When Jesse Palmer, host of the hit franchise The Bachelor (and its many spin-offs), announced that the lead for the 21st season of The Bachelorette would be the gorgeous, funny, smart, Vietnamese American Jenn Tran, I was elated. I can’t say I was as shocked as everyone else in Bachelor Nation apparently was, as I had been a fan of hers all season and had hoped she would be the show’s next Bachelorette. 

The announcement of the new Bachelorette garnered both massive confusion and hostility towards Jenn Tran and the production of the franchise. I have been following the series for long enough to know that there will be (mostly unwarranted) backlash no matter who is selected to lead the show, but this time, the response to Jenn is taking away from the triumph of finally having an Asian American lead. 

As an Asian American woman and fan of the franchise, I think Jenn Tran as The Bachelorette is reality TV representation that all Asian Americans should celebrate, be excited about and support.

For those who are unfamiliar with the show, the premise of the Bachelorette is as follows: one lead has a selection of around 25 contestants that they get to date over the span of a month and a half before eventually choosing to accept an engagement from one of them if they so desire. Each week, the Bachelorette and their contestants go on different types of dates around the world before eventually narrowing it down to two final contestants vying for an engagement with the lead. 

As the title suggests, the lead is given the opportunity to literally lead their own love story. After 22 long years of seeing mostly white love stories on screen — the first Black Bachelorette was in 2017, and the first Black Bachelor was in 2021 — we finally, finally have an Asian American led love story to root for. 

Asian Americans have always been elusive in the history of the franchise. Apart from a few notable contestants, such as Filipina Final One Catherine Giudici from Bachelor Season 17 and Chinese Canadian contestant Sharleen Joynt from Bachelor Season 18, there are rarely more than a couple of Asian American contestants casted, none of whom make it far into the show. They are never the focus of production, barely get attention from the lead, and are largely left unknown to the audience. Before you know it, all Asian American faces are sent home, and it’s like they were never even there in the first place. 

The most recent Bachelor season began to shake up the status quo. Bachelor 28 with lead Joey Graziadei featured three Asian Americans — Lea Cayanan, Hawaii native and recipient of the highly lauded First Impression Rose; Rachel Nance, Final Three contestant of Filipino and African American descent; and Jenn Tran, Vietnamese American who made it to the top six. All three women made lasting impacts on the season, making it farther than usual for Asian American contestants and getting plenty of screentime to show off their charms. 

The journey of these women was not without struggle. In the first week of the season, the official Bachelor account posted a picture of Jenn Tran but incorrectly tagged her as Lea Cayanan. The mistake sparked backlash among fans and prompted both Tran and Cayanan to post TikToks in response. Tran began the caption to her video with a simple yet powerful statement: “This is why Asian representation on TV is so important.” Rachel Nance opened up at the Women Tell All about racist comments and slurs from fans. An influx of hate came after her hometown date, which showcased traditional Filipino and Hawaiian culture. Nance also addressed the public’s disgust towards seeing the interracial romance between her and Joey. 

The fact that these experiences are still happening further emphasizes the importance of having an Asian American Bachelorette. As Cayanan puts it, “We shouldn’t be a DEI quota- little side characters to be quickly forgotten or not cared for.” With Jenn as lead, she gets to be the main character and take charge of her story for Asian Americans across the nation to see.

I am confident that Jenn, who understands the importance of being the first Asian American Bachelorette, will do a wonderful job fulfilling her role.

She has been picked on and stereotyped across social media platforms for being boring and quiet, and for taking the spot of other popular contestants that many believe would be a better fit as lead. Jenn, at least the Jenn I saw on my screen for all of winter, combats all of this criticism. On her one-on-one date with Joey, Jenn opened up about her complex relationship with her immigrant parents, where cultural values created clashes and complicated her quest for love. Jenn’s candid talk touched the hearts of many Asian Americans with similar experiences, who expressed gratitude to Jenn for opening up and bringing light to real marginalized stories that fail to make it to a national stage.

Throughout the show, Jenn was strong and bright, actively making space for her personality to shine and for the connection between her and Joey to grow. On top of her humor and radiance, Jenn is a physician assistant student who regularly talks about the ups and downs of being in medical school. 

Jenn Tran as the Bachelorette resists the model minority stereotype that continues to follow Asian Americans in the media and on screen. The decisions and actions Jenn will take as the lead make it impossible for her to be categorized as docile and passive. Jenn has the opportunity to take control of her sexuality and feminity without being hypersexualized or orientalized. As the lead, Jenn is in a position of power as a main character, a place that Asian American women are rarely seen in. Jenn is proof that Asian American women can pursue a lucrative career while making time for love and intimacy. 

With a history of Asian American women either being portrayed as the hypersexual, exotic sex object or the top-of-the-class, straight A student, Jenn shows Asian American women that romance and intelligence are not mutually exclusive. While looking for love on reality TV is obviously not a common experience, having an Asian American Bachelorette is a step towards portraying multifaceted and multicultural love stories that have been missing from the screens.

Having an Asian American Bachelorette has been long overdue. Now that we have one as lovely as Jenn Tran, it is our chance to celebrate and support the representation that we may not think of right off the bat, but is needed nonetheless.

Visual Credit: Lukas

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