Michelle Walked Offstage After The Bachelorette Ignored Erich's Blackface Pic
“I don’t want an apology ... I want these mistakes to not happen.”
The finale for Season 16 of The Bachelorette was over three hours long, but still, the show managed to leave out some very important conversations. Leading up to finale night, several Bachelorette-related controversies made the rounds online, including photos of Bachelorette Gabby Windey’s now-fiancé Erich Schwer in blackface. Those photos were never addressed during the finale, though, and now, Michelle Young is speaking out about the problematic message the Bachelor franchise sent by ignoring the controversy.
Michelle addressed the lack of discussion about the Bachelorette blackface controversy during the Sept. 21 episode of her podcast, Bachelor Happy Hour, which she co-hosts with fellow former Bachelorette Becca Kufrin. Michelle and Becca attended the live finale along with former Bachelorette and former host Kaitlyn Bristowe. Michelle explained on the podcast that she attended the finale with the assumption that Erich’s blackface photos would be addressed, and that she would not have attended if she knew the topic was going to be ignored.
“We were very, very shocked as we kind of started to process and realize that the show’s addressing the text messages between Erich and this ex-girlfriend that came out, but as it was going on, we were not addressing the blackface,” Michelle explained.
Once the show moved on from Erich’s segment without addressing the blackface photos to introduce Zach Shallcross as the new Bachelor, Michelle was so upset that she left the stage.
“I excused myself on the stage, and just because I was so upset and I was so angry that I felt like I had put myself in a situation where I felt completely silenced,” Michelle said. “Thinking about the POC community at home, and all of us were expecting this franchise to address this and navigate through it, but why are we making the same mistakes of how we are addressing it, where we’re completely not addressing it?”
Although The Bachelorette didn’t acknowledge the blackface controversy, Erich did issue an apology in an Instagram post on Sept. 8. He wrote, “I was naïve to the hurtful implications of my actions to the Black community and those closest to me, and will forever regret my offensive and damaging behavior. I am deeply ashamed by my actions and understand that my apology is only the first step in taking accountability.”
Gabby also addressed Erich’s blackface photos in an interview with Variety on Sept. 21, the day after the finale aired. She said, “He apologized, but ultimately there’s really no excuse for this behavior. I think we’re just really reflecting on ourselves, learning about where these biases come from [and] how they affect other people and how to change them and how to grow.”
Michelle explained that she was hurt and angry by the lack of discussion during the Bachelorette finale.
“There’s no reasoning, there’s no excuse of, ‘we didn’t have enough time,’ because that’s your statement with how you view this community then,” she said. “Maybe it was forgotten, or it was intentionally dropped off. For me, it doesn’t matter because you’re still feeling the exact same way. You’re still not acknowledging this entire community of people.”
Moving forward, Michelle is hoping for accountability from the Bachelor franchise producers. After the finale, she sat down with some of the executive producers to discuss the situation. “They hadn’t seen me that visibly upset before, but I really expressed, ‘I don’t want an apology, I don’t want a reason, I want this to be fixed,’” she said.
Becca echoed Michelle’s sentiments during the podcast episode and said that she stands by Michelle as a “friend and ally.” She also pledged to include on her Instagram more resources to help educate people about race and racism. Both she and Michelle encouraged listeners to set aside time each week to seek out information so that these conversations are not ignored in the future.