Rachel Lindsay Details Moment She 'Felt Exploited' on Bachelorette, Calls Out 'Toxic Fandom'
The 36-year-old former Bachelorette opened up in an op-ed for New York Magazine, appearing in the June 21 issue, about her time on The Bachelor and Bachelorette, recalling how she departed the Bachelor Happy Hour podcast last month amid being "exhausted from defending myself against a toxic fandom."
Lindsay said elsewhere in her piece that her now-infamous, race-related conversation with longtime host Chris Harrison — who has since parted ways with the franchise — caused the fandom that "had always had a complicated relationship with" her to further "turn against" her.
"The franchise has spent 19 years cultivating a toxic audience. They have constantly given it a product it wants: a midwestern/southern white, blonde, light-eyed Christian. Not all viewers are like that," she wrote in the piece, published Monday. "My Higher Learning co-host and I have divided it — there is a Bachelor Nation, and there is a Bachelor Klan."
Lindsay explained of the latter term, "Bachelor Klan is hateful, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and homophobic. They are afraid of change. They are afraid to be uncomfortable. They are afraid when they get called out."
ABC did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
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The first Black Bachelorette, Lindsay recalled her "immediate reaction" to being offered the lead role — saying "no" because she "didn't want to lose [her] identity." (She had previously competed on Nick Viall's season of The Bachelor, placing third.)
"I didn't want to be known as a reality-TV star," she said. "I didn't want to lose respect in the workplace."
Things changed when she spoke to someone in her hometown, who told her of being on The Bachelor: " 'My daughter likes the show. I'm so excited she can see someone who represents her.' "
"I started wondering if I was looking at it the wrong way," Lindsay continued. "Yes, it's a silly reality show. But how many people haven't seen a positive representation of a Black woman, someone who has the chance to be adored by men of all races, backgrounds, professions?"
"I thought maybe the moment was bigger than me," she noted.
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Lindsay also touched on feeling that audiences were "going to look at me as an angry Black female" — during her time on The Bachelor — remembering a conversation with producers after she "stormed out" of a confrontation with eventual winner Vanessa Grimaldi. Lindsay told them, "You do not understand what it is to be a Black woman in this house full of white folks and for a white woman to cry in your face and call you a bully."
"There were moments like that when they protected me," she said of the producers. "Another time, I'd had two mixed drinks, and I was out-of-my-mind wasted. Astrid [Loch] was holding my hair back in the bathroom. (I drunkenly told her, 'You are my only real friend.') They could have brought cameras in there. They didn't."
"I sat in the ceremony that day as Nick gave out roses, my head resting on Astrid's shoulder," Lindsay recalled. "My hair was disheveled. I wasn't always like that, but all it takes is one mess-up. They could have taken those clips and depicted me as a wild Jezebel. They didn't because I would never come out on top."
At another point in the season, during her Fantasy Suite date with Viall, 40, Lindsay said in her essay, "Nick said he did not want to sleep with any women because he had been so sexualized on Bachelor in Paradise."
"We didn't get there, anyway. I blacked out," she revealed. "Nick gave me Tylenol and carried me up the stairs. I never even made it into the Mrs. Claus outfit."
She also remembered feeling "exploited" during her Bachelorette Hometown date with Peter Kraus, in which friends of his — whom she was set up to meet — included two Black men and two white women.
"They separated us — Peter got to talk to his homeboys, and I was with the women, who talked about having 'mixed babies' and what it was like to be an interracial couple. I couldn't believe it," Lindsay said. "I'm Black. I have interracial couples in my family. I'm old enough to understand what I'm entering into and the difficulties that come with it. I felt exploited."
"If anything, that situation turned me off of Peter because I couldn't see myself hanging out with them," she added. "They were nice, but it was so contrived. The producers really thought, How great! All these mixed couples can come together. They were only looking at the optics of the situation."
After her op-ed was published, Lindsay shared a message on Instagram that alleged the outlet "misrepresent(ed)" her "with the headline that was chosen for the cover," saying they were "not my words nor are they a reflection of how I feel." (The headline on the cover reads: "Oops, I Blew Up The Bachelor.")
"It is very disappointing and disrespectful that the very notion I was trying to refute was used against me by the publication for a clickbait headline," she added. "My truth and my thoughts are told on the inside of the magazine which I am very proud of and hope you all read."