Editor's note: This story has been updated with a recap of The Bachelor, which aired Feb. 13.
Rumors had been swirling across social media since the beginning of the 21st season of The Bachelor, as signs (and spoilers) suggested ABC may be making a move towards diversification on its popular romance reality series. According to Hollywood Reporter, the new star of the upcoming season of The Bachelorette is a departure from the all-white-everything norm that has long plagued the network.
Dallas' Rachel Lindsay will be the next contestant on The Bachelorette and the first black woman to ever be cast as the show's lead.
The news was officially confirmed on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Monday night.
Rachel told host Jimmy Kimmel it wasn't long after she was off the show that she was approached about being the bachelorette.
"But I honestly thought they were doing it to make me feel better," she said. "As it kept going, I realized, they're actually serious about this thing."
As fans will recall, Rachel made history on the premiere as the first black woman to ever receive the first impression rose from this season's man on a mission for love, Nick Viall. She quickly became a fan favorite for her down-to-Earth attitude and ability to win Nick's heart time and time again. Rachel got her first solo date in New Orleans, where she and the bachelor danced in a second line and ate seafood. She became one of the last six contenders after last week, when Nick sent half a dozen women home.
Rachel, a 31-year-old attorney at Cooper and Scully, is the second consecutive bachelorette from Dallas, following JoJo Fletcher, who currently resides in Big D with fiancee Jordan Rodgers.
For some, the move to enlist a person of color as the star of either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette is long overdue.
As Reality Steve notes, this is "the first time in 14 years and 34 seasons we'll finally have a black lead."
Kristen Warner, associate professor in the Department of Journalism at Creative Media at the University of Alabama, studies casting and how women of color are represented in TV and film. She believes having Rachel as the next bachelorette would be a bigger win for black women than if she had gotten engaged at the end of the show.
"The Bachelorette finally found a black woman who they deem (crucial as they are the tastemakers) exceptional and worthy of them investing the time and marketing into," she said by email.
Still, others believe the choice is risky. Wells Adams, who was a contestant on JoJo's season of The Bachelorette, recently said as much on the Wrong Reasons podcast.
"I think the franchise wants to so badly break out of its cookie-cutter, white-person shell, but I don't think that America will embrace it, sadly enough," he said.
A pair of series hopefuls sued ABC in 2012, accusing the network of intentionally excluding people of color from the cast. A judge, however, dismissed the case, saying casting fell under protection of the First Amendment.
The Bachelor is not over, however, and Rachel is still a contestant on the reality TV show. It's allegedly the first time ABC has announced a new star ahead of when she is kicked off the season. Why? Yahoo reports it's so the network has more time for casting.
So what of the rest of this season?
Good question. Aside from this massive development, Monday night's episode of The Bachelor proceeded like normal. After Nick's borderline-breakdown last week, he was energized and ready to make it work with the remaining ladies. That also meant hopping islands over to Bimini, off the coast of Florida.
There Nick took three women on individual dates and three women on a group date in hopes of figuring out who would be bringing him home to the family next week. Yes, we're already at the hometown stage, if you can believe it.
Rachel fell into the first category, and the couple spent a day having drinks at a bar and talking about what it would be like to meet "Mr. Lindsay, sir" — "The 'sir' will take you a long way," Rachel joked. (Rachel's father, Sam, is a district court judge who was appointed by Bill Clinton.)
Rachel's hometown date in Dallas may be an interesting one: Rachel confessed she's never taken a white guy home to meet her parents.
"I've dated white guys, but I've never brought one home," she said.
"Yes, they will be skeptical, but they know I'm smart enough not to play games," she continued. "I love sports, but I don't play games."
Rachel followed up in her solo interview with an "I'm falling for Nick," which all seems very weird considering we know she eventually ends up single -- and the star of The Bachelorette. I guess she took the Bimini bartenders' advice ...
So who is still in the running?
If it's not Rachel, there are only three Bachelor contestant left who may be the future Mrs. Viall. First is Vanessa, the special education teacher and my personal pick to win. She joined Nick for a solo date at the beginning of the season during which they flew in a zero gravity plane. Vanessa puked and the bachelor still kissed her; that's when I knew it was true love.
Monday night, they had yet another chance for some one-on-one action, this time sans vomit. They cruised on a yacht to an abandoned ship where they went snorkeling.
Also still in the running: Corinne, the 24-year-old with a nanny (her name is Raquel and we hear she makes a mean cheese pasta). She went swimming with sharks on the group date this week and was one mimosa away from freaking out, not because she was scared but because she wasn't the center of attention. Typical Corinne.
Raven, the Southern belle with a little bit of crazy behind her eyes, earned the group date rose and the golden ticket into hometowns. We're guessing it's because she threatened the punch a shark.
Danielle M., the neonatal nurse from Wisconsin, and Kristina, the Russian immigrant and dental hygienist, weren't so lucky. They each got the boot this week, who knows why. Nick seems to kick them to the curb at the first mention of real feelings.