Season 13 of The Bachelorette has been advertised as one filled with many "firsts," and for good reason. Along with presenting its first black lead, ABC also decided to shake their Bachelor Nation traditions up a bit, changing fans' viewing experience in more ways than one. Rachel Lindsay will go down in history as the Bachelorette who revamped the game, and below are the various ways her season completely changed The Bachelor franchise.
From dropping hints about her relationship status before the season aired, to getting to meet a few of her suitors before the cameras even began rolling, ABC set the bar high for future Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons. And you can't forget about how the network created a safe space for their first black Bachelorette to discuss racial and interracial dating topics openly and honestly on the show. That move alone helped to set Season 13 apart from its predecessors.
This doesn't mean that The Bachelorette has it all figured out, however. The show definitely has some work to do to improve on its diversity and inclusivity track. Still, the changes made were undoubtedly improvements, and reflecting on them will only show just how far the franchise still has to go.
1The Season Featured The First Black 'Bachelorette'
Though its been talked about a ton, not mentioning Rachel's groundbreaking positioning in this list would be doing the franchise a total disservice. This move in and of itself was a huge improvement from the show's unsettling history of having majority white casts. And that's something worth celebrating until the end of time.
2The New 'Bachelorette' Was Announced Before Season 21 Of 'Bachelor' Even Ended
Bachelor Nation is known for stripping itself of monotony occasionally, and introducing Rachel to world as the new Bachelorette during an episode of Jimmy Kimmel — and before Season 21 of The Bachelor finished airing — was just another one of its astounding tricks.
3True Diversity In Cast Selection
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have been criticized for the lack of diversity and inclusion in their casting decisions for years. And Season 13 was the first to break that disheartening tradition. Out of the contestants chosen to vie for Rachel's heart, 14 were men of color, and 11 of them were black men. That's one heck of an improvement, considering having a "token black" contestant has been a pattern since the franchise's start.
4There Were No "Tokens" On Season 13
Speaking of "tokens," Rachel's season totally helped to break that casting habit. With the show's contestants being so diverse — including Asian and Latino suitors — falling in love on the show was finally a possibility for its suitors of color, and not just the expectation of starting trouble or stirring up drama.
Lindsay Smith, Season 10 Bachelor contestant, shared her experience of being the "token black girl" within the all white cast with Vox. In her personal essay, she wrote, "I was there to serve as the token black woman for entertainment purposes — and was never taken seriously as a candidate." (According to Vox, ABC declined to comment on Smith's article, which included allegations of being "manipulated" by producers to enhance drama.)
Season 13 of The Bachelorette had its share of drama too, however — with one of its black cast members being at the center of racial tension. But this time around, all of the suitors of color were given a chance to put their best foot forward, just as white contestants have in the past.
5Open Discussions About Race & Interracial Dating Pressures
With having its first black Bachelorette, ABC had to know that conversations about race and interracial dating would take place. And Rachel definitely didn't shy away from these candid discussions (who else is in love with Eric's Aunt Verna?).
From contestants admitting that they've only ever dated white women, to white suitors getting lessons from their black castmates about what the term "aggressive" means to the black community, Season 13 introduced Bachelor Nation to tidbits of information that they may not have been privy to otherwise.
6Rachel Announced Her Engagement Before The Season Aired
Another surprise that the franchise sprung upon fans was the reveal of their Bachelorette's relationship status before the season even aired. People were worried the news of Rachel's engagement would take the mystery out of the show, but, boy, were they wrong. Fans still hung on each and every week to find out just who Rachel's anonymous fiancé "Jerome" was, and that was a total winning move for the show.
7Rachel Was The Oldest Bachelorette In The Show's History
At 31 years old, Rachel Lindsay was the oldest Bachelorette to ever helm the series. And her age also placed her as older than a lot of the suitors vying for her heart. It was definitely a total switch-up for the franchise, considering The Bachelorette has been known to cast contestants who are significantly older that its lead.
8It Normalized A 'Bachelorette' Love Story Starring A Black Woman
Being the "first" anything has its pressures, and Rachel took her positioning with The Bachelorette to show that her love story was just as important, and as much of a priority to her as other Bachelorettes before her.
9Rachel Got To Meet Some Of Her Suitors Before The Season Began Shooting
Rachel got a taste that the types of men that would be competing for her heart during The Bachelor's Season 21's "After The Rose Ceremony" special. And this move definitely helped rally up even more excitement for the historical season.
10Viewers Were Introduced To Cast Members Before The Season Aired
Just days before the show aired, host Chris Harrison gave the most perfect cast introductions to fans on Facebook Live — and he wasn't just talking names and occupations. Harrison shared hometowns, brief nuances about personalities, and even hinted at some key moments viewers would see on the show.
Bachelor Nation definitely let social media play a thriving role in the franchise this time around, helping get folks ready to tune in.
11Contestants Of Color Were Given An Actual Shot At Love
Season 13 definitely had contestants with gimmicks, from odd professions to even more bizarre behaviors. But the contestants of color weren't expected to be at the butt of the jokes, or the source for the drama this time around.
For the first time in Bachelorette history, suitors of color were given a fair chance to fall in love on camera — and they even had the first black contestant in the final three. And here's to hoping that this becomes a habit for the franchise moving forward.