ABC’s The Bachelor hit a milestone on Friday when Matt James was announced as the venerable dating franchise’s first black Bachelor in 25 seasons and second black lead in 40 seasons overall, joining The Bachelorette alumna Rachel Lindsay.
Like Lindsay, who on Friday welcomed James’ casting while calling out the reality juggernaut over “systemic racism,” Jazzy Collins, who was a Casting Producer on the two shows, starting with The Bachelorette season starring Lindsay, says that she is happy about James’ appointment but is also critical of the franchise’s diversity track record. Collins shared her experiences on the series where she felt black female contestants as well as black staffers like herself were being marginalized.
“Your show has white-washed for decades, inside and out,” Collins writers in an open letter to ABC and The Bachelor/The Bachelorette producing teams, shared with Deadline. “I am calling on you to select a diverse cast and production team for season 25 of The Bachelor and moving forward.”
In separate statements on Friday, following James’ Bachelor announcement, ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke and The Bachelor producers acknowledged “lack of representation of people of color” on the franchise and vowed “to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward.” (You can read the statements below Collins’ Open Letter:
I am a Casting Producer who previously worked on The Bachelor and Bachelorette series for 5 seasons.
During my time at The Bachelor/Bachelorette, I was the only Black person in the casting office from when I was hired for casting the first season of a Black Bachelorette through the four seasons I worked on afterwards.
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.
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 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 the 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.
I am calling on you to select a diverse cast and production team for season 25 of The Bachelor and moving forward.
Not only is it important to have a diverse cast reflect what the rest of America looks like, it’s important for the production and casting teams to be able to share the same experiences as the cast members. You’re expecting a white team to be able to intimately produce people of color on an emotional level that they’re truly unable to relate to. A Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous man or woman should not have to walk on a set for up to eight weeks and stare at a crowd of white faces while they pour their heart out on national TV without also having a diverse, understanding team to guide them through the process.
Here are The Bachelor producers and Burke’s statements on the franchise’s diversity issues from Friday:
From The Bachelor executive producers:
We are excited to move forward with both Matt James as the new Bachelor and Clare Crawley as our next Bachelorette. We acknowledge our responsibility for the lack of representation of people of color on our franchise and pledge to make significant changes to address this issue moving forward. We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories.
From ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke:
We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in and we are proudly in service to our audience. This is just the beginning and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”