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Amid racist insults, 'Bachelor' contestant Rachel Nance won't apologize for her culture

Nance talks about facing down racial slurs and criticism of being in interracial relationships. 
Rachel Nance on "The Bachelor" on March 18, 2024.
Rachel Nance, whose mother is Filipino and father Black and Arab, was among the top three contestants of the last season.John Fleenor / Disney file

Despite being called “jungle Asian” and other racist slurs by fans of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” contestant Rachel Nance, who’s Asian and Black, says she refuses to dilute any aspect of her heritage. 

Nance, whose mother is Filipino and father Black and Arab, was among the top three contestants of the season that wrapped up last week. The internet hate was particularly fierce following an episode in which her family shared their Filipino traditions. But the 26-year-old told NBC News this week that none of it has changed the pride she feels about her cultures. 

Nance said that while many women of color are expected to whitewash their experiences to make others feel more comfortable, she will be doing no such thing. 

“Being a woman, you’re really put in a box and being a woman of color, you’re put in a smaller box and we just can’t win,” Nance said. “It was either I honor my family and I show what I was raised with, or do I not and hold back, and then I’m sad, and I’m not honoring my family.” 

She chose the former, “and I think that’s all you can do —  you just show who you are.” 

Nance was one of 32 women who appeared on the popular show’s 28th season to vie for the heart of Bachelor Joey Graziadei. Nance said she was dismayed at comments from fans following the Week 8 episode, in which Graziadei, 28, visited the hometowns of the top four contestants. Though Nance grew up in Hawaii, her hometown date took place in Rancho Cucamonga, California, where her family introduced Graziadei to several Filipino customs, including a feast of lechon, a crispy roasted pig and tinikling, a traditional dance in which dancers jump, step and twirl between two bamboo poles that are clapped together on the ground. 

Rachel Nance and Joey Graziadei
Nance was criticized for the interracial nature of her relationship with Bachelor Joey Graziadei.John Fleenor / Disney file

While Nance made it through to the next week, receiving a rose over fellow contestant Maria Georgas, some viewers didn’t agree with Graziadei’s choice. Others criticized Nance for questioning Georgas’ intentions in pulling Graziadei aside prior to the rose ceremony. But, as she first pointed out in a “Women Tell All” special that aired last month, an influx of social media users resorted to racial insults and derogatory comments about her skin color. Some claimed that she was “overdoing it with the culture,” Nance said. 

“I think because it’s my norm, it’s not their norm, they thought I was doing too much,” she said. “I’m so proud of my family that we still decided to showcase who we are. … And I don’t regret doing it.” 

Other criticisms, she said, centered on the interracial nature of her relationship with Graziadei. Since the episode aired, Nance said she’s come across TikToks from people expressing disgust at the pair kissing. 

“I will not change who I fall for,” she said. “My family’s an interracial couple. My cousins are in interracial relationships. I think it’s something so beautiful that my family is a melting pot as well.” 

Nance, who largely grew up in Hawaii, said she was surrounded by multicultural, mixed-race families who often celebrated their backgrounds. But when she moved to the East Coast for college, she said she began to feel the weight of discrimination. 

“It was just the little looks I would get,” Nance said, adding that her previous interracial relationships would draw hurtful comments or stares. “I remember one time I was in a grocery store and this lady was like, ‘Shame on you, that you guys are together.’ When I was a nurse’s aide, I would have people call me the N-word.” 

When the racist criticism reached a fever pitch after the season aired, Nance said she felt she had to say something. But deciding to speak up as a woman of mixed Asian descent wasn’t an easy choice to make, she said. At one point, she had second thoughts about discussing it on the “Women Tell All” special.

“Asian women, we’re taught to always apologize first. … “If I bump into somebody, I go, ‘Oh, sorry. Sorry.’ If they bump into me, I say, ‘Sorry,’” she said. “You never want to come across as too loud or you’re doing too much. And so the split second before I went on stage, I thought maybe I shouldn’t bring this up. Because what if it makes people uncomfortable?” 

However, Nance said, she wasn’t interested in maintaining the status quo. 

“To continuously be silent, it was just going to perpetuate the same toxic cycle,” she said. “I’m hoping by from what I shared, that people of color, Asian women, all of us — we won’t use discrimination and racism as a crutch, but as a catapult to push us in a direction, to chase our dreams, to take up space.” 

With fellow contestant Jenn Tran announced as the next Bachelorette — the first Asian American lead in the show’s sister franchise — Nance said it’ll be a critical moment for Asian American women. 

“We have now this huge platform. From me sharing my story and her being the Bachelorette, it’s opening more doors and people can just kind of break through those barriers in Hollywood and reality TV,” Nance said. “People will have no choice but to accept.”