"This is about me now."
Bachelor Nation: Meet your new leading lady, as Clare Crawley has officially been named the next star of The Bachelorette, marking her fifth time at finding love within franchise after appearing on The Bachelor, two seasons of Bachelor in Paradise and The Bachelor Winter Games.
The ABC reality hit surprised many fans when the announcement was made on Good Morning America on Monday, just hours before Peter Weber's Women Tell All special airs, as they once again bucked their usual trend of picking their lead from the most recent season.
But when you really think about the current state of The Bachelor franchise and its future, Clare, a hairstylist living in Sacramento, Calif, was really the perfect choice to lead season 16, with a source telling E! News that the producers "knew they were losing viewership and needed to change it up."
And Clare is exactly the shake-up the franchise needs. Here are all of the right reasons why:
1. Let's start with the obvious: Clare's age. With just one woman over the age of 30 and the median age of his contestants being 25 (with nine women between the ages of 22-23), Peter's season received some flak from fans for the endless stream of petty fights and immature confrontations between the women. So it seems the producers knew they needed to course-correct ASAP.
"We'll look at everything. I don't think you ever say you'd do anything differently, but I think it's that we need to look at things going forward," Robert Mills, the senior VP of alternative programming at ABC, told Entertainment Tonight ahead of the announcement. "You see a lot of people talking about the age of contestants, I think that's something we'd probably look at and say, 'Does it need to be aged up? Are these girls ready?'"
Chris Harrison also weighed in on the age of Peter's women being something the franchise needed to take a look at moving forward when he was on The Ben and Ashley I. Almost Famous podcast.
"The show will always ebb and flow and the pendulum will swing in a lot of ways but we always sit back and reflect on what worked, what didn't, what needs to change, and I think the age definitely be something we look at and it's something you have to pay attention to," he said. "Where are these people in their life?"
For Clare, she will be 39 when her journey to find love kicks off, making her the oldest Bachelorette the franchise has ever had. Previously, Rachel Lindsay held the title, handing out the roses when she was 32. Before her, just two Bachelorettes had crossed the 30-mark when they held the title.
"This time, producers wanted to try with someone older, more mature," a source tells E! News, with another revealing producers had also met with Tia Booth and Tayshia Adams from Colton Underwood's season after Hannah Brown reportedly turned down the offer to serve as the Bachelorette again.
A second source adds, "They wanted someone who was older, more mature and had more life experience."
2. Listen, we know the last time the franchise tried to pull a fast one on fans by picking a blast from the blast as their next lead rather than a fan-favorite from the most recent batch of contestants it didn't go so well, with Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s ultra-dramatic ending (you know, the whole dumping his first pick on camera to go on to get engaged to his original runner-up thing) saving his season from being a full-blown dud.
But Clare is different, as she didn't go into full hibernation mode after her first appearance and even had 326,000 Instagram followers prior to her coronation, a number many wannabe influencers in recent seasons would drink Flat Tummy Tea for. Sure, she first appeared in 2014, making it to the final rose ceremony in Juan Pablo Galavis' s--tshow of a season, but Clare has since made three appearances, all of which were memorable, entertaining and dramatic.
She made two trips to Mexico for Bachelor in Paradise, and was actually the contestant that kicked off the talking-to-animals trope as she vented to her raccoon pal with her romantic frustrations.
And when she returned for The Bachelor Winter Games, she delivered the spinoff's most surprising and swoonworthy love story, getting engaged to The Bachelorette Canada star Benoît Beauséjour-Savard during the World Tells All special after they secretly began dating after they both left the show.
Alas, they ended their engagement just three months later, but the woman gives good TV and the producers know it. "Clare is known to be very emotional and vulnerable and they know they are going to get a good season," a show insider tells E! News.
3. Any fan who watched Juan Pablo's season knows Clare isn't afraid to stand up for herself and did so multiple times with the Venezuelan Bachelor stepped out of line.
Clare, who was 32 at the time, found herself in the middle of one of the season's biggest controversies when she went on a spontaneous midnight dip in the ocean with Juan Pablo, something he then later expressed regret over because he had a young daughter. (Logic!)
And when JP sat down with Clare at the cocktail ceremony and "blindsided" her by calling it a "mistake," Clare refused to apologize or let him shame her into feeling like she had done something wrong when "nothing happened" in the water.
After the episode aired, E! News spoke to Clare, who insisted nothing went down in the water.
"I wanted to make sure that I stood up for myself and that it came across that I won't let someone demean me or make me feel bad or make me feel shame for something that isn't wrong," she explained to E! News after the episode aired, "I didn't want to look like I did something wrong or like a pushover. I didn't want it to look like that."
And it seems that ability to stand up for herself as only strengthened in the six years since Juan Pablo's season.
"For me, it just is more years under my belt, more learning and knowing what I want, what I don't want," Clare said on Good Morning America.
4. At 38, Clare knows what she wants and refuses to settle, expecting a lot of out of the men who will show up to the mansion on night one.
"Honestly, for me, the most important thing is I want a man who will take off his armor, who is strong, but is willing to take off the body armor, open himself up and be vulnerable," she said on GMA. "And I think that is some serious strength right there. So, I want a man who can do that."
And on Instagram, Clare's ex-fiance Benoît wrote, "She is smart, fun, strong, knows what she wants and most importantly, she will call out the guys messing around!!"
Just look at the way she handled Juan Pablo at the final rose ceremony, when he didn't propose to her or Nikki Ferrell, the woman who received his final rose. Rather than go quietly, Clare told the Bachelor off for his behavior throughout the season, which included Apparently, Clare told her leading man at the time, "just tell me you love me," and he responded with, "I loved f--king you.")
"I went into this feeling I'm going to be 100 percent open and I'm going to be 100 percent myself and I'm going to think about what I do and, because I thought and then acted, I'm proud of that," she told GMA after, going on to say not ending up with Juan Pabs was "a blessing in disguise."
5. As Clare is almost 15 years older than Hannah B., the initial Bachelorette producers were casting suitors for, a source tells us the show is doing some last-minute recasting so that some of the men will be "more age-appropriate."
And that's refreshing! Bachelor Nation is already at maximum f--kboy capacity, and it'll be nice to have some men who aren't just biding their time until the next Stagecoach Festival. (That being said: f--kboys can easily become f--kmen, so...)
While open to dating younger men, Clare did admit the contestants on this season of The Bachelor feel like "babies."
A source close to production tells E! News the age of Clare's youngest potential suitor is 30.
6. Clare is also super close with her family and is the youngest of six sisters. Just imagine all of the drama that will come from her protective big sisters not taking any s--t from the men when it comes to their baby sister, who is already more than capable of handling herself.
After the devastating loss of her father to brain cancer years ago, before her first appearance on the Bachelor, Clare is hoping to find a partner than can emulate him.
"I am looking for a man that is just like my dad: strong, loving, gentle, compassionate and just a real genuine, kind man," she said on GMA.
7. Finally, Clare is just ready--to find love and for this new journey, especially after a challenging 2019, which she opened up about in an emotional Instagram post.
"2019 was awful tough. I don't show it often, but there were so many days where I wanted to just crumble. But my CHOSEN family, and 2 sisters fought right along side me when I was struggling. (Ya I said it) And I am forever forever grateful!! " she wrote. "They held me up when the weight of my moms diagnosis crushed my soul. We fight together."
She continued, So ya, here's my 2020 energy⚡️, and who cares if I gained weight, earned a few more wrinkles and have a goofy looking chipped front tooth! I worked hard for this happiness."
The Bachelorette will begin filming in just a couple of weeks as The Bachelor finishes out season 24. "The Women Tell All" airs tonight along with the reveal of Peter's final two ladies, while the two-night finale begins next Monday at 8 p.m. on ABC.