Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Clare! Arie! Nick! All the Times ‘The Bachelor’ Shocked Fans With Its Lead

By Michael Mar 26, 2024

Bachelor Nation has seen its fair share of controversial contestants and final picks, but when it comes to choosing the franchise’s lead it’s usually easy to call — but not always.

When The Bachelorette announced Clare Crawley, who hadn’t been on a Bachelor series or one if its spinoffs since 2018’s Bachelor Winter Games, as its newest lead, on Monday, March 2, 2020, some fans were shocked.

More often than not the next Bachelor or Bachelorette is chosen from the final four contestants, many times the No. 3 runner-up. Crawley, however, isn’t the first individual to come out of left field to take over the reins on a season of the ABC dating show.

In fact, there have been four seasons of The Bachelorette and three seasons of The Bachelor that threw major curveballs to diehard watchers of the series. Before Crawley, 38, was announced as the oldest Bachelorette in history, Becca Kufrin, surprised some viewers when she took the role in 2018 — after winning her season of The Bachelor and subsequently being dumped for all of America to watch on TV.

Then there was Arie Luyendyk Jr., who picked Kufrin, 29, at first and later left her to pursue his runner-up, Lauren Burnham, who he eventually married and welcomed a child with. Before appearing as the lead on season 22 of The Bachelor, the race car driver, 38, was out of the reality TV game for six years.

Of course, fans can’t forget when Nick Viall took over the coveted role — after appearing on The Bachelorette twice — creating a divide between viewers who were Team Nick and those who were Team Luke Pell.

One of the biggest twists in casting was in 2015 when there were two Bachelorettes, Britt Nilsson and Kaitlyn Bristowe, who the men voted on before moving forward with one lady.

Lastly, fans have to go back a few years to remember Emily Maynard as a Bachelorette, who was brought back after she won, but later split from Brad Womack. Womack as the lead was also unprecedented after he decided to let both of his final two women go the first time. He returned to the franchise four years later to try it again.

Keep scrolling to relive the most shocking lead choices in Bachelor Nation history:

Jenn Tran
Joey Graziadei’s runner-up, Daisy Kent, turned down the Bachelorette gig, so ABC threw fans for a curveball when choosing Jenn Tran as The Bachelorette season 21 lead — making her the first-ever Asian American Bachelorette.
Graziadei broke up with Tran ahead of the hometown dates, weeks before proposing to Kelsey Anderson during his March 2024 finale.
Disney/John Fleenor
Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey
The finalists from Echard’s season were both announced as Bachelorette leads after season 26 of The Bachelor. Echard broke up with Recchia and Windey during the finale in order to rekindle his romance with Susie Evans. The upcoming Bachelorettes will be doing one full season together.
ABC/Craig Sjodin
Clayton Echard
Weeks after Young’s season wrapped ahead of its October 2021 premiere date, Us Weekly confirmed in September that one of her contestants would become the next Bachelor. After the former football player was spotted filming with a camera crew around his Eureka, Missouri, hometown on September 15, Us confirmed Echard had the role.
Later that day, showrunner Mike Fleiss teased via Twitter that the “new #TheBachelor is a great guy from Michelle’s season of #TheBachelorette. Can’t wait for you to meet him!” Fleiss also noted that his first name starts with the letter “C.”
Courtesy of Clayton Echard/Instagram
Katie Thurston and Michelle Young
Back to back! For the first time, ABC announced the next two Bachelorettes at once following The Bachelor season 25. During the After the Final Rose special in March 2021, guest host Emmanuel Acho named Thurston and Young the next two leads.
“I was a little nervous, but once I found out that it was two different seasons, I was here for it,” the Minnesota native said at the time. “I’m excited that I get to have somebody to bond over with this and share notes as we go.”
ABC/Craig Sjodin
Matt James
The ABC Food Tours founder was slated to appear on Crawley’s season in 2020. After the show was delayed amid the coronavirus pandemic, ABC surprised fans by announcing that James would not compete for Crawley’s affections and instead, first be seen during season 25 as the first Black male lead.
“It’s an honor,” the real estate agent said on Good Morning America in June 2020. “I’m just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me, and hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday nights, they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”
ABC/Billy Kidd
Tayshia Adams
Less than two weeks into season 16, Crawley quit the show after finding love with a contestant who she connected with before filming began. The network brought then brought in Tayshia Adams to replace her. Adams appeared on Colton Underwood’s season of The Bachelor and went on to season 6 of Bachelor in Paradise. She briefly dated John Paul Jones but the two split in October 2019.
Craig Sjodin/ABC
Clare Crawley
The Sacramento native was named the lead for season 16 of The Bachelorette on March 2, 2020. After season 24 of The Bachelor skewed really young, with both of the final two contestants being only 23 years old, ABC opted for a more seasoned woman for the role — Crawley was 38 when she was cast. She first competed for love on season 18 of The Bachelor before going on Bachelor in Paradise twice and later Bachelor Winter Games in 2018. Although she left alone from that spinoff, she was later proposed to by The Bachelorette Canada alum Benoit Beausejour-Savard. The two called it quits a few months later.
Mandatory Credit: Photo by MediaPunch/Shutterstock
Becca Kufrin
The Minnesota native is one of two women to become the Bachelorette after winning her season of The Bachelor. Kufrin was first introduced to fans during season 22 of The Bachelor where she won, getting engaged to Arie Luyendyk Jr. The couple split after Luyendyk Jr. realized he still had feelings for his runner-up. Despite the heartbreak, Kufrin was asked to become the Bachelorette and she accepted. She handed out roses during season 14 of the show in 2018, picking Garrett Yrigoyen as her winner.
Broadimage/Shutterstock
Arie Luyendyk, Jr.
The race car driver ended as the runner-up on season 8 of The Bachelorette, which had Emily Maynard as its lead. He then popped up during season 17 of The Bachelor to give Sean Lowe advice before becoming the main guy during season 22. Six years after his first shot of love, the Arizona native returned to the franchise, after Peter Krause didn’t take the job. He then went on to be one of the most controversial Bachelors in history for choosing one girl and then dumping her before the “After the Final Rose” special filmed.
Mediapunch/Shutterstock
Nick Viall
The Wisconsin native is no stranger to Bachelor Nation. He appeared on The Bachelorette in season 10 vying for Andi Dorfman’s heart and then later joined the cast of season 11 competing for Kaitlyn Bristowe’s heart starting in week four. He was then on Bachelor in Paradise before being announced as the Bachelor for season 21 in 2016, which was one year after he last competed on the dating show. He beat out Bachelorette alum Chase McNary and Pell for the starting spot.
AFF-USA/Shutterstock
Kaitlyn Bristowe, Britt Nilsson
For season 11 of The Bachelorette, ABC chose to have both Nilsson and Bristowe start the journey as co-Bachelorettes for night one of the series. During the evening, they met all the men in the house and then the guys cast their votes for which woman they wanted to run the show. It was a first for the franchise and was intense. Bristowe ultimately won the spot and picked Shawn Booth as her final man.
Eric Jamison/Invision/AP/Shutterstock
Emily Maynard
After starring on season 15 of The Bachelor and winning Brad Womack’s heart, the West Virginia native split from Womack after the show finished. Because she was so beloved by fans, she was asked back by producers to be the leading lady for season 8 of the dating show. It was the first time a winner was picked to be the lead. During her season she again got engaged, but her relationship didn’t last.
Kristina Bumphrey/Starpix/Shutterstock
Brad Womack
In 2007, Womack first appeared as the Bachelor for the ABC show. He also became the first man in the history of the franchise to reject all of the suitors and not pick anyone in the end. Four years later, he was again cast as the lead for season 15 of the show. During the season he fell in love and picked Emily Maynard as his final rose. The two got engaged, but called things off a few months after the show ended.
Edward Herrera/Abc-Tv/Kobal/Shutterstock

By Michael

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