The Bachelor franchise may be making some strides, but they're not quite enough for one former employee.
Jazzy Collins, who formerly worked on the franchise as a casting producer, wrote an open letter to the franchise about her experiences working on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The letter was posted after ABC announced that Matt James had been cast as the first Black lead in the history of the franchise, a few days after a petition had been launched calling for that casting and many more efforts to make the franchise a more inclusive place.
"I am a Casting Producer who previously worked on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette series for 5 seasons," Collins' letter begins. "During my time on The Bachelor/Bachelorette, I was the only Black person in the casting office from when I was hired for casting the first season of a Black Bachelorette through the four seasons I worked on afterwards."
Collins says that they were called on to "have a very diverse cast" for Rachel Lindsay's season, and she was "very excited to be an integral part of the show's history."
"My hope was that having a racially diverse cast of gentlemen would be an important milestone that would continue into the future," she says. "That was not the case."
"After finishing Rachel Lindsay's season of The Bachelorette, it went back to status quo: the cast was predominantly white. The only Black women that were picked to be in the running had weaves or chemically straightened hair, were 'ethnically ambiguous,' or were not considered if they were 'too Black,'" Collins continues. "Women with afros, braids, locs, etc; weren't given a chance because of the white standards of beauty."
Collins says she tried to speak out, but what "hit with many microaggressions, including being called 'aggressive.'"
"I felt alone," she says. "While walking through the production and post offices, I only saw a total of three Black people. Soon after I left the show, I found out the only Black cast producer was also no longer with the team."
"Your show has white-washed for decades, inside and out. Your head of post-production is white. Your Casting Director is white. Your Executive in Charge is white. You only cast the token Black Person, Asian person, or Latinx person to satisfy what you believe to be the needs of viewers," Collins writes. "Many called for a Black bachelor for years—but you ignored it."
Collins says she's "happy" that Matt James has been chosen as the first Black bachelor in 25 seasons, but she also points out the circumstances.
"It took a pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement to take a moment and reassess the issue at hand, which I've called on for years."
Collins asks the show to go further than just casting a Black lead.
"I am calling on you to select a diverse cast and production team for season 25 of The Bachelor and moving forward," she says. "Not only is it important to have a diverse cast reflect what the rest of America looks like, it's important for the production and casting teams to be able to share the same experiences as the cast members. You're expecting a white team to be able to intimately produce people of color on an emotional level that they're truly unable to relate to."
"A Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous man or woman should not have to walk on a set for up to eight weeks and stare at a crowd of white faces while they pour their heart out on national TV without also having a diverse, understanding team to guide them through the process."
In an interview with E! News, Collins says she has not yet heard from anyone at The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, other than a few of her friends who still work there.
"They have been incredibly supportive and want the change," she says. "I would love to hear from the Executive Producers directly about how they plan to implement change, not just that they will."
Collins says she is all for the petition started by the Bachelor Diversity Campaign.
"I love the idea," she says. "I stand behind them 100%."
On Friday afternoon, the EPs of the Bachelor franchise released a statement that promised to "make significant changes" to address the lack of diversity.
"We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff, and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television. We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories," the statement read.
Collins says that to her, the statement "felt like a blanket statement written by a lawyer," and did not make it clear how they plan to make those changes.
"It was made after both myself and Rachel Lindsay called for change and because of the BLM movement," she says. "Many networks/TV shows are scrambling to release statements and it feels very performative. If they actually supported BIPOC, why didn't they do this years ago?"
But Collins thinks the change they're promising is possible, if they can commit to hiring a more diverse team.
"I think it can be possible for the show to implement this change, but they need BIPOC behind them on the production team," she tells us. "The standards they currently have in place have been there for decades and have not evolved with the times. What may have been acceptable 10 years ago, is not acceptable now."
While Collins is still waiting to hear from the executive producers, she says she's received a lot of support for her letter.
"The outpour of love and similar stories that are coming from the casting and production community has been amazing," she says. "I'm hoping this will be the spark for change in Hollywood moving forward!
—Reporting by Holly Passalaqua