Katie Thurston will serve as season 17 Bachelorette this summer, while Michelle Young will follow as lead during season 18, airing this fall
Advertisement

It's a two-for-one Bachelorette special!

A surprise bonus season of The Bachelorette was announced during Monday night's The Bachelor: After the Final Rose special. Katie Thurston and Michelle Young were announced as the next leading ladies for the franchise.

"We're the Bachelorettes," Young and Thurston said in unison on stage.

The two women will serve as the lead for their own individual seasons, with Thurston filming first for season 17 and Young following up behind her for season 18.

Both Thurston and Young were contestants on Matt James' season of The Bachelor.

Michelle Young and Katie Thurston
Michelle Young and Katie Thurston
| Credit: ABC

Will you accept this rose? Sign up for PEOPLE's free weekly Bachelor Nation newsletter to get the latest news on The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and everything in between!

Thurston, 30, made a bold entrance on The Bachelor when she got out of the limo on night one with a vibrator in her hand. She continued to impress fans with her determination to stand up for what's right and her ability to defuse drama.

When she was eventually eliminated during her one-on-one date with James, fans immediately began calling for her to be the next Bachelorette.

MATT JAMES, KATIE THURSTON THE BACHELOR
Matt James and Katie Thurston
| Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

At the Women Tell All, she said remained optimistic about still finding love — and now she'll get her chance with her own group of suitors. "Matt was the first person I was able to be 110 percent myself with and it didn't work out, so that's tough," she said. "But I just have to remain hopeful that my person's still out there."

And on Monday, Thurston said she is excited about the opportunity to find lasting love.

"I'm ready to find love," she said. "And not just the temporary kind — I'm talking forever, my husband. And I'm in a place in my life where I feel like I'm the best version of me."

Want to get the biggest stories from PEOPLE every weekday? Subscribe to our new podcast, PEOPLE Every Day, to get the essential celebrity, entertainment and human interest news stories Monday through Friday.

Katie Thurston and Michelle Young, The Bachelor
Credit: Craig Sjodin via Getty (2)

The school teacher made it to James' final two, only to be sent home before the final rose ceremony.

"It caught me very off guard," Young said of their breakup. "It really just felt like one of those moments where all of your blood, everything leaves your body."

On Monday, she had the chance to face James for the first time in an emotional conversation. While she admitted she was hurt by the breakup, she was still thankful for the experience.

"I care about you," she told James. "I'm a very forgiving person. You and me talking about it right now, I've honestly already put it down. I'm not in love, like I was leaving the show, but it does help hearing that what you felt for me was real."

MICHELLE, MATT JAMES THE BACHELOR
Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

She added: "You have taught me a lot. About relationships and what I'm looking for and what I'm not looking for at times. You will always hold a piece of my heart. I hope you find your happiness."

Looking forward, Young said she's "ready" to take another shot at finding love.

"I am ready. I really do think this process works," she said. "When you get to set down all the outside distractions and really dive in, I think you can learn a lot about somebody. I'm just excited. I'm ready to get started."

The announcement came amid Chris Harrison's hiatus from the franchise after the host, 49, received backlash for his response to contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist actions. Harrison apologized on Good Morning America earlier last month and said, "I plan to be back and I want to be back" on The Bachelor.

However, last week, ABC announced that  Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will be taking Harrison's place for the upcoming season of The Bachelorette.

Thurston's season of The Bachelorette is expected to debut this summer on ABC, while Young's is slated for the fall.