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Jenn Tran is the 1st Asian American ‘Bachelorette’. What it means to fans

"I had to do a double take," one fan tells TODAY.com of announcement, which she calls "long overdue."
JENN TRAN
Jenn Tran will make history during Season 21 of "The Bachelorette" as the franchise's first Asian American lead.John Fleenor / Disney
/ Source: TODAY

“Bachelor” host Jesse Palmer can veer hyperbolic when he teases what will unfold in an episode of the reality TV show. So when he said “history will be made here tonight” during the Season 28 "Bachelor" finale on March 25, fans were skeptical.

But he, and the franchise, lived up to their promise: After 22 years the show will finally have its first Asian American lead.?

The show invited previous lead Charity Lawson to reveal during the “After the Final Rose” segment that Jenn Tran has been chosen as the next “Bachelorette.”

Tran, a 26-year-old from Miami who is currently studying to be physician assistant, spoke about her Vietnamese culture and being Asian American during her time on Joey Graziadei’s season of “The Bachelor.”?

JOEY GRAZIADEI, JENN
Joey Graziadei and Jenn Tran getting to know each other on Season 28 of "The Bachelor."Jan Thijs / Disney

She explained the significance of her stepping into the lead role for her season, which will premiere in July, while talking to Palmer.

“It’s honestly incredible and I feel so, so grateful and so honored to be the first Asian Bachelorette in this franchise,” she shared. “Growing up, I’ve always wanted to see Asian representation on TV. I feel like it was really sparse. Anytime Asians were in the media it was to fill a supporting character role, to fulfill some sort of stereotype and I always felt boxed in by that because I was like, I don’t see myself on screen. I don’t see myself as a main character.”

Now, she’s ready to take center stage.?

“I am going to lead my own love story. I am going to be the main character in my story. I just can’t help but think of how many people I’m inspiring and how many lives that may change,” she added.?

She shared a similar inspirational message on her Instagram after the announcement.?

“This opportunity to find love as the Bachelorette is so much bigger than myself and I am embracing that whole heartedly,” she wrote, in part. “I am so incredibly excited for this crazy adventure to find my person and I can’t wait for all of us to laugh and cry together.”

Members of Bachelor Nation immediately expressed their support for Tran. Jill Chin, who appeared on Clayton Echard’s season of “The Bachelor” and Season Eight of “Bachelor in Paradise,” tweeted, “First Asian bachelorette let’s go!!!!! I love you Jenn.” She added multiple red hearts to the post.?

Sharleen Joynt, a fan-favorite from Juan Pablo Galavis’ season of “The Bachelor,” praised Tran on her podcast, “Dear Shandy.”

During a recap of the Season 28 finale, Joynt, who co-hosts the podcast with her husband Andy Levine, said she had been a fan of Tran all season long and that the choice was “thrilling.”?

“I think she’s going to be awesome,” Joynt said. “I’m so stoked.”?

She said she didn’t expect the announcement, which was revealed during the final minutes of the episode.??

“I think that she will be perfect and she also brings a bit of that spice. You know, we said throughout the season that she’s got confidence… Like she just says it like it is and I really like that about her,” Joynt said.

She also noted the franchise’s history of not having an Asian lead since it began in March 2002.?

“I personally think this franchise has been circling around wanting an Asian bachelor or bachelorette for a while and it just hasn’t (happened),” she said.?

Joynt mentioned her close friend Caila Quinn, a “Bachelor” Season 20 alum, who was rumored to be the Season 12 bachelorette in 2016.

At the time, Steve Carbone, who goes by RealitySteve online and has posted spoilers about the show for years, shared photos of Quinn filming what appeared to be an intro video for her season. But after JoJo Fletcher’s emotional breakup with bachelor Ben Higgins, she was chosen as the lead instead.?

“(Quinn) was supposed to be the bachelorette and then they took it away from her to give it to JoJo. And of course JoJo was a great bachelorette, but I feel like they’ve been trying to make this happen for a while,” Joynt said.

She also added that she “deeply” related to Tran’s story about seeing a lack of Asian representation on television growing up.?

"Bachelor" alum Caila Quinn tearfully reacts to Jenn Tran being named the next bachelorette.
"Bachelor" alum Caila Quinn tearfully reacts to Jenn Tran being named the next bachelorette.@cailaquinn via Instagram

Quinn reacted to the historic news, too. She posted a selfie on her Instagram story of her watching the announcement with tears in her eyes.

“Saw a spoiler of the next bachelorette on insta and i couldn’t believe it until i heard it myself,” she said. "Maybe it’s my pregnancy hormones but I am SO happy to see an Asian Bachelorette!!!! @jenntranx is so witty, independent, strong, and smart — I’m just SO happy for her!! Never thought I’d see @bachelorabc help an Asian lead find love — but here they are making history and it’s amazing.”

TODAY.com spoke to longtime Bachelor Nations fans who opened up about the significance of finally seeing a person who looks like them as the star of “The Bachelorette.”

Lana Tso, a junior at the University of Akron, shares that she has been watching the popular reality show since she was in middle school. She says she was looking forward to the premiere of Tran’s season.?

“I’m also an Asian American, so I’m really excited to see that representation in TV, like Jenn mentioned. And I’m just excited to see how she represents us and our community,” she says.

The college student says she also noticed the absence of leading Asian characters on television as a child. She recognizes the significance of a show like “The Bachelorette,” with its millions of loyal, passionate fans, making Tran the new face of its franchise.?

Tso compliments the positive energy Tran exuded during Graziadei’s season.?

“I know she made me smile and I hope she made others smile as well. And she just seems like a really nice person,” she says.?

Tso says she knows Tran is going to face criticism and the new bachelorette’s positivity will be an asset. “I think she’s going to handle it well,” Tso predicts.?

JENN
Tran during a group date on Season 28 of "The Bachelor"John Fleenor / Disney

Radhika Handa, a graduate student studying at the University of Michigan, tells TODAY.com she has been watching the show since 2010 when Ali Fedotowsky was the bachelorette in Season Six.

But she stepped away from the franchise a few years ago after seeing how people of color were treated by fans of the show.?

After Tran was announced, some members of Bachelor Nation voiced their disappointment on social media, posting that they preferred Season 28 contestants Daisy Kent or Maria Georgas. They left cruel, unsupportive comments on the official Instagram post revealing Tran as the Season 21 bachelorette.?

Handa was reminded of the controversies surrounding former leads of color. “The way that they were treated by the public audience, the kind of lack of support that they were really getting, kind of just really turned me off,” Handa shares. “I mean, I knew there was always that dark side to the ‘Bachelor’ fan base, but I think it really became very evident and was in the forefront in a bad light, unfortunately, for some of those leads. So that was a little disappointing for me.”

Matt James’ season as the first Black bachelor in 2021 was overshadowed by his final rose recipient and current girlfriend, Rachael Kirkconnell, previously attending an antebellum plantation-themed party.?

“Bachelor” Season 28 contestant Rachel Nance cried just a few weeks ago during “The Women Tell All” episode after she shared some of the racist messages she received from viewers when she made it into the final three.?

Handa says she decided to start watching the show again about halfway through Graziadei’s season after hearing positive reviews. She tuned in and felt like the franchise had made “refreshing” changes.?

The graduate student was monitoring her phone during the finale and saw some fans assuming that Kent was the next lead. When she read the news about Tran being cast on social media, she was surprised.?

“I was thrilled. I had to do a double take because I was just like, ‘Wait a minute. What is happening?’” she says.

Jenn Tran was announced as the Season 21 Bachelorette.
Jenn Tran spoke about the importance of Asian representation on television after being announced as the Season 21 bachelorette.John Fleenor / Disney

She continues, “Being Asian American myself, I think the franchise has really not done a great job of presenting Asian Americans in the cast. So it was really nice to see this season with Joey at least having several Asian American women on board. And then to have this announcement that Jenn Tran would be our first Asian American bachelorette, that was really exciting."

She says the "Bachelor" franchise offers a significant chance at representation outside of fictional TV: "You really get to see someone in their real life experience on their journey for love.”

Like Tran, Handa says she couldn’t pinpoint a strong female Asian American lead in the media she encountered during her childhood.?

“In popular culture, oftentimes, we’re really just relegated to side characters and really unfortunate stereotypes as well. So that kind of gets propagated through society and media,” she says.?

"It’s long overdue,” she adds. “I think for the community, it’s just something for us to really celebrate that we’re finally getting our time in the spotlight.”

She describes Tran as a “beacon of light” and says she will also inspire people with her pursuit of becoming a physician assistant.?

But, Handa still worries about how Tran’s season will be handled given the franchise’s history. She references Rachel Lindsay, the first Black bachelorette, having to deal with one of her contestant’s racist tweets and past BIPOC contestants and leads being “ravaged and thrashed on social media.”?

She says the marketing leading up to the season will indicate how the show plans to present Tran to their audience.?

“I hope they don’t almost fetishize her because I know that’s another concern amongst many Asian American women,” she says. “That’s really demeaning. I hope there aren’t any microaggressions that come through.”

Instead, she hopes the show takes the opportunity to celebrate Tran’s Vietnamese culture.?

Until she sees how Tran is presented, she'll be "a little hesitant" about this new season.

"I’ll definitely be on guard and on watch to see how public perception kind of changes or shifts based on what is being portrayed through her season. But my hope is that it’ll ultimately be a positive expression of the richness of our culture and Jenn as a person, as well,” she says.

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