The Bachelor franchise is infamously monochromatic. Every Bachelor and Bachelorette has been white, although there's been one Venezuelan-American Bachelor, and ABC has said that the next Bachelorette likely won't be white. No black contestant has ever won either show, and in fact 59 percent of black contestants leave the show within two weeks. The franchise was even the subject to a class action lawsuit for racial discrimination in 2012. The suit was dismissed, but it's still clear that Bachelor Nation has a diversity problem.
Fusion's Molly Fitzpatrick spoke with 10 black Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants at length about their experiences on the show, and while their experiences were not all negative, they still had plenty of eyebrow-raising things happen during their time involved.
We've collected the five most illustrative below.
Marshana Ritchie, The Bachelor Season 12 (Matt Grant)
"A lot of things didn't make the air. [The women] were going around the room asking, 'Whose parents are still together? Do you have siblings?' And they got to me, and one of the girls was like, 'Do you know who your dad is?' I was aghast. Absolutely aghast. At the time my parents had been married 30-plus years. Now they've been married for 42.
You try to hold your composure, but that was one of the days where I nearly lost it. Knowing that I'm the only woman of color on the show, and knowing that cameras are rolling, you do feel like, 'I don't want to let people down. I don't want to come across as this bitter, angry black woman that people seem to think that we are.' So you swallow a lot."
"A lot of folks were not ready for a black president. They just weren't. If we wait for America to be ready, we will never have a black Bachelor or black Bachelorette."
Lindsay Smith, The Bachelor Season 10 (Andy Baldwin)
"In the final round of casting, I repeatedly asked at least four people (three producers and one of the show's psychologists — yes, they have us all go through psychological evaluations) if I was going to be the only black woman. I did not want to do the show if that was going to be the case, mainly because that would mean to me that the Bachelor wasn't particularly attracted to black or mixed women. The producers knew this was a top concern of mine and repeatedly assured me that I would not be the only black woman. In retrospect, it's likely that this was a part of their plan to create drama, as they knew the effect being the only black woman would have on me.
After all 25 women had filed into the house, I almost immediately felt isolated. I was the only black woman after all. When I asked one of the producers where the other black girls were, she told me something like, 'There's a couple of Asian girls.' Because all minorities can be lumped together, right?
Being 21 and naive, I dealt with my anxiety and disappointment by getting rip-roaring drunk. Nobody forced me to get drunk, and I take full responsibility for that, and for giving them clips that they could use to portray me as that 'crazy black girl.'"
Kupah James, The Bachelorette Season 11 (Kaitlyn Bristowe)
"My drunkenness allowed me to not care about public opinion. I got lost in the moment and just forgot there were cameras everywhere, and started saying a bunch of stuff that — I'm not saying I'd take any of it back. I obviously meant it, in the moment. Maybe [I wasn't there] just to fill a quota, but at the time, it felt like that. But I wish that I was more about my wits. Even if I was going to go home, I ended up looking like the angry black person, which of course, why would I ever make it far on a show if I act like that? I'm mad that I gave them that.
I'm not going to say they just make you look bad, but they give you the free range to show many sides of your personality. I happened to give them my angry, mad, confused, drunk one. I've made my peace with my exit and the decisions I made that night. I have since the show not drank alcohol, if you can believe it. I've dabbled in a glass of red wine here and maybe a beverage there, but I've just kind of stopped drinking."
Jonathan Holloway, The Bachelorette Season 11 (Kaitlyn Bristowe)
"In everyday life, being a minority is a little bit more of a struggle than not being a minority, but I never felt that my race hindered me in any way on the show. Unless the woman wasn't necessarily attracted to black guys — I mean, that could be a possibility.
I definitely think that race can have something to do with ratings. If the demographic that watches The Bachelorette is, say, a [white,] middle-aged mom, and the show is so successful, then why not keep doing what you need to do? They know what they're going after. You cater to who watches you. I think it would be great to have an African-American, or mixed, or whatever Bachelor or Bachelorette. It would be great for the show."
Marcus Pierce, The Bachelorette Season 2 (Meredith Phillips)
"They put you through such a wringer. You're meeting with psychiatrists to make sure you're not crazy and they ask you questions that no one would ever ask you. It was actually a really positive experience for me, even though of course I didn't end up with the girl. You learn a lot about yourself and what you truly do want for yourself going forward. I think they're really trying to look for people who are genuinely trying to look for somebody to end up with.
Every time I bring [The Bachelorette] up, that's the first thing that comes out of people's mouths: 'Oh, you were the token black guy.' And that's horrible, especially when it was a great experience. Then I end up defending myself and, on some level, defending the show. But it's kind of become synonymous with the [franchise]: that any black person on there is just for show."
Watch a blooper reel from the many cumulative seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette: