In the summer of 2017, the Bachelor Nation waited to learn who would eventually be the next leading man.
Eric Bigger was a serious contender, with a tremendous amount of fan support.
He had just made a splash on Rachel Lindsay’s season, but ABC shocked fans with the seemingly random choice of Arie Luyendyk Jr.
It turns out that the network almost had Eric as their first Black Bachelor … only to chicken out and cat yet another white lead.
When we say “almost,” we don’t mean “the show could have gone with Eric but that wasn’t what happened.”
We mean that, according to Eric Bigger himself, he was actively in the running and the show was prepared to put him in the role.
Then, without any real explanation, Arie Luyendyk Jr. was announced in his stead.
Eric Bigger spoke to The Sun, sharing that he “wanted” to be The Bachelor back in 2017.
Additionally, he revealed that the network asked him if he was up for the role and was preparing for it.
It would have been a duel season, not unlike The Bachelorette‘s 2015 season with Kaitlyn Bristowe and Birtt Nilsson.
“I was okay with that, like ‘yeah, lets rock & roll,'” Eric revealed.
“And I was in New York,” he shared, “and people thought I was there to go on Good Morning America [to make the Bachelor announcement].”
“But then as soon as I got on my flight to come back to LA, that’s when Arie came on and he was the Bachelor,” Eric recalled.
Eric revealed that this came as a surprise to the point where it “shook” him.
He had received “no feedback” or explanation as to why the network went in another direction.
Eric explained: “I felt like they went back to someone like Arie because he’s more relatable from the audience base, they can get it.”
Eric was asked the obvious question of whether or not race was likely a factor in the decision.
“Yeah, for sure, that’s the audience,” Eric acknowledged.
The Bachelor franchise is infamous for having a starkly white majority viewing audience — and the network has been criticized for catering to the racists among them.
“That’s the crazy thing,” Eric reflected.
“The first time I went on the show, that’s when I realized it was really a divided America,” he admitted.
“I draw the line where I can be like, ‘this is wrong, but I understand why that’s right for them,'” Eric explained.
“I believe they don’t really understand me as a whole,” Eric shared.
“And where I come from,” he explained, “and the world I’m a part of.”
Eric added: “And they don’t have to.
“It doesn’t hurt them, my world doesn’t affect their world on any level,” Eric explained.
“It’s all about relating,” he reasoned, detailing how production selects their stars.
“When you look at the leads from the show who are Black,” Eric observed, “their backgrounds are much different than mine.”
“They grew up in affluent neighborhoods or their parents did,” Eric pointed out.
He added: “they have diverse backgrounds.”
“And,” Eric affirmed, “it’s great!”
“But I come from a predominately Black background,” Eric conveyed.
“And,” he continued, “from the inner city where it’s tough.”
“And it’s not that it’s bad,” Eric generouslyc laimed, “but it’s business, let’s be clear.”
“It’s a numbers game,” Eric said accurately of reality TV casting.
“You’re not going to put someone in front of the camera if they don’t bring the audience,” he reasoned.
Eric characterized the production attitude towards casting conventionally attractive straight cisgender white people every year: “It’s safe.”
Eric saw firsthand how differently the franchise treated his background at the production level.
“I’ll be honest, this is something not too many people know,” he revealed.
Eric continued: “There were some producers at the time on the show, I won’t name names, when we got to [Eric’s hometown] Baltimore.”
“I thought they were going to show up,” Eric said of the producers.
“But when I got there, they weren’t on site,” he shared.
“They were like ‘oh, logistically it didn’t work out,'” Eric recalled.
“But I’m like, they went on every hometown to the other cities,” Eric pointed out.
“I think the perception of Baltimore and how dangerous or violent it could be stimulated some preconceived notion of fear,” he suggested.
“Not,” Eric affirmed, “that it’s right.”
As with the majority of racism, some of the ways in which Eric experienced the relentless whiteness of The Bachelor franchise weren’t conscious malice.
Instead, they took the form of oversights and unconscious neglect.
Like on too many scripted shows, simple features of behind-the-scenes television like hairstyling were unprepared for Black hair.
“The challenge most of the men on my season faced is, the barber on set was a white barber,” Eric shared.
“And,” he explained, “he didn’t know how to cut a brother’s hair.”
That is a huge oversight for a professional production company to make. It’s their job to think of this kind of thing.
“Even with Rachel, she had hair and makeup people who didn’t really know,” Eric revealed.
“My overall experience on the show was beautiful though,” he affirmed.
“I fell in love,” Eric expressed. “It changed my life.”
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