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If you've ever dreamt of landing a spot as a contestant on ABC's The Bachelor, you've probably imagined all the prep that jetting off to fall in love would entail: buying fancy cocktail dresses, practicing your limo entrance, adding the word "journey" into your everyday vocabulary—the list goes on. But according to former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, none of those actions are the key to thriving on the reality show. However, Lindsay tells HelloGiggles over a recent phone call something does serve as contestants' lifeline on The Bachelor: their relationship with their competition.
"To be successful on this show, you have to have good friendships," Lindsay, the Season 13 Bachelorette, explains. "You're spending the majority of your time with the other women—they'll be there for you when you're having a weak moment and they'll laugh with you. They're the only people who understand this crazy world that you're thrown into."
"It's the key to survival on this show," Lindsay continues. "You can have a strong relationship with the lead, but if you don't get along with the women, you won't do well."
Any member of Bachelor Nation knows that the drama between the men and women competing for attention—entertaining as it is—often ruins their shot at finding love. And for fans tuning into the the current season (starring Matt James), Lindsay teases, "I will tell you, you will see this play out on Matt's season." Ahem, Queen Victoria?
When James, 29, was announced as the first Black Bachelor in June—during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement—reactions were mixed: some people were ecstatic about this long overdue choice, but others criticized the opportune timing. Lindsay, who was the franchise's first Black Bachelorette in 2017 (and sole Black lead until Tayshia Adams succeeded her just last year) says her "initial reaction was two-fold."
"I was thrilled that it was happening, but I was not as thrilled by the timing of it," she admits. "It just seemed more like they were reacting to the times rather than saying, 'hey, we're giving you someone who's a great lead who just happens to be Black.'"
However, the 35-year-old, who has always been candid about her qualms with the franchise, says her disappointment was "short-lived," adding, "The franchise released a statement recognizing their wrongs of the past and vowing to be better in the future, and that's kind of all we wanted as contestants, as leads, and even the audience."
And so far, The Bachelor producers have put their money where their mouths are; along with casting James as the first Black male lead, the 32 women vying for his heart are the most racially diverse group the show has ever seen.
While Lindsay celebrates this positive step in the right direction, she believes that the franchise still has a long way to go in terms of broader representation. "Most of the girls look the same in terms of age and size," she notes. "I'd like to see different body types and different ages on the show. We saw a same-sex relationship with Demi and Kristian [on Bachelor in Paradise]; I'd like to see more of that. I'd also like to see two people of color fall in love with one another."
"Being more reflective of what America looks like would be really nice to see onscreen," Lindsay says. "Hopefully, we get more people sitting at home and seeing themselves represented when they watch [The Bachelor]."
In 2019, Lindsay married the man she chose on her season of The Bachelorette, Colombian chiropractor, Bryan Abasolo. Adams, the second Black Bachelorette, is also currently in an interracial relationship from her 2020 season. While these are undoubtedly success stories, Lindsay says the pattern of both previous Black leads choosing non-Black partners places "unfair" expectations on James to pick a Black partner, instead.
"I told Matt, 'I feel bad for you,'" Lindsay reveals. "People are judging what [he's] going to do based on what they've seen the two other leads of color do, and that's so unfair. When it's a white lead, nobody is saying that they have to pick a white person or that they even have to pick somebody that's diverse. The same pressures aren't there, and it's truly unfortunate because all Matt should be focusing on is the representation that he's the first Black Bachelor. That's what's beautiful."
The Bachelorette alum is clearly still invested in the franchise, and she discusses her thoughts each week with Season 22 Bachelorette Becca Kufrin on their podcast, "Bachelor Happy Hour." Plus, since Lindsay's time starring on the show, the former full-time attorney has added new roles to her resume by serving as a correspondent (and attorney) for Extra TV.
But when she's not podcasting, interviewing celebrities, or spending time with her husband, Lindsay decompresses by exercising. Her current workout of choice? Zumba, the largest dance-fitness brand in the world, which she recently partnered with.
"When I lived in Dallas, I used to go to a Zumba class in the mall," Lindsay, who recently moved to L.A., says. "I would go after work, so I was releasing all the stress from the day but also laughing, having a good time, and being creative by learning a dance." Since mall Zumba classes aren't exactly pandemic-friendly, Lindsay has been getting sweaty at home by livestreaming the brand's first-ever free online Zumba classes.
And although her "go-to" Zumba music is hip-hop, Lindsay has been leaning into the salsa genre since marrying into a Latin family (even though she jokes that husband Abasolo is "not a good dancer".) "But Zumba isn't about being the best dancer and hitting all the moves," she says. "It's about exercising, releasing that stress, and boosting those endorphins."
While 2020 was a stressful year for everyone, Lindsay says she's looking forward to feeling lighter in the new year. For three years, she carried the weight of being The Bachelor franchise's only Black lead—but now that she's "passed the torch" to Adams and James, she admits that she's relieved to not hold as much of the responsibility to represent the Black community.
"I used to say to [the producers], 'If you want me to stop talking, maybe you should bring in leads of color, and that would kind of shut me up," Lindsay says, laughing. "Now, I can take a step back, because things are being done and I don't need to be so much at the forefront. I'm not speaking out because I want to be seen, I'm doing it because I want things to change—and things are changing."