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An unmasked audience at the ‘Bachelorette’ after-show? Not on Twitter’s watch

Two women sitting on couches with a table of white roses between them.
“Bachelorette” co-host Kaitlyn Bristowe, left, and season lead Michelle Young during the live “After the Final Rose” special.
(Christopher Willard / ABC)

“Will you accept this face mask?”

That’s what the staff of “The Bachelorette” probably said to members of its live studio audience after Twitter called the franchise out for not requiring attendees of Tuesday’s “After the Final Rose” special to wear face coverings — at first.

Soon after former contestant-turned-"Bachelorette” co-host Kaitlyn Bristowe welcomed viewers to the Season 18 after-show, Twitter users quickly noticed that no one in the packed crowd was wearing a mask — despite COVID-19 cases rising across the United States as the highly contagious Omicron variant continues to spread.

As usual, “After the Final Rose” immediately followed the season finale of “The Bachelorette. The reunion special is typically emceed by the host(s) of the series — but Bristowe ended up helming Tuesday’s program solo because her co-host, Tayshia Adams, was recently exposed to the coronavirus in New York.

Tuesday’s season finale caps a landmark season of ‘The Bachelorette.’ But the choice of the next Bachelor has left Black fans disappointed.

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After several viewers questioned why the live studio audience was allowed to go unmasked — especially amid Adams’ COVID-19 scare — Bristowe returned from a commercial break with an announcement:

“We have seen a lot of chatter online, so just so we’re clear, everyone around me has tested negative,” Bristowe said, according to Yahoo News. “But just to exercise additional caution, our audience will remain masked throughout the rest of the show.”

Even though the “Bachelorette” producers clearly heard and responded to viewers’ concerns, many were still unsatisfied with the solution, which they deemed too little, too late.

“So the audience weren’t wearing mask at first but now they are wearing mask???” tweeted @AWilliamss. “Girl this a mess.”

“Why mask them now,” tweeted @itsme4now, “they are already exposed…"

ABC’s “After the Final Rose” telecast saw some dramatic moments unfold as a continuation of the jaw-dropping Season 18 finale. As die-hard “Bachelorette” fans already know, 28-year-old elementary school teacher Michelle Young wound up offering her final rose to 27-year-old sales executive Nayte Olukoya, who proposed to her shortly thereafter.

Coming in second place was heartbroken 27-year-old Brandon Jones, who — per franchise tradition — appeared on “After the Final Rose” to get some closure and hear Young’s side of the story.

“I knew you were gonna break my heart,” Jones told Young during the after-show, according to People magazine. “I knew you show your emotions through your eyes, everything you do with your eyes. And when I walked up, I saw your heart was pointing in different directions.”

“I truly didn’t believe that I would be one of those people who would be able to fall in love with two people. That’s just not something that I ever thought was possible,” Young told Jones, according to People. “I do care about your feelings. I care about you as a person.”

For the first time, a franchise rocked by charges of racism will have a Black lead, co-host and executive producer. And it could be a game changer.

One key aspect of Season 18 that went unaddressed on “After the Final Rose” was the public backlash to the next “Bachelor” star, former football player Clayton Echard, who is white and wasn’t among Young’s historic pool of top four finalists — all of whom were Black.

Young made history this season as the first Black lead of the franchise to select a Black match.

Though producers have fished outside the final four suitors for a new series lead in the past, many saw Echard’s casting as a failed opportunity to further the show’s recent diversity and inclusion efforts by choosing a Black contestant to headline the forthcoming season of “The Bachelor.”

After pledging ‘real change’ amid last year’s protests, ABC and owner Walt Disney Co. stayed silent as a firestorm over race consumed its reality-TV flagship.

“There are two audiences for this show — those who want to see diverse love stories and those who don’t want to see a story that doesn’t look like them, that doesn’t resonate with them,” longtime “Bachelor” fan Ashley Tabron recently told the Los Angeles Times.

“We’ve seen what’s possible when you have Black people at the center. To take that away abruptly hurts. I don’t see them returning to a Black lead like Michelle or Matt [James] for a very long time.”


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