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Rachel Lindsay talks night one, being the first black Bachelorette, and her happy ending

The Bachelorette discusses her (successful) journey to find love

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A version of this story appears in Entertainment Weekly’s Summer TV Preview issue, on stands Friday and available here. Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

Nick Viall might not have fallen in love with Rachel Lindsay during his season of The Bachelor, but America certainly did. And just last week, America watched as Lindsay kicked off her own journey to find love on this season of The Bachelorette.

EW talked with Lindsay about her second chance at love, the pressure of being the ABC franchise’s first black Bachelorette, and how she really felt about the “tickle monster.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your journey to find love actually began at Nick’s After the Final Rose, when you met some of the suitors ahead of your premiere — a first for Bachelor Nation. Did you see that coming?
RACHEL LINDSAY: We keep saying this is a season of firsts, and during After the Final Rose I was completely blown away. I honestly thought that I was meeting them on the screen, and if you go back and watch it, you can see that I keep looking at the TV because I’m thinking they’re going to pop up there. But I loved it. It was so exciting, and it broke my nerves for the first night. I was like, “I’m ready to meet all of them now! Please don’t stop!”

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What was the biggest adjustment from being a contestant to being the Bachelorette?
I was trying to anticipate how I thought things were going to be based on my time during Nick’s season, and this was a whole new ball game. You cannot be prepared for the men who are going to be walking out of that limo the first night, and you have no idea how they’re going to affect and impact your life, or the emotional toll that the journey will take on you. That was definitely the hardest thing to adjust to — rather than focusing on one relationship, I was focusing on 31.

I don’t know how you juggle that many men.
I didn’t know I was that talented either. [Laughs]

What was the best piece of advice you were given from the Bachelor family?
Chris [Harrison] would constantly tell me to stop trying to figure everything out and just let it happen. I loved that. My girls from Nick’s season told me to not judge a book by its cover, to be open, and to just allow myself to fall. [Former Bachelorettes] JoJo [Fletcher] and Ali [Fedotowsky] reached out to me, and I really liked that Ali told me to enjoy it.

Did you talk to Nick during all this?
I was able to see Nick at [last season’s] Women Tell All, and I talked to him briefly. He was so encouraging, so supportive. He was the one who was like, “You have no idea how the people that you meet are going to impact your life.” He was very right. I was a lot more emotional than I thought I’d be.

Which men stood out to you on the first night?
Blake E., who marched in with the marching band, stood out to me. I was so impressed watching that. Obviously, Lucas [the “whaboom” guy] was quite memorable for different reasons, but I wanted to be entertained the first night and I definitely got that from him. Josiah really stood out to me as another attorney [Lindsay is a practicing civil-litigation lawyer], and then talking to him, he had a really compelling story.

How did you truly feel about Jonathan tickling you when you first met?
That was probably the hardest laugh of the night — it came from my soul. I’m very ticklish, and Jonathan duped me. He had me hold my hands together, so I thought he was giving me a present. I like surprises, and that was definitely one of them.

I think my reaction would’ve been to punch him in the face.
Honestly, I’m going to attribute that to the fact that I was in a nice gown, heels, [and had my] makeup and hair done. If I had been comfortable in my sweats, Timbs, and with my hair pulled back, that might’ve been my first reaction. [Laughs]

This show loves house drama. How do your men measure up?
I have a big personality, and people feed off that. The men on my season have big personalities too — sometimes that goes over well, sometimes it doesn’t.

Obviously you’ve gotten a lot of attention for being the first black Bachelorette. Were you at all hesitant to accept, knowing the pressure that would come with that title?
Absolutely. I was flattered and excited, but at the same time I was terrified. To be the first to do something is huge — all eyes are on you. You just don’t know how people are going to judge you. And on top of that, I’m also trying to find love. I had to weigh the pros and cons of everything, and this is something that I wanted for myself. I’m so humbled and honored to be chosen to represent myself as a black woman to America, and I look at it as such a positive. That’s what made me move forward and want to embrace being the first black Bachelorette.

Now that you’ve been through this experience, do you feel like you were able to set that pressure aside and go on this journey?
I had to realize what pressures would be on me and how I could get negative and positive attention, but I had to put all of that aside to focus on moving forward and being the black Bachelorette. It’s been a challenge, I’m not going to lie about that, but I was able to put it aside and focus on finding love.

We know that you get engaged this season! But prior to this, were you the type who’d always envisioned their proposal?
Nope, not at all. [Laughs] I’ve always wanted to get married and have a family, but I’m not the girl who sat down and planned out her wedding, her dress, or how everything would go with the proposal. And I certainly didn’t think that it would be in this way—on television—but why not?

All that matters is you got the happy ending.
Exactly! It worked! And that’s why I say my advice to any future Bachelorettes is to do it. I was the biggest skeptic, and I am completely turned around, head over heels in love, so happy, and engaged. It feels good! #Justdoit

The last thing I’ll ask you: Did I hear that your dog is named Copper and is that after The Fox and the Hound?
Okay. Sam, I love that you put that together. Yes it is. I’m a big Disney fan and he is brown, he has brown eyes and all that. I was like, “Ugh Copper and Tod from the movie, yes, I’m naming him Copper.” [Laughs]

The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.