Christina Dugan
February 13, 2017 11:57 PM

 

It’s official!

Rachel Lindsay, the 31-year-old attorney, has been chosen as Bachelor Nation’s next leading lady, making her the first black woman to be cast as the Bachelorette.

“I’m happy to represent myself as a black woman in front of America and I’m happy for America to rally behind me and see what it’s like for me to be on this journey to find love,”  Lindsay, 31, exclusively tells PEOPLE. “Honestly, it’s not going to be that different from any other season of The Bachelorette.”

Adding, “I’m obviously nervous and excited to take on this opportunity but I don’t feel added pressure being the first black Bachelorette, because to me I’m just a black woman trying to find love. Yes, I’m doing on this huge stage, but again my journey of love isn’t any different just because my skin color is.”

The history-making pick was announced on Monday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, just months after the Texas native immediately won the hearts of fans — and instantly connected with The Bachelor‘s Nick Viall, who gave her season 21’s First Impression Rose.

Despite her obvious connection with Viall, Lindsay’s journey to win Nick’s heart will soon be coming to an end. And with that, her own journey to find love is just about to begin!

Traditionally, ABC usually announces the next Bachelorette or Bachelor after the season’s finale. This year, they have taken a different approach by making their announcement while Lindsay is still a contestant.

Rick Rowell/ABC via Getty

It’s also a game-changer for the franchise, which has faced allegations of racial discrimination, and has only selected one non-white lead — American-born Venezuelan Juan Pablo Galavis — over the course of 21 seasons of The Bachelor and 12 seasons of The Bachelorette.

 

Lindsay makes history as the first black Bachelorette not long after hints of a change to come in Bachelor Nation. “I would very much like to see some changes there,” ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey told reporters during the network’s Television Critics Association presentation in August.

She added, “I think one of the biggest changes that we need to do is we need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning because part of what ends up happening as we go along is that there just aren’t as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next Bachelor or Bachelorette so that is something we really want to put some effort and energy towards.”

The Bachelor airs Mondays (8 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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