ABC’s ‘Bachelor’ TV franchise makes history with first same-sex engagement
When Demi Burnett got down on one knee and asked Kristian Haggerty to marry her during the season finale of ABC’s “Bachelor in Paradise” the two women made Bachelor Nation TV franchise history.
“I came here to find myself. But I found myself in you,” Burnett said before asking Haggerty, “Will you marry me?”
An emotional Haggerty answered, “Of course I will.” She then knelt down and embraced Burnett.
Bachelor Nation in the U.S., for those who may not know, encompasses the worlds of ABC’s elimination-style reality TV shows “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise.” The formats for all shows bring together men and women in search of their soul mates and invite them to find that true love among, until now, only opposite sex contestants.
“The Bachelor” debuted in 2002 followed by “The Bachelorette” in 2003. “Bachelor in Paradise” premiered in 2014 as a spinoff of these two shows with casts of some their former fan-favorite contestants. Combined, the three shows have aired for 44 seasons.
That’s a lot of TV shows where heterosexual couples are celebrated and often become mainstream celebrities. The shows have been derided by LGBTQ+ advocates for not including same-sex couples in the mix, especially since other “Bachelor”-style shows in Vietnam and Australia (after the season ended, however) have already reached the milestone.
Burnett, 24, first hinted at a same-sex angle for this season of “Bachelor in Paradise” by tweeting in July, “Spoiler alert: I’m a queer queen.”
Spoiler alert: I’m a queer queen 👸🏼💕🌈 #BachelorInParadise
— Demi Burnett (@demi_burnett) July 23, 2019
When the show debuted, Burnett told friend and former “Bachelorette” Hannah Brown that she had been in a relationship with a woman in Los Angeles before filming in Mexico.
“I have been kind of seeing someone,” Burnett said.
“Of course—plot twist—it happens to be a woman,” she added. “It’s not something that I need to label, so I feel like I don’t have to proclaim that I am gay, I am straight, I am bisexual, I am this. I just like who I like. It doesn’t matter who or what you are, it’s the person.”
BIP producers saw their chance to perhaps silence their critics and flew Haggerty, 25, to Mexico to be on the show to explore the U.S. franchise’s first same-sex relationship.
Host Chris Harrison said they decided to “bend the rules” by bringing in Haggerty, a franchise outsider, because the time was right.
“But with the way we do the show now, we let it come to us,” he said. “When this situation presented itself to us with somebody we really love and care about in Demi, I think our initial instinct was the right one: ‘Let’s lean into it. Let’s go there. Let’s explore this.’
“We’re a microcosm of what’s happening in the world,” Harrison added. “We’re all evolving and getting more intelligent, and our eyes are opening in a lot of ways.”
Burnett told The Hollywood Reporter she was fearful about coming out as sexually fluid on TV and did not think “Bachelor in Paradise” would even consider inviting Haggerty to be on the show.
“I had been suppressing the whole coming out thing for a while,” she said. “It’s the same concerns that any person in the LGBTQ community goes through: fear of judgment, people not understanding or, just because you don’t like the same thing they like, people seeing you differently because of that. That’s the concern.”
Burnett and Haggerty had their challenges during the season, but when it came time on the finale to make a decision about whether to stay together–traditionally portrayed by the giving of a red rose – Burnett reached past the rose for a small black box.
“I know that this has been really hard. I’ve put you through struggles and you were always there for me regardless of how much I didn’t deserve it at the time,” Burnett told Haggerty during her proposal.
“I never knew that someone could be that patient. There were a lot of things that came between us, mostly myself and my own struggles,” Burnett added. “Like you said, I came here to find myself. But I found myself in you.”
Burnett said her decision to ask Haggerty to marry her was not intended to be historic, but instead to be about love.
“I know it’s a big deal that it was the first same-sex [engagement] on this franchise in the U.S., but we weren’t thinking of the significance of that at the time,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was just about us loving each other and that’s really what the focus was.”
“Bachelor in Paradise” received praise from GLAAD, an organization that focuses on how LGBTQ+ people are portrayed in the media.
“Seeing two women get engaged on Bachelor in Paradise is a groundbreaking step forward towards including LGBTQ couples across reality television. Reality TV is finally moving towards storylines that LGBTQ audiences and allies have been craving for quite some time,” GLAAD President and CEO Sara Kate Ellis said in a tweet.
“Seeing two women get engaged on Bachelor in Paradise is a groundbreaking step forward towards including LGBTQ couples across reality television. Reality TV is finally moving towards storylines that LGBTQ audiences and allies have been craving for quite some time” @sarahkateellis https://t.co/Z5Av3qdQnZ
— GLAAD (@glaad) September 18, 2019
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