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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘The Bachelorette’ to cast first ever Asian American lead

UW alum Jenn Tran to highlight representation within franchise
Photo by Cat Carroll, The Badger Herald.

In a world where reality television’s demographic is primarily white, it is astounding to see an improvement in diverse race representation on a show like “The Bachelorette.”

“The Bachelorette” franchise has been running for over 20 years, with the first episode airing in 2003. It’s a spin-off of “The Bachelor,” which aired in 2002.

For the first 14 years, the show cast only white women as “The Bachelorette.” It wasn’t until 2017 that the show cast its first ever non-Caucasian lead with its first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay. Ever since Lindsay, the show has attempted to cast contestants with more diverse races and ethnicities.


In the most recent season of “The Bachelor,” ABC cast Joey Graziadei, who is white, as the leading man. Within his bracket of women, only a few were women of color. Of the final six women vying for his love in week seven, three were women of color — specifically Jenn Tran, Rachel Nance and Kelsey Toussant. Even more notably, Nance received a hometown date with Graziadei, which essentially takes things to the next level. Graziadei got the opportunity to experience Nance’s Filipino culture at her home in Hawai’i.

After all was said and done within “The Bachelor” Season 28, ABC chose to cast their next Bachelorette, which will air July 2024. Bachelorettes are often women who have not found love from the previous season of “The Bachelor.” This summer, ABC will broadcast their first ever Asian American lead, University of Wisconsin alum Jenn Tran. Now that’s an even bigger deal than getting a hometown date!

Director of Asian American Studies and professor of communication arts Lori Kido Lopez said Asian American representation in the media, as well as “The Bachelor” franchise, is important in itself.

“Asian American representation in general has been on an upward trajectory, particularly in the last five to 10 years,” Lopez said.

It is significant to note how Asian Americans have dealt with underrepresentation in mainstream media. These roles are often stereotyped, not cast in leading roles, do not get fully fleshed out stories and have minimal character development.

More specifically within reality television, “The Bachelor” franchise has been very criticized for how to deal with race. According to the National Public Radio, the show seems to have no clue how deeply embedded racism is in the fabric of American life.

Former host Chris Harrison had to depart from the show in 2021 after demonstrating outright racist behavior toward 2017 Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay. Harrison also defended Season 25’s white female winner Rachael Kirkconnell when she unintentionally posted racist photos at an antebellum South-themed party on social media while dating Black Bachelor Matt James.

“The Bachelor has always stuck to that Black versus white binary in thinking about what diversifying representation means, so they barely talk about any other racial groups,” Lopez said.

The show has slowly evolved by taking baby steps forward, but continues to leave Asian Americans out of the conversation.

The demographic of the show’s audience is primarily young white women, so the franchise tries to appeal to this specific audience. A YouGov survey found that the American audience is 77% female and 75% white, demonstrating an appeal to their ideal audience — almost all white women. Along with live shows, watch parties are common in which the host and the lead will go to different local areas to watch the show. The majority of these parties are held at college sororities.

“[They have] never traveled to an Asian interest sorority,” Lopez said.

Over time, reality television in general, especially dating shows, has been seen as something rather silly and unimportant. “The Bachelor” franchise is criticized for propagating an idealized femininity through harmful competition, romantic fantasies and sustaining traditional gender roles.

Many viewers find the show to be unauthentic to true love — it seems like it must not matter who is cast.

“I would say that it is always important to reflect the diversity of our society no matter what the kind of story is and that the popularity of the franchise speaks to how important it is to the audience even if it’s on a silly topic,” Lopez said.

The racial dynamics have been so homogenous over time and viewers see the same kinds of contestants with similar stories.

In her season, Tran spends her time on talking about her life as a Vietnamese-American, specifically the struggles her family faced. Tran is not trying to tell a model minority story about being the perfect Asian American family. 

“I would not dismiss the significance of this moment even if it’s a silly show,” Lopez said.

Being the first ever Asian American lead on this predominantly white-based show is astounding when it comes to representation within the media.

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