A week after The Bachelor announced Matt James as its first black lead, a former producer is confirming what fans already knew: that the show has been “whitewashed for decades.”
James, a franchise newcomer originally cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s upcoming season of The Bachelorette, joins Rachel Lindsay as the only black leads in The Bachelor’s 18-year run. Of course, fans of The Bachelor have long been critical of its whiteness. But it wasn’t only fans who requested more diversity—also some of ABC’s own staffers.
In an open letter to ABC shared on Instagram, former Bachelor casting producer Jazzy Collins described working on the show for five seasons. According to Collins, producers routinely passed up contestants who they considered “too Black.” She explains (emphasis mine):
During my time at The Bachelor/Bachelorette, I was the only Black person in the casting office... While working on Rachel Lindsay’s season of the show, we were called on to have a very diverse cast. It was my first season of the show, and I was excited to be an integral part of the show’s history. My hope was that having a racially diverse cast of gentlemen would be an important milestone that would continue into the future. That was not the case.
After finishing Rachel Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette, it went back to status quo: the cast was predominantly white. The only Black women that were picked to be in the running had weaves or chemically straightened hair, were ‘ethnically ambiguous,’ or were not considered if they were ‘too Black.’ Women with afros, braids, locs, etc; weren’t even given a chance because of the white standards of beauty.
Collins adds that whenever she pointed out the show’s racist process, she was labeled “aggressive”:
Once I developed a voice for myself in the office to speak out on issues, I was hit with many microaggressions, including being called “aggressive.” I felt alone. While walking through the production and post offices, I only saw a total of three Black people. Soon after I left the show, I found out the only Black cast producer was also no longer with the team.
Your show has been white-washed for decades, inside and out. Your head of post-production is white. Your Casting Director is white. Your Executive in charge is white. You only cast the token Black person, Asian person or Latinx person to satisfy what you believe to be the needs of your viewers. Many called for a Black bachelor for years - but you ignored it. I am happy to see you’ve chosen Matt James as your first Black Bachelor in 25 seasons. It took a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement to take a moment and reassess the issue at hand, which I’ve called on for years.
After Lindsay found love, the show seemed to revert to its old ways, hiring only token people of color. That the announcement of its first black Bachelor arrives at a time when the world mourns and protests the murder of black Americans by cops feels all too convenient.
If it did take “a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement” to make the franchise care about inclusivity and representation, I find it hard to believe that any diversity initiative will stick in the long run. The Bachelor does what The Bachelor wants, and usually, that means a lot of Laurens.
Read Collins’ full letter below.