LaNease Adams vied for the heart of Alex Michel in 2002
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It has been nearly two decades since LaNease Adams appeared on the very first season of The Bachelor, vying for the heart of Alex Michel in 2002.

However, what was supposed to be an exciting new experience became a painful one, as Adams says she faced an onslaught of racism once the show aired.

"Growing up in Los Angeles as a Black woman, I had never knowingly experienced any racism because my community was such a melting pot," Adams writes in a new essay for Women's Health."I had already dated outside of my race a lot, so I didn't have any reservations about dating a white guy. No one really seemed to think there was anything wrong with that here in Los Angeles, so I didn't expect any backlash for dating someone white on a reality TV show."

Adams, who was 23 years old at the time, ended up being one of the final eight women.

LaNease Adams
LaNease Adams
| Credit: Bob D'Amico/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

"At 23, I kind of thought I understood life. But once the show happened, I no longer understood anything. I didn't understand myself. I couldn't trust people—and, as someone who always looked outside for validation, that realization hit me hard," she wrote. "As soon as The Bachelor started to air, I got hit with a big dose of reality."

Adams was the first woman who kissed Michel on the show, with their sweet moment airing during the second episode. Afterward, she found a photo of their kiss on a white supremacist website "with terrible comments written about how disgusting it was to have people of two different races kissing on the show."

LaNease Adams
Credit: Byron Cohen/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

"I will never forget the feeling of finding my photograph on that website. It was shocking to know that white supremacists even knew who I was—that was really scary," Adams said. "I felt helpless, and I didn’t know what I could do to get that photograph removed from that website. There were also blogs saying stuff like, 'Who does this Black girl think she is dating The Bachelor?'"

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The reality star said she was "shocked," explaining that she didn't know that there was still so much racism harbored across the country.

"It also changes you as a person when you realize that there are some people that really hate you—and not for anything that you’ve said or done. They hate you just because of the race you were born with," Adams said. "I didn’t feel anger; I felt sadness."

She also faced criticism from some people in the Black community who were unhappy with her dating a white man.

Adams noted that all of this negative attention coincided with the heartbreak she felt over her breakup with Michel, adding that she began to experience "major anxiety" and "panic attacks."

"I think that's one of the things that people often overlook since it is a TV show: the heartbreak," Adams said, adding that one of The Bachelor producers, Lisa Levenson, tried recommending a therapist "but I just never took her up on that offer. The train had basically already left the station at that point—I was just lost."

"I started to self-medicate by drinking and taking pills, and I wasn’t eating," she continued. "Looking back, I think the racist backlash I experienced was also compounded by the fact that my dad died when I was just 1. I guess I was already sort of a wounded soul in a sense. I always looked outward for acceptance. I didn't really have self-confidence."

"The pills made me forget about my pain and sadness... but that was only a temporary fix," Adams wrote.

Adams ended up having to be hospitalized, which she calls her "lowest point."

"Laying in the hospital, I thought, 'You put your trust and your faith into everyone else. And now, look, you're here by yourself—about to die, basically,'" she recalled.

After spending a week at the hospital she was able to break out of her "cycle of self-medicating" and started to see a therapist on a weekly basis.

"I slowly started to get my life back under control," Adams said. "It took some time, but I found my self-love; I found my self-confidence."

The actress, who also developed her own line of organic soaps, Fountain of Youth Bath, said she hopes Black contestants today have a much better experience than she did.

"Hopefully, it's a lot easier for Black women and men to appear on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette now, even if they do experience some racial backlash," she wrote. "I hope it's not as tough on them as it was on me."

Earlier this year, the ABC franchise announced its first-ever Black male lead, Matt James. Rachel Lindsay made history as the first Black female lead for season 13 of The Bachelorette in 2017.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.