Season 22 of The Bachelor (producer: Nikki Lazaran) just made its debut on ABC last week, but one of the ladies in the mansion is already dealing with a bit of drama from her past. On Jan. 6, TV Guide reported that Maquel Cooper apologized for a racially insensitive Instagram photo posted to her account back in 2012. The Utah-born photographer was called out on Saturday after some Reddit users came across a photo that shows the contestant in "brownface," and the photo has since been deleted from Maquel's account. Maquel's statement to TV Guide read:
"Five years ago, I made a regretful choice for a costume. It came at a time when I was unenlightened and uninformed. I apologize to anybody who was offended by my choices. I am sorry for what I did and take full responsibility for my mistake."
On Sunday, Jan. 7, an ABC spokesperson issued the following statement to Bustle:
"We are disappointed to see this post and glad that Maquel has made a formal apology. We do not condone her behavior."
Bustle has also reached out to Warner Bros. for comment, but has not yet received a response.
According to TV Guide, the photo in question was posted in November 2012, and it shows Cooper and two of her friends sporting brownface while wearing drawn-on facial hair and black hoodies. Even more off-putting was the photo's caption which, as shown by a screenshot, included a series of hashtags like "#marco," "#jose," "#louie," "#ugly," and "#mexicans." Since the photo's original post date read Nov. 8, 2012, it may have been part of a Halloween costume, though that doesn't make it OK.
Sadly this isn't the first time that a contestant on the Bachelor franchise has been called out for making racially insensitive comments. Leah Block, who appeared on Ben Higgins' season, caught some heat from Rachel Lindsay last summer after making a racist joke about The Bachelorette's diverse cast saying, in a now-deleted tweet, "I'm sitting here watching @BacheloretteABC and my roommate just sat down on the couch and said 'what is this? @LoveAndHipHop_?' DEAD." Rachel later quoted tweeted Leah and replied, "Let me know if she wants to meet Lee... they sound like they would have a lot in common #ihavetimetoday."
Lee was another contestant that was called out for making racially insensitive comments last year. The Bachelorette Season 13 contestant came under fire for a series of tweets he allegedly wrote that said things against Black Lives Matter, gay people, and women.
Though Rachel, last year's Bachelorette, hadn't outwardly stated her support for Black Lives Matter at the time this issue came up, Lee's comments were more disturbing given the fact that Rachel was the franchise's first-ever black lead. He did not receive the final rose, but to many people, it still seemed a little questionable that someone like Lee with views as harmful as those would even agree to appear on the show in the first place.
Still, Lee eventually made his Twitter account private (it's public again, for now) and addressed his comments during the Men Tell All special at the end of the season saying, "I don’t like racism at all. It bothers me morally." He also claimed that he was "irresponsible in what I put out," and apologized if he "hurt anybody in any way with a bad joke."
After the incident with Lee, ABC president Channing Dungey said during the Television Critics Association press tour that The Bachelor would do a better job of vetting its contestants. He said, according to SF Gate:
"I think there were certain elements to Lee — we go through a very complicated vetting process to determine the contestants. Not everything is apparent right from the beginning, and that's just one of the things we have to look at as we continue to move forward in the future, to maybe continue to strengthen our process of vetting."
Fans of the franchise can only hope that these kinds of issues don't continue to pop up in the future.