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'I was a token': Rachel Lindsay candidly details her time as the Bachelorette

She also opened up about her relationship with former host Chris Harrison.
ABC's "The Bachelorette" - Season 13
In an essay she wrote for New York Magazine, former "Bachelorette" star Rachel Lindsay goes into detail about her season and her relationship with the franchise. Paul Hebert / Walt Disney Television via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Rachel Lindsay is sharing untold details about her time as the first-ever Black star of "The Bachelorette," describing herself as a "token" for the scandal-plagued reality TV show.

In an essay for New York Magazine, Lindsay, who was a contestant on Nick Viall's season of "The Bachelor" before going on to star on her own season as the lead, said that she had hoped she would be able to change the franchise from within by representing Black women and championing for more diversity.

Yet she knew that she was cast because "on paper, I made sense."

"I couldn’t be like the Bachelorettes who had come before — somebody who was still living at home with her parents, who had 'pageant queen' on her résumé," she said. "I was a lawyer. My father was a federal judge. I had a squeaky-clean record. I had to be a good Black girl, an exceptional Black girl. I had to be someone the viewer could accept. And I was a token until I made sure I wasn’t. The thing is, the day I went on the show, I didn’t wake up and say, You know what? I’m going to start standing up for myself. I was taught at a very young age to speak up about injustices. It was no different with Bachelor Nation. And I don’t think they ever saw it coming."

Lindsay, 36, has been critical of the franchise's lack of diversity and its recurring problems with racism and sexism — so much so, she says, that she became known as "the contestant who was always starting trouble."

"'That Rachel Lindsay,' the one who couldn’t stay quiet, who bites the hand that feeds, Bachelor Nation’s public enemy No. 1," she said.

Lindsay feels as though she's even blamed for the recent exit of host Chris Harrison, whose departure was announced earlier this month, following racially insensitive comments he made earlier this year.

During an interview with Lindsay, who had started working as a correspondent for "Extra," Harrison had defended another contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, who had attended an antebellum-themed party in 2018, describing her as a victim of "the woke police."

"I wouldn’t say Chris and I were friends, exactly," Lindsay said. "When you’re the Bachelorette, you’re traveling with him, sitting in hotels and airports. There’s a lot of hurrying up and waiting, and he’s the one you do it with. During my season and after, he became someone who gave me advice on how to navigate the show and the celebrity of it. I called him my fairy godfather. We’d had our highs and lows, but there had been mutual respect until this interview. I felt disrespected, but I maintained my composure because I had to."

Lindsay said she once looked to Chris Harrison for advice and guidance. Randy Holmes / Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

In her essay, Lindsay also shared juicy behind-the-scenes tidbits from the show — explaining that producers told her that the outlandish entrances the season premieres are known for are reserved for contestants who won't make it very far, and that the eloquent mansion viewers see is actually a dump.

"The show tapes for ten weeks. In the beginning, you’re stuck in the mansion. I hated it," she said of her time on "The Bachelor." "I always tell people it was the dirtiest place ever. Think the movie 'The Money Pit.' Once you get inside, you see the cracks in the foundation. Appliances don’t work; the backyard is not complete. (This in addition to 22 women living in three rooms.) By the time we left, my eyes were puffy. I had an allergic reaction from the lack of sleep, drinking too much, and feeling dehydrated."

She also expressed disappointment with how her own season of "The Bachelorette" was portrayed, particularly the ending, in which her runner-up, Peter Kraus, said that he loved her but couldn't yet commit to marriage, and Lindsay sent him home. In the end, Lindsay gave her final rose to Bryan Abasolo, to whom she is now married.

"So much of my finale made it seem like I’d settled for Bryan because Peter couldn’t give me what I wanted," Lindsay said. "Publicly, I was robbed of my love story."

Her essay is the cover story for the latest issue of New York Magazine. Lindsay, who recently announced on Instagram that she has an upcoming book of personal essays, released a statement saying that while she's proud of the essay, she doesn't agree with the headline that was featured on the magazine's cover: "Oops, I Blew Up The Bachelor."

Lauren Starke, a magazine spokesperson, sent the following statement to TODAY: "New York Magazine is incredibly proud to have published Rachel Lindsay's powerful, first-person story, detailing her experience with The Bachelor franchise. We were sorry to learn that she is unhappy with the cover line (which was not meant as a direct quote), but it shouldn't take away from the candor and bravery of her words in the piece."

In the essay, which Lindsay encourages her fans to read, she said she doesn't regret her decision to be "The Bachelorette" — and she makes herself available to any other contestants who want her advice — yet she is firm on her decision to step away from the franchise.

"To the franchise, I am no longer a figurehead," she said. "I am no longer a spot-filler. I am no longer the face of what is diverse."