2021 was a year to remember for the Bachelor franchise and featured tons of big, shocking, and unforgettable moments.
The Bachelor franchise saw a lot of love connections form and also saw other couples go their separate ways.
Most notably, this year brought a lot of historic firsts for the franchise.
In 2021, Bachelor Nation witnessed a historic season of The Bachelor, the return of Bachelor in Paradise, as well as two seasons of The Bachelorette that ended in engagements.
With so much Bachelor Nation content and so many headlines this year, there were many eventful moments to choose from but we’ve narrowed it down to ten standout moments.
Here are the ten biggest Bachelor franchise moments of 2021.
1. Matt James becomes first Black bachelor & Rachael’s racial scandal
In January of 2021, Matt James made history when he debuted as the first-ever Black Bachelor.
After 24 seasons, Matt’s appearance as the first Black lead on The Bachelor Season 25 forced the franchise to realize just how far it has to go in terms of diversity, tolerance, and proper representation.
One of the biggest stories surrounding Matt James’ season centered around his last-woman-standing, Rachael Kirkconnell.
When racially insensitive photos surfaced from Rachael’s past, it led to a lot of buzz and discussion about the longstanding issues within the franchise when it comes to race.
Matt and Rachael very briefly broke up amidst the scandal but they eventually reconciled and are still in a relationship currently.
2. Chris Harrison permanently steps down as host after backlash
Perhaps the most shocking 2021 development for The Bachelor franchise was the end of the Chris Harrison era.
Chris Harrison had been the host and face of The Bachelor franchise for nearly 20 years. However, that all changed when Chris Harrison faced understandable backlash for his racially insensitive comments during an interview with the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay.
In trying to defend Rachael Kirkconnell, Chris further reflected the deep-rooted issues within the franchise and its long history of dismissing, misrepresenting, and misunderstanding Black and non-white perspectives.
After the backlash, Chris Harrison reduced his on-camera presence during Matt James’ season in February only to shock Bachelor Nation when he permanently parted ways with the franchise in June.
This led to former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe taking over as hosts of The Bachelorette and Jesse Palmer replacing Harrison as host of The Bachelor.
3. Colton Underwood comes out as gay
Colton Underwood made headlines when he came out as gay in April 2021.
During his Good Morning America interview, Colton revealed that he had wrestled with his identity for a long while but was finally ready to come forward and publicly embrace his identity as a gay man.
The news got many people talking and stirred up mixed feelings, with some feeling torn between feeling proud of his bravery and also wanting him to be held accountable for his harassment of ex-girlfriend Cassie Randolph.
Since coming out, Colton has released a Netflix docuseries, Coming Out Colton, where he documents his journey with navigating both his sexuality and spirituality.
Colton, who no longer associates with The Bachelor and seems to have ruffled some feathers with fellow Bachelors, has received both positive and negative responses to his docuseries and he’s shared both the uplifting messages and the condemning ones on social media.
4. Becca Kufrin becomes first Bachelorette on Bachelor in Paradise
To Bachelor Nation’s delight, Bachelor in Paradise returned this year after taking a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 had several memorable and eventful moments and even managed to produce several couples that are still together to this day.
Becca Kufrin had a historic appearance on Bachelor in Paradise as she became the first-ever Bachelorette lead to come to Bachelor in Paradise and look for love on the island.
Becca’s choice to join the Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 cast ended up paying off because she found love with former The Bachelorette Season 17 villain Thomas Jacobs.
Becca and Thomas split up before the end of the BIP season but they reconciled away from the cameras and are still happily in love to this day.
5. Brendan Morais and Pieper James get exposed and unfollowed
Another big moment to come out of Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 was Brendan Morais and Pieper James getting exposed for their ulterior motives and disrespectful disregard of fellow castmate Natasha Parker.
Brendan blatantly used Natasha in order to stay on the island long enough to link up with Pieper, who he’d already struck up a relationship with before coming to paradise. It became clear that Brendan and Pieper had ulterior motives when joining the summer spinoff and both seemed enticed by the idea of using the BIP platform to gain clout and followers at Natasha’s expense.
Brendan and Pieper’s plan majorly backfired as Bachelor in Paradise viewers united to unfollow the couple in droves. Brendan and Pieper rapidly lost thousands upon thousands of followers after their disappointing display.
Meanwhile, Natasha Parker quickly gained hundreds of thousands of followers after conducting herself with class and grace. Natasha became a Bachelor Nation fan-favorite with 455k followers currently.
Despite their huge fall from grace, Brendan and Pieper appear to still be a couple.
6. Riley Christian and Maurissa Gunn become first Black couple to get engaged in franchise history
The most historic moment from Bachelor in Paradise Season 7 came at the end of the season when Riley Christian and Maurissa Gunn got engaged.
Riley and Maurissa’s engagement was a huge deal because they made history as the first Black couple to get engaged not just within Bachelor in Paradise but within the entire franchise as a whole.
Bachelor Nation rejoiced when seeing Riley and Maurissa get engaged and put Black love on display within a franchise that had yet to fully explore Black love stories.
Fortunately, Riley and Maurissa are still together and going strong.
The couple continues to warm Bachelor Nation’s hearts with their love and Sunday morning routines.
7. Katie Thurston splits from Blake Moynes and dates John Hersey
Katie Thurston made her leading lady debut on The Bachelorette Season 17. Katie ended the season engaged to Blake Moynes, who arrived late on her season and appeared to be her third choice after Michael Allio and Greg Grippo self-eliminated.
Katie and Blake’s engagement was short-lived and the two shared a joint statement to declare they were splitting up.
In an interesting turn of events, Katie entered a romantic relationship with another one of her The Bachelorette suitors, John Hersey.
Katie sent John Hersey home during week 2 of The Bachelorette but the pair developed a solid friendship away from the cameras with many fans rooting for them to date.
Through Katie’s 12 Days of Messy on social media, she revealed that she and John were exploring a romantic relationship as a couple. Katie and John are still currently dating.
8. Tayshia Adams and Zac Clark call it quits
Tayshia and Zac’s breakup was one of the more devastating moments to happen within the franchise during 2021.
Tayshia and Zac met and fell in love during The Bachelorette Season 16, where Tayshia took on the leading role after previous Bachelorette Clare Crawley rode off into the sunset with Dale Moss.
Tayshia and Zac ended the season engaged and Tayshia even relocated to Zac’s home state of New York.
After over a year together and finishing the New York marathon at the exact same time, news broke that Tayshia and Zac had called it quits and decided to go their separate ways.
Fans of the couple were heartbroken, and Tayshia was heartbroken too as she emotionally discussed her breakup during the recent Men Tell All. While Tayshia and Zac are sadly no longer together, Tayshia still likes Zac’s tweets.
9. Hannah Brown’s brother proposes to Jed Wyatt’s ex-girlfriend
An interesting and potentially awkward Bachelor Nation development that occurred this year involved Hannah Brown and her notorious ex Jed Wyatt.
Recently, news broke that Hannah Brown’s brother Patrick Brown proposed to Jed Wyatt’s ex-girlfriend, Haley Stevens, and the two are now engaged.
The Bachelorette viewers will recall that Hannah Brown and Jed Wyatt got engaged during Hannah’s season of The Bachelorette.
However, their short-lived relationship crashed and burned when Hannah learned that Jed was allegedly seeing another woman, who is presumed to be Hannah’s future sister-in-law Haley Stevens. Haley even came forward and suggested that Jed had only come on The Bachelorette to promote his music career.
Naturally, Hannah and Jed quickly split. Regarding her brother’s love life, Hannah told Us Weekly, “I don’t choose who my brother loves and who he wants to be with. But I love him and want him to be happy.”
10. Michelle Young and Nayte Olukoya become first Black couple from The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise
Michelle Young’s journey on The Bachelorette Season 18 came to an end this December 2021 and her season made history in two ways.
First, history was made when Michelle’s final four was the first ever to feature all men of color.
Then, history was made again when Michelle gave her final rose to Nayte Olukoya and the two got engaged at the end of the season.
Michelle and Nayte became the first Black couple to get engaged within both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchise, not counting Bachelor in Paradise, which saw Maurisa and Riley’s engagement.
Michelle and Nayte expressed feeling proud to put Black love on display on national television and the pair are now excitedly planning their future together.
These ten moments certainly made waves within Bachelor Nation in 2021. Here’s to hoping all the historic firsts make for more progress in the franchise’s future.
The Bachelor premieres Monday, January 3rd at 8/7c on ABC.