For those of us who slogged through this most recent, particularly miserable season of The Bachelorette, the upcoming sixth season of spin-off show Bachelor in Paradise and its near-constant drama comes as no surprise. But if you’ve managed to avoid ABC’s long-running reality dating show, you may have missed the news that for the first time in the franchise’s history, a queer relationship between two women will be featured on-screen. A new preview was released a few weeks ago, and while it mostly highlights the standard tears, hysteria, breakups, fights, and heterosexual clichés that have made the show famous, the teaser also includes self-proclaimed queer queen Demi Burnett openly declaring her love for another woman. “I don’t care who sees this — I know that I love her. I’m just so happy that I found her, and I can definitely picture being with her for the rest of my life.”
— Bachelor in Paradise (@BachParadise) July 23, 2019
The 23-year-old interior designer from Texas made a big impression during Colton Underwood’s season of The Bachelor earlier this year, with her outspoken charm and willingness to defend her choices making her an early fan favorite as well as a bit of a villain. And while she didn’t talk explicitly about her sexual identity during her time in the mansion, Demi has never been afraid to voice her opinions or go after what she wants. Her time on The Bachelor was defined by her ability to clearly articulate her desires, grabbing Colton anytime she wanted to chat and openly sharing her strong opinions on both herself and the other girls in the house with anyone who asked.
And while Demi rarely played by the rules, sneaking away from a grub-hunting group date to bring burgers to her team (“The other girls can suck maggots — I’m drinking champagne”) and setting up private massages and surprises for Colton, she certainly made a lasting impression. As soon as the Paradise preview was released during a recent Bachelorette episode, Demi immediately started tweeting, proudly sharing her queer identity and soon after, defending herself and the LGBTQ+ community from hateful remarks and homophobic attacks. The general mayhem and lighter restrictions of Bachelor in Paradise will most likely be a better fit for her than the original show, allowing all of the contestants space to explore a variety of relationships and giving Demi a perfect platform for her snarky one-liners and unabashed self-assurance.
If you’ve never seen either show, allow me to offer a quick primer: The Bachelor is essentially just a weekly dose of Straight People Watch. Each season, a bachelor or bachelorette gets to know 20-30 contestants, who all live together in a big Malibu mansion. Episodes feature awkward group dates, bizarre challenges, and trips around the world, usually including a ceremony where the featured single offers their chosen partners a rose, requesting their consent to keep dating. The show rarely results in long-term couples, though the finale almost always features a marriage proposal, and is usually more about drama, villains, being present “for the right reasons,” and compulsive heterosexuality over true love or lasting partnerships.
Bachelor in Paradise, on the other hand, invites chaos a bit more than the original 2002 concept. Putting a group of rejected contestants from previous Bachelor seasons together into a sprawling beach resort, people come and go depending on how quickly they connect with other singles. Roses are still distributed, uncomfortable dates are still had, and there are still endless tears, fights, and breakups — but the structure is much looser, allowing for multiple relationships, constant hookups, and daily drama. Bachelor in Paradise doesn’t come close to the brilliance of queer-focused gems like A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila or the absolutely bonkers Are You The One? (which you should definitely be watching), but at least one season of The Bachelor (and later, Bachelor in Paradise) included a queer contestant, and The Bachelor Vietnam became famous for showing two women choosing each other. But perhaps more importantly, ABC’s franchise has a much wider, long-term audience, and could be the first time many viewers see a queer relationship developing on network television.
While The Bachelor and its spinoff shows have a history of teasing drama in previews only to take weeks to reveal it (or to mislead the audience entirely for ratings), interviews and rumors indicate that Demi’s on-screen partner is Kristian Haggerty, an entertainment professional that was introduced to Demi before the show by a mutual friend. Unlike most of the singles that come to Paradise, Kristian has never appeared on any of the franchise’s previous shows, and was instead invited on by producers due to her connection with Demi. And while previews feature Demi kissing some guy in a hot tub as well as making out with a blonde in a dress, the main teaser ends with her walking along the beach, musing about a possible engagement. Let’s hope Demi’s unique brand of chaos and confidence leads to a happy, queer ending.
Season six of Bachelor in Paradise premieres tonight, August 5th, and airs Monday and Tuesday nights at 8pm EST on ABC. And if you watch the episodes live, join me on Twitter using #QueerQueenDemi.