When you think of who’s leading the charge for diversity on The Bachelor, who comes to mind? Rachel Lindsay, perhaps, the first-ever Black Bachelorette? Mike Johnson, the almost-first-ever Black Bachelor? After SheKnows’ exclusive interview with this former Bachelor star, I’m throwing a new hat in the ring: Nick Viall. As a strong proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement, Nick has been dedicated to pushing for more people of color on and off-screen in The Bachelor franchise, a world where he knows his voice holds weight. But what I didn’t realize, amid his recent social media calls and petition sharing, is that Nick has been pushing for this change since well before 2020. In fact, Nick made it a point on his season of The Bachelor to ensure he would be dating women of color, instructing executives that he wasn’t interested in an all-white pool of contestants.
Nick was the Bachelor lead in 2017, at which point he’d already been runner-up in two Bachelorette seasons — the first of which, Andi Dorfman’s, he notes was even less diverse than the casts we see now. “People used to make comments…you’d have one or two people of color and they wouldn’t make it past week 3 or 4,” Nick recalls. “My season, I think a third of the women there were people of color. That was a priority to me.”
Curious for more details on how a Bachelor lead can request certain characteristics in their contestants, I pushed further: “You don’t get an input on casting specifically,” Nick clarified. “But it was a conversation I had with the executives. I encouraged them to cast women of color.”
Among those women was Rachel Lindsay, Nick’s runner-up and the future of The Bachelorette. Nick chooses his words carefully when talking about Rachel, given the dual purpose he’d found for himself within the Bachelor franchise. Yes, he cared deeply about improving diversity and representation on The Bachelor — but he was also on the show to find a wife. So, Nick was thrilled that his on-air relationship with Rachel helped turn her into a star. But he’s very, very clear that his motives weren’t strategic in any way.
“As the Bachelor, the pressure is to get engaged, right? So your focus is on relationships,” he explains. “I’m not colorblind. I was aware Rachel was Black when I first met her. She got the first impression rose because of who she is as a person. I was also aware of the significance of that, and getting screen time and things like that. And so it was just a priority for me to be conscious about that.”
In short: Nick (and the rest of America) was drawn to Rachel because of who she is. But if actually being with Rachel was the best part of dating her, the second-best part was knowing he was helping a Black contestant finally get the attention she deserved.
When it comes to next steps for the Bachelor franchise, Nick says it’s simple, if not easy — and certainly not quick. “It always needs to be a priority,” he affirms. “They can’t just cast [first Black Bachelor] Matt James and and act like the problem’s been solved. I don’t think that’s what they’re doing. But it has to be something that’s top of mind.”
That doesn’t just mean hiring Black contestants en masse and throwing them into the show as it exists, though. Nick brings up the argument sometimes mentioned that people of color simply apply less frequently for these shows, saying it ultimately devolves into a “chicken versus the egg” argument. Does the lack of applications lead to worse representation? Or does the lack of representation discourage people of color from applying?
“Is a lack or representation that hinders [applications]?” Nick wonders. “Rachel had mentioned this: why would you expect people of color to want to sign up when it feels like they’re going to immediately be an outsider or not get a fair shake then?”
This question, among others, will undoubtedly be at the forefront of our minds as we tune into Matt James’ season of The Bachelor (whenever that may be). If they’ve taken Bachelor Nation’s suggestions to heart, the series will unveil a new version of The Bachelor, where nonwhite contestants don’t stick out like sore thumbs in a sea of blond Laurens.
So, as former Bachelor, what advice can Nick offer Matt for his journey? Two words: Orbit gum.
“The thing about the Bachelor experience is that there’s a lot of sitting around, there’s a lot of drinking, you get nervous,” Nick says. “Everyone’s going to be drinking wine. Eight hours later, that doesn’t exactly…”
We get it. Fresh breath and a passion for diversity? Now this is a Nick Viall we can get behind.
Click here to see the most popular Bachelor men of all time, ranked.