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Rachel Lindsay says people of color do not feel included in 'Bachelor' franchise

"A lot of times, it falls on contestants of color to be their own voice."
Rachel Lindsay And Jonathan Rhys Meyers Visit "Extra"
Rachel Lindsay spoke to TODAY about participating in protests and trying to make change in the "Bachelor" franchise. Noel Vasquez / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Former "Bachelorette" Rachel Lindsay is speaking out again three years after she starred in the reality TV series.

When she first appeared on the 21st season of "The Bachelor" in 2017 and then starred in the following season of "The Bachelorette," Lindsay said she hoped that as the first black lead in the show's history, she could help change the direction of the shows and attract a more diverse audience. However, she said that her suggestions were frequently ignored by producers.

"I really thought I could be the one to open the door to diversity, but I feel like I haven't been heard," she told TODAY, adding that some of her suggestions had included trying to hire more diverse producers.

When she was on "The Bachelor," there were no producers of color; her season of "The Bachelorette" had three producers of color, but subsequent seasons have only had one. "We spend time with producers and in order to open up, to understand the contestant, you gravitate to who you relate to. If you have producers of color, you'll have more comfortable contestants of color."

Lindsay also said that she felt like it always fell on her shoulders to address racism on and around the show, such as when former "Bachelorette" Hannah Brown came under fire for saying a racial slur on Instagram. Lindsay reached out to Brown and approved of her apology for her actions, but said that she was unhappy with the response from the franchise itself.

Former "Bachelorette" Hannah Brown was recently criticized for saying a racial slur in an Instagram story. Mark Bourdillon / ABC

"I feel like the franchise doesn’t have people of color’s backs when another contestant does something that’s problematic," Lindsay said. "This isn’t just to Hannah. During Peter (Weber)'s season there was a contestant supporting White Lives Matter. A cast member on my season was racist. And that was for your first lead of color! ... When Lee (Garrett) was casted on my season and it came out he had all these racist tweets, the fact they didn't do a thorough job of vetting him, when that was exposed, it was me who ended up confronting him and not the franchise saying something. They let it fall on my shoulders."

"I wish that would have been done in this most recent situation (with Hannah)," she continued. "A lot of times, people of color do not feel included in this franchise and I think they would more if there were people involved in decision making who were people of color. A lot of times, it falls on contestants of color to be their own voice."

Lindsay said that even before she was the first black lead on "The Bachelor" franchise, she dealt with racial discrimination frequently in her career as a prosecutor and civil defense litigator.

"I would be waiting to negotiate deals with attorneys, and they would come in and many times, they would pass me, because they assumed I was either some client, someone's legal assistant, a paralegal, anything but the actual prosecutor who was assigned to that case," Lindsay said, adding that the situation happened so frequently that she asked the judge to address it with attorneys.

As a civil defense litigator, she said she was often treated very differently than other colleagues who held the same role.

Lindsay said that before her experience in the "Bachelor" franchise, she dealt with discrimination in her legal career. ABC

"I would have attorneys yell at me," she remembered. "They would talk down to me in a very condescending manner and point in my face. If I was on the phone trying to negotiate something, I would have some male attorneys that would just hang up in my face. I definitely had my fair share of trying to prove myself as a woman and as a black woman.

"It was those experiences that I built on, (and) the things that my parents told me that they went through, as they were starting their careers," Lindsay continued. "People of color just learn to have a really thick skin."

Lindsay said that she and her husband, Bryan Abasolo, have attended protests sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody. It wasn't her first time going to a demonstration but she said it was her husband's first protest experience.

Rachel Lindsay and fiancee Brian Abasolo participated in a May 2020 protest against police brutality in an experience Lindsay called "powerful." ABC

"I actually asked my (social media) followers where a protest was, because I wasn't quite sure where to go," Lindsay said. "I think Bryan was a little apprehensive at first. And I told him, it'll be a totally different experience when you're actually in the middle of it, and it was very emotional.

"It was really a beautiful thing," she continued. "It was a sea of people screaming 'Black Lives Matter.' This is a movement that started seven years ago, and people are just now understanding what we mean when we say it. It was a really passionate, powerful moment, and we marched ... I was so fired up and passionate, and walking away I just felt a sense of hope. I felt like we had purpose."

One aspect of the protests stood out to Lindsay. She said she felt some groups were forgetting about black women who were killed during encounters with police, such as Breonna Taylor, who was killed when a no-knock warrant was wrongly executed at her home.

"I think it really goes back to this social caste, and black women are not the same as black men," Lindsay said. And I don't know why that is. I don't know why. Their names aren't being mentioned. Their stories aren't being told. But I do appreciate the fact that people are recognizing that we do overlook black women in this society, and they're starting to take action."