The Bachelorette star couldn't help but feel nervous when meeting her 31 suitors for the first time

By Christina Dugan
May 23, 2017 09:54 AM

Rachel Lindsay was more than a little nervous during her first night on The Bachelorette.

“It was such a surreal experience to be dressed in a gown and this time, though, it wasn’t me rolling up to meet the Bachelor, it was me rolling up to stand there and have guys come and meet me,” Lindsay, 32, exclusively tells PEOPLE. “It was such a surreal experience to be in front of the mansion, to talk to Chris [Harrison] that night, and I’d knew I was nervous, but the moment I saw the first limo pull up, I was petrified.”

Though she had been through a similar situation before — she fought for Nick Viall‘s heart on the most recent season of The Bachelor — Lindsay says she was unsure of how to deal with the idea of being the leading lady and dating multiple men at once.

“I had to pep talk myself through the whole night,” she says of Monday’s premiere episode. “I was nervous, but you know what helped was that when the guys were nervous, they would tell me that, and I was like, ‘Oh my god. Good. You too? I’m nervous.’ I guess I just pushed through.”

ABC/Craig Sjodin

With dating multiple men comes plenty of first kisses — and Lindsay intended to proceed with caution.

“I was very hesitant to want to kiss this season, but I tried not to focus on that too much,” she admits. “I just kind of took things as they came. For example, the first night, you know, I didn’t necessarily want to kiss anyone the first night. I wasn’t going to initiate it, but if it happened, I embraced it.”

Watch the full episode of People Features: Rachel Lindsay, streaming now on People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to, or download the app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, Xfinity, iOS and Android devices.

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And, boy, did it happen! Bryan, the Colombian from Miami went in for a steamy, first kiss with Lindsay, landing him the first impression rose.

“I definitely embraced the first night’s kiss that I got [from Bryan] and I wasn’t disappointed,” she says with a laugh. “I’m glad I didn’t pull away from it!”

  • For more from Rachel Lindsay about her journey to find a husband, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

Making history as the show’s first black Bachelorette, Lindsay reveals that although she feels pressure holding the title, she’s just ready to start life with her forever love.

“I am very much so in love and very much so engaged,” Lindsay gushed during a press call last week.

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