On Monday, The Bachelor spoiler Reality Steve reported that ABC has cast current contestant Rachel Lindsay as the next star of The Bachelorette. Lindsay was formally introduced during Jimmy Kimmel Live Monday night. The 31-year-old attorney from Dallas brushed off the spoiler for the currently airing season of The Bachelor and encouraged people to apply for her show.
Lindsay will be the first black lead on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, which have cumulatively aired 33 seasons so far. This is a historic casting, but it's not unexpected, since Lindsay has been a popular contestant on Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor since the premiere, on which she received the coveted first impression rose. The franchise was overdue for a black lead, and Lindsay will be great. Her casting is not a surprise -- but the timing is.
This is the first time the lead of the next season has been announced while the current season is airing, with the exception of Nick Viall, who was announced while his season of Bachelor In Paradise was airing; but that's a different situation, because Bachelor In Paradise is a much lower-stakes show. Usually, the next Bachelor or Bachelorette is revealed during a live post-finale special. But Lindsay's season of The Bachelor still has four weeks of episodes to air, and she hasn't been eliminated yet. She'll be around for at least two more weeks, since in the full season promo she can be seen in Finland, the last location The Bachelor will visit this season. The Bachelor is openly spoiling itself, admitting that Lindsay does not win.
So why are ABC and The Bachelor doing this?
Well, The Bachelor is not known for its transparency, so we'll probably never know for sure. But we can speculate.
The most obvious reason is to better promote Rachel Lindsay. Since she's still on The Bachelor while we know she's going to be the Bachelorette, we can watch her more closely and get better acquainted with her. She has a lower social media profile than previous leads. She has 67k Instagram followers as of press time, about 90k fewer than Raven Gates, who was considered to be the other Bachelorette contender, and 200k fewer than the season's villain Corinne Olympios. Announcing her now will give her a head start on gaining more followers, which will in turn help keep fans engaged until The Bachelorette starts airing in May.
It also gives more time for producers to find potential suitors. Casting for The Bachelorette is currently underway but nearing the end. Creator Mike Fleiss has said that part of the reason why there had never been a black lead is that very few black people apply for the show. Having Rachel on The Bachelor while the public knows she will be the Bachelorette will give more men who may want to date her a chance to see her before the show starts taping in March, especially, as ABC is surely hoping, more black men.
Rachel is obviously happy to date outside her race, since Nick Viall is white. This would not be about her. It's about drawing in black men who never would have considered The Bachelorette before due to the franchise's problematic history with black contestants, but may apply once they see that the beautiful, intelligent and charismatic Rachel Lindsay is the Bachelorette. The show has a better opportunity to have a more racially balanced cast than ever before.
As mentioned, the franchise has spoiled itself once before. When Nick was a contestant on Bachelor in Paradise last season, he was announced as the next Bachelor before the finale, which spoiled the outcome of his relationship with BIP contestant Jen Saviano (they didn't get engaged in the finale, of course).
That spoiler was in turn made possible by 2015 Bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, who accidentally spoiled her season while it was still airing by sharing a photo on Snapchat of herself laying in bed with winner Shawn Booth. People still watched Bristowe's season after she spoiled it -- it got higher ratings than the previous season -- so the franchise seems to have determined that spoilers don't affect ratings negatively. The spoilers get people talking about the show, since they create drama around the show that wouldn't be there otherwise. The promotional benefit outweighs the narrative awkwardness. A juicy spoiler doesn't turn people off, it pulls them in. And this is a less consequential spoiler than the winner, so people will still tune in to see who Nick chooses.
In any case, this is great news for fans of Rachel and a disappointment for folks who wanted Raven.
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.