It’s been a long and rocky road for Matt James, the Bachelor franchise’s first-ever Black lead. Despite the series’ much-publicized efforts to improve the show’s diversity—which also included recruiting the largest and most diverse pool of contestants in the show’s history—this season of The Bachelor has been far from immune to racist scandals and the general drama that inevitably arises after throwing a few dozen women in a luxurious Pennsylvania resort and asking them to compete both emotionally and physically for one man’s heart.
Most damaging of all were the accusations that arose early on about one of the season’s frontrunners, Rachael Kirkconnell, who was found to have “liked” racist posts on Instagram and attended a plantation-themed ball. To make matters worse, once Kirkconnell’s actions had become widely known, host Chris Harrison defended them in an incredibly cringey Extra interview with Rachel Lindsay, who became the first Black Bachelorette in 2017—even as Kirkconnell herself admitted that there was no excuse for her actions in an apology posted on Instagram. As a result of the ensuing backlash to his remarks, within a few days, Harrison announced that he was temporarily “stepping aside” from his position as the show’s host.
This season’s contestants also distanced themselves from Harrison’s remarks, with most posting a shared statement on Instagram in support of Lindsay. “We are deeply disappointed and want to make it clear that we denounce any defense of racism. Any defense of racist behavior denies the lived and continued experiences of BIPOC individuals. These experiences are not to be exploited or tokenized,” they wrote.
Here, find a guide to the original 32 contestants on James’ season of The Bachelor.