What really happens during a Bachelorette date? The Knot Senior News Editor Esther Lee observed Rachel Lindsay’s one-on-one in Copenhagen—in person.
It’s 2 p.m. on an unexpectedly chilly April day in Copenhagen, Denmark. Spring is slowly peeking through the lush green gardens of the city—the sun beams down on the still-bare trees while an evening mist rolls through the canals of Nyhavn, the historic, colorful stretch of homes dotting one of Copenhagen’s most iconic landmarks.
I nurse a warm latte with both hands while I’m entranced by the colors of the homes—some oversaturated, others derivatives of pretty pastels—when a familiar bearded face breaks my focus. It’s Elan Gale, the executive producer of the Warner Brothers–mandated ABC franchise, pointing to one of the waterfront restaurants, seemingly scouting a location for the filming that will take place the following day. There’s a flurry of activity on the busy street—people amble up and down the harbor where ships and boat tours congest the narrow body of water—while Gale is commanding his own fleet of producers and crew members, all of whom are taking into consideration lighting, ambience, aesthetic and more.
By now, it’s week six of filming for season 13 of The Bachelorette, which kicked off the night of Nick Viall’s After the Final Rose taping. The new season lead, Dallas-based lawyer Rachel Lindsay, and her remaining suitors have just arrived to Copenhagen from Oslo during the Scandinavian leg of their journey. The group is staying 50 miles from the epicenter of the city near Hamlet’s Castle in the historic town of Helsingør. At night, Shakespeare’s historic icon, which straddles Sweden and Denmark, illuminates the sleepy suburban region in a romantic-yet-foreboding manner. I’ve left behind the familiarity of a typical New York weekend simply to observe Rachel on a one-on-one date in one of Europe’s most under-the-radar honeymoon destinations—and to catch up with her in person.
The recipient of the date card that day is Eric Bigger from Baltimore, Maryland. Tall and athletic with a beautiful smile, Eric’s charisma and intensity are evident even from a distance. (“I’m from Baltimore, you’re from Texas, but we’re here right now,” Eric remarked as soon as he stepped out the first night. “I’m happy to be here. This is a miracle season. What’s meant to be will be, and I’m looking forward to spending time with you and getting to know you.” Raven Gates, a finalist on Nick Viall’s season of The Bachelor, expressed within the first few weeks of filming that Rachel was apparently “most excited about Eric.”)
“Timing is everything in life and I think the time is right,” Eric says as we sit on the waterfront. “My whole life, I did everything for everybody else—family, friends—and it’s the first time in my life that I’m putting myself first. I found something that’s important for me.”
Did he know that Rachel would be the season 13 lead? “I did,” Eric remarks. “But I didn’t come on for her. I came on for the opportunity to find love with her. I didn’t know who she was. Now that I know who she is, it feels great.”
While Rachel made an impact on Viall’s season as Miss Independent, there’s so much more to unpack, she claims. “My experience is that guys love the idea of me and not the reality of me,” she says. “And this has been a really good test.”
We bond. Both of our birthdays are weeks away, she’s turning 32. I’m turning 30. We’ve dealt with similar struggles with dating. Rachel doesn’t want to play games. She doesn’t want the spotlight. (Think of the way she graciously rejected DeMario Jackson in an episode that aired just as the franchise’s biggest scandal to date surfaced in Paradise.) She has a career, she loves her friends and family members, and Rachel has values. Now, she wants lasting love.
“They may have heard about me or read about me, but now they’re getting the real me. And these guys… are not intimidated,” she says with a smile. Rachel, an Aries cusp at age 32, is apparently multidimensional. “Obviously people know me as the lawyer—working hard, analytical,” she speculates. “But there’s also such a fun, goofy side of me that you don’t really get to see until you get to hang one-on-one… I think a lot of women can relate to me. I’m in my thirties. I have a career. I’m strong, independent and I’m missing that one thing. I feel like people who tune in can see the mistakes I’ve made and why I’m missing out on love and why I’m ready now.”
By now, 24 hours have passed since producers scouted the scene for Rachel and Eric’s one-on-one, and in the interim, someone’s procured a local—a sweet older Danish gentleman standing by in a cap and a forest green sweater—to give advice. There’s some delay, but the two make their grand entrance down a canal with Rachel dressed adorably in a white sweater, jeans and a beanie. Her best accessory, her smile, is evident as she and Eric float past curious bystanders. The Bachelorette beaming isn’t the only thing that gives her away. Her body language clearly displays her interest in Eric, a former athlete turned life coach, but Rachel is in the difficult and likely confusing position of expressing similar emotions to a range of suitors, including preliminary front-runners like Bryan and Peter.
After all, it’s tough to be invested in someone who’s dating multiple men. Many qualified, some there for the right reasons, others not so much. “Personally, it’s been hard from an internal level… but the other guys, I don’t worry about that,” Eric muses. “Because my time with her, none of that matters. She forgets about all that. She’s just in sync with me.”
In the case of Eric, though, there’s an abundance of laughter. During the date, the two can’t stop to the point that he huddles over Rachel to contain himself. Everyone else, meanwhile, wants in on the joke. He is literally and emotionally falling for her, though it’s hard to tell what exactly is running through her mind in that exact moment. “I really like this girl,” he says in the confessional. After the date, Eric says, “She’s very insightful. She’s intuitive. She’s honest. She’s open. She wouldn’t open up as much in the beginning but now she’s opening up. I just think she’s a quality person.”
That’s not all. “That girl is silly,” Eric continues. “I have a funny side that people don’t know about. What’s so important is that she brings it out of me.” Rachel echoes his thoughts. “I love to laugh,” she nods, “and with Eric, it’s very easy to do that.”
During the date, the two end up chatting with the man plucked straight from a J.Crew catalog. He’s not an actor, insists the show’s publicist. The way the scenes pan out may seem mildly fabricated at times, but it’s the exact opposite.
Even the franchise failures. A month ago, season 20 Bachelor Ben Higgins and his fiancée, Lauren Bushnell, ended their engagement following a Freeform spinoff and a Disney Fairytale Weddings special that aired weeks before. “It is with heavy hearts that we announce our decision to go our separate ways,” the couple expressed. “We feel fortunate for the time we had together, and will remain friends with much love and respect for one another.”
After the coveted final rose is handed out, the newly engaged pair (and yes, that includes Rachel) gets acclimated to newfound fame and national recognition all while attempting to keep their relationship a secret, if not downright stable as new scenes unfold week after week. So what exactly is Rachel’s end goal? It’s certainly not a chance to be featured on a wildly successful franchise, 15 years in the running. Her coworkers—at Dallas-based firm Cooper & Scully—submitted her profile behind her back and she was selected to appear on Nick’s season. Suddenly, the associate became the Bachelorette.
“I’m not just Rachel the lawyer,” she tells me as we huddle together on the steps. “Maybe people think of me as strong and independent which I am, but there are different levels to me and I want people to see the soft, romantic, fun, easy and comfortable side of me as well. I don’t know if you saw all of that during Nick’s season.. it took me a long time to open up. And I hope you see me on my journey, that I’ve opened up.”
She plans to return to law after the hullabaloo. “I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am,” Rachel says. “I always want to hold true to that. It’s something that I’ve wanted since I was 7 years old. And my dad would kill me if I stopped.” She respects how her predecessor, Joelle “JoJo” Fletcher, returned to life after her season ended. “I really liked the way she handled herself during her season. Maybe it’s the connection to another Dallas girl,” Rachel says. “I like the way she’s carried herself after being the Bachelorette and that’s what I want to emulate.”
Moments before our chat, she’s in a hot tub with Eric sipping champagne while making out heavily on Copenhagen’s waterfront. The spot is called CopenHot (yes, really), and it’s a semiprivate, outdoor sauna on the waterfront. The romantic ambience is suddenly disrupted when a man flashes the couple—multiple times. The crew laughs because the situation is that ridiculous.
After they change out of their swimsuits, I chat separately with both Rachel and Eric. He’s clearly smitten, and she’s even sweeter in person. “It’s breathtaking to see the architecture, the city and the people and to feel everything that is Copenhagen and to see it from that point of view,” she tells me. “And then to do that and to be wrapped up in Eric’s arms? It was really beautiful.” Between takes, the two chat and cuddle like a real couple would. Rachel and Eric continue to joke and appear as if they’re genuinely enjoying each other.
Other suitors in the house, however, have warned Rachel’s friends about Eric, a precaution which may have stemmed from jealousy. Consider Jordan Rodgers’s dynamic with the other suitors during JoJo Fletcher’s season of The Bachelorette. If this season has taught us anything, it’s the fact that men gossip and it’s not to their benefit. “We’re friends,” Eric tells me. “I love those guys and I feel like these guys are honest. They’re genuine and they’re good guys, so I appreciate them.”
The last two episodes have touched on racial tensions—“Lee-vil,” the producers have dubbed one contestant vs. “Good,” or in this case, Kenny. It reminds viewers of Chad Johnson and Alex Woytkiw from season 12, only this time, the production company and network are both dealing with a deeply rooted issue in 21st century America that is finally being discussed on the franchise: What’s race got to do with it? Apparently, so much.
“Honestly, it was scary at first,” Rachel says of being the first black lead in the franchise’s 15-year history. “Because when you’re the first at anything, that’s a very scary thing. You don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. You don’t know how it’s going to be accepted. And for me, when I was offered to be the Bachelorette, I had to weigh out the pros and cons. Like, how can you turn down this opportunity? Number one, to find love that I feel is missing in my life, and number two, to be a black woman who is representing for the first time as a lead in this franchise. It was something that I weighed out. For me, it was too much of an opportunity to not be a role model for young, black women. To represent myself as a black woman. And to find love.”
Of the topic, she concludes, “Yes, you’ll notice that I’m the first black lead, but at the same time, my journey is no different because of the color of my skin.” Like her predecessors, things have turned emotional, and she’s even embarrassed to admit that. “I am one who struggles a bit to vocalize my emotions, but this journey brings something out of you,” she says. “To do this, you have to be open. In doing that, it’s brought a range of emotions out already.”
Her hope is to actually find a fiancé, which she’s since confirmed is the case. “Love, to me, is sacrifice. And I say that because I have learned along the way in relationships that I wasn’t doing that,” she says. “My parents have been married for 38 years… I know what love looks like and I know what I want it to emulate.”
The fear, according to Rachel, is walking away from this experience without any qualified leads and a fresh mound of broken hearts. She is burdened by the responsibility, but wants to lead with courage. “The main thing that I learned from Nick was that I held back too much. I do wonder if I had been more open with my feelings, it might have been different,” she says. “We’ll see what happens… It better end up in love. I have great men here.”
She describes a few of the leading contenders. “Direct, self-aware, confident, established,” she says. “And just this goes back to being self-aware: Guys who know exactly what they want and are so comfortable where they are in their lives right now. That has been lacking in my previous relationships, and honestly, I’ve known a lot of guys who are intimidated by me and these guys aren’t.”
In all, Rachel’s one-on-one date with Eric has encompassed five hours, and maybe she’s that much closer to love. The lesson of the day, ultimately, is timing and why that matters. “I got a text message from a friend asking me if I wanted to do this and I said, ‘You know what. Why not?’” Eric recalls of how he ended up on the show. “I went on a first interview… and now I’m here. I felt like if it wasn’t for me, I wouldn’t be here. Real things are natural. You’re here. It’s natural. I didn’t think I’d be seeing you today, but you’re here. Why are you interviewing me right now? I believe in the universe and I believe God doesn’t make mistakes.”
And when it comes to choices? Well, that’s ultimately up to Rachel. The Bachelorette airs on Mondays on ABC at 8 p.m. ET.