a golden parachute. Lindsay — who merely asked the questions — got death threats resulting in PTSD.

“It’s really helped me to put my story out there and discuss what happened,” Lindsay says of the aftermath, which she writes about in her book. “I talked about how the interview made me feel initially after it happened, but I haven’t talked about the fallout that much. Having to get off social media,” due to death threats, “and the reaction from it, from the fanbase and from people who didn’t even watch the show who wanted to say: ‘Rachel canceled that man,’ who affiliated my name with cancel culture. I didn’t discuss that.”

Her truth is, “I really did experience a lot of … post-traumatic stress because the fallout is something that I never could have predicted,” she says. “It just kept going and going. Every week was something new: Someone else was saying something, the show was reacting in some way, Chris Harrison was apologizing. The death threats continued. The media was picking it up. It just never stopped. But I think it’s important for me to talk about it because it is a part of my story… and it is the reason that I completely separated myself from the franchise.”

JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE -

Rachel Lindsay, with Chris Harrison in 2017, says she’s on what she calls “my farewell tour” to talk about their infamous 2021 interview, which led to Harrison’s departure from The Bachelor franchise. She’s moving on. (Photo: Randy Holmes via Getty Images)

Lindsay, who wrote in her book that Harrison publicly called her his friend, but didn’t check in on her during that tumultuous time, adds, “So I don’t mind discussing it [or] how it made me feel, because, again, this is it for me. It’s my farewell tour.”

Sharing her story in her words is why Lindsay wrote her book, a collection of essays. 

“I was driven by the fact that people think they know who I am,” she says, “and I do feel very misunderstood.”

She continues, “I get it: [People] met me as a contestant on The Bachelor,” during Nick Viall’s season. “Then they meet me as the Bachelorette [where] we’re held to be this perfect individual, the most eligible bachelorette in the world… But you don’t understand the journey and the struggle that it took to be the person standing in front of you today… I wanted people to peel back the layers and really get to know who Rachel is. Not just ‘Big Rach’ that you might see on camera. And I feel like I did that. I feel like you see that I’m sensitive. I’m vulnerable. I’m a little messy. I get lost sometimes. I deal with insecurities quite a bit to this day. And I think that’s important because I want people to understand the real me.”

Rachel Lindsay's book Miss Me With That is out now.Rachel Lindsay's book Miss Me With That is out now.

Rachel Lindsay’s book Miss Me With That is out now. (Photo: penguinrandomhouse.com)

And the “real me” isn’t trying to take down the Bachelor franchise. 

“People say to me: Why are you talking about these things? Why are you changing the show?” of her criticism of the franchise when it comes to representation. “It’s your privilege that allows you to sit in a certain place and be comfortable with the way things were,” she says. “But for myself … and for those people who are fans of the show and don’t see themselves represented … it’s so important that I continue because I have the power to say something, to push for change.” 

To be clear, pushing for change doesn’t mean pushing for the cancellation of the long-time ABC show.

“It’s not [about] me changing the show,” she says. “It’s not me pulling back the curtain. [It’s] me trying to make a difference so I can make the show better. Not to eliminate the show.”

Lindsay says she’s glad she waited a few years after her Bachelorette run to start writing her book.

“There’s a reason why I wanted to write the book when I started [it] in 2020 — as opposed to when right when I came off the show in 2017,” she says. Right after, “I still was caught up in being the Bachelorette — you’re on this cloud nine because you found love” with now-husband Bryan Abasolo “and it’s magical. The fantasy still carries on even though the cameras have shut off.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: Rachel Lindsay and Bryan Abasolo attend the Build Series to discuss 'The Bachelorette' at Build Studio on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: Rachel Lindsay and Bryan Abasolo attend the Build Series to discuss 'The Bachelorette' at Build Studio on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

Rachel Lindsay married Bryan Abasolo, who she met on The Bachelorette, in August 2019. In her book, she said the franchise “never offered to pay for our wedding or the rights to televise it” — as it did with other series stars. (Photo: Dominik Bindl/Getty Images),

When that “honeymoon phase” ended, she realized “things weren’t changing” with the franchise. “Things had gone right back to the way they were” before she made history.

“The way I was introduced [was]: Oh my gosh, she’s the first Black Bachelorette in the franchise! It’s been 15 years! It’s a huge deal. Even … I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was until I got into it,” she admits.

However, “There’s a phrase ‘heavy is the crown,'” she continues. “Everybody is watching you. They’ve never seen someone who’s like you in this. They might be watching because they’re curious. They might be watching because they’re rooting for you to fail.”

Lindsay says behind the scenes she didn’t feel set up for success the way she should have been.

“I realized not the ill-intent, but the ignorance behind me being the first Black Bachelorette in that they weren’t prepared,” she says of the production. “It was enough for the show to just check the box of having their first Black lead, rather than understanding: We need to put her in an environment to make her feel comfortable so she can be her best self. She’s stepping into uncharted territory. And so are we.”

THE BACHELORETTE - Rachel Lindsay, a fan favorite on the 21st season of Walt Disney Television via Getty Imagess hit romance reality series The Bachelor, starring Nick Viall, was named as the next woman to hand out the roses and attempt to find her own happy ending when The Bachelorette premieres for its 13th season, MONDAY, MAY 22 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network. (Craig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
RACHEL LINDSAYTHE BACHELORETTE - Rachel Lindsay, a fan favorite on the 21st season of Walt Disney Television via Getty Imagess hit romance reality series The Bachelor, starring Nick Viall, was named as the next woman to hand out the roses and attempt to find her own happy ending when The Bachelorette premieres for its 13th season, MONDAY, MAY 22 (9:00-11:00 p.m. EST), on The Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network. (Craig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
RACHEL LINDSAY

Lindsay tells Yahoo that the franchise wasn’t prepared for the first Black Bachelorette. They were trying to “check the box” rather than set her up for the best possible experience. (Photo: Craig Sjodin/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

She points to the fact that the show waited until 2020, when Tayshia Adams was Bachelorette, to bring on a diversity consultant for the show’s star.

“It should have been, ‘Hey, Rachel, what can we make you do to feel more comfortable?'” she says. Instead, “They thought that I could handle it… I feel like they thought: Oh, Rachel’s strong. She’s got it. She’s used to being in spaces where she is the only Black. She’ll be fine. But I was trying to navigate love and trying to do a show and trying to educate [viewers] on what it is to be Black and understanding my experience. That is a lot.”

She says that is something she didn’t even realize until the show ended and some time had passed.

“So I think it’s important for me to talk about as hopefully [the show] continues to diversify this position,” she says. “I hope somebody is watching this interview and saying: Wow, we need to do better. And we need to listen to what exactly they’re feeling so we can make them feel comfortable.”

Lindsay’s book talks about her public life as a reality star and activist for diversity and inclusion on the screen. But it also shares regular life experiences, including how starting therapy at 30 changed her life.

“In this book, I’m showing you the other side of me,” she says. “The way I embarked on my whole mental health journey was to impress a man, which sounds so ridiculous, so pitiful, but it changed my life. I went to save a relationship and I walked out of therapy, saving myself. It is something that I implement into every aspect of my life, even Bryan and I went to a couple’s counseling before marriage.”

“There’s a stigma in the Black community where you don’t need therapy. If you do, something must be terribly wrong with you. I wanted to break that down,” she says. “Because I was 30 when I went to therapy [after] always hiding my emotions and trying to be strong because that’s what I was told to do because life is hard.” 

She says that as soon as she say on her therapist’s couch, she started crying. 

“I realized that I was crying [inside] for 30 years,” she says. “It felt beautiful to be able to release all that. Now I can’t stop crying. I hope that someone will read that chapter and realize how important therapy is. It’s just beautiful to talk to a third party. Someone who doesn’t know you, who’s not going to judge you. Who’s licensed to practice in that way. And I really hope that helps somebody in some way.”

Miss Me with That: Hot Takes, Helpful Tidbits, and a Few Hard Truths is out now.

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