'Bachelorette' names Katie Thurston, Michelle Young as leads for surprise double season

'Bachelorette' names Katie Thurston, Michelle Young as leads for surprise double season

March 16, 2021

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Following a dramatic turn of events during Monday night’s finale of “The Bachelor,” ABC announced it’s ordered two independent seasons of “The Bachelorette,” coming this year with two separate female leads.

Katie Thurston and Michelle Young were named as the leading ladies for Seasons 17 and 18, respectively. Thurston’s season will air first in summer 2021 and Young’s season will follow in the fall.

The announcement was made during the “After the Final Rose” on Monday night, hosted by Emmanuel Acho who replaced Chris Harrison following the longtime host’s recent departure near the end of Matt James’ season.

Both Thurston and Young attended “After the Final Rose” and declared together, “We’re the Bachelorettes.”

‘BACHELOR’ STAR MATT JAMES REVEALS HE BROKE UP WITH WINNER RACHAEL KIRKCONNELL AFTER RACE CONTROVERSY

Michelle Young, left, and Katie Thurston, right, have been named the next stars of the 17th and 18th seasons of "The Bachelorette," respectively, with both individual cycles set to air in 2021. 
(ABC/Craig Sjodin)

An ABC press release describes Thurston as a “leading voice, who repeatedly stood up against bullying and negativity.” The 30-year-old marketing manager is a Washington native. She made headlines at the start of James’ season as the contestant who showed up with a light-up vibrator.

“She is a witty storyteller who wants a man that will laugh along with her,” the press release furthers of Thurston.

Young, meanwhile, was a late arrival for James’ season. The Minnesota native is 28 and works as a kindergarten teacher.

Young is looking for “a man by her side that is supportive and driven to make the world a better place,” the release continues. “She is looking for the Superman to her Superwoman and is ready to find a love with whom she can start a family of her own.”

‘BACHELOR’ STAR MATT JAMES MAKES SURPRISING CHOICE IN SEASON FINALE

Matt James (right) has broken up with Rachael Kirkconnell (left) after a racism controversy.
(ABC/Craig Sjodin)

The surprise back-to-back season announcement followed a turbulent season for James, who was the first Black “Bachelor” lead. Young made it to the final two contestants, along with Rachael Kirkconnell.

As is tradition for the final episode, James, 29, brought each of the ladies to meet his family, which included his mother Patty and brother John. James’ mother said during the episode she could “totally see” Young “being a part of the family.”

NEW ‘BACHELORETTE’ HOST KAITLYN BRISTOWE SLAMS NEGATIVE COMMENTERS DEFENDING CHRIS HARRISON

Matt James was the first Black lead on "The Bachelor."
(ABC/Billy Kidd)

During his final date with Young, James repelled down a building before admitting that he’s “having doubts” about their relationship. James then told Kirkconnell he wanted to avoid “rushing into a proposal,” but said she was who he saw as his “wife” and “the mother of my kids” in his future.

However, James revealed during the “After the Final Rose” special that he ended things with Kirkconnell, 24, after she was involved in a scandal that included claims of racism against her.

In January, Kirkconnell was accused by a TikTok user of formerly bullying her for dating Black men before another user accused her of liking racist photos online. Things reached a boiling point when photos resurfaced featuring Kirkconnell at an old-South, Antebellum-themed party while in college.

James said that the photos were “incredibly disappointing” to him, and it was “devastating and heartbreaking” to learn of her past behaviors, though he initially brushed them off.

CHRIS HARRISON SAYS HE PLANS TO HOST ‘BACHELOR’ FRANCHISE AGAIN IN FIRST INTERVIEW SINCE STEPPING ASIDE

“You wanna believe that you know your person better than anybody else knows your person, and while all this controversy’s swirling around, who Rachael is, things that she might have attended, and pictures that she liked and people that she’s associated with,” said James, according to Entertainment Tonight. 

“Before Rachael addressed anything or Chris Harrison spoke on anything, I’m trying to be there for her, and I dismissed them as rumors, because that’s what they were to me,” he continued. “You hear things that are heartbreaking, and you just pray they’re not true. And then, when you find out that they are it just makes you question everything.”

The fallout from Kirkconnell’s behavior resulted in host Chris Harrison’s temporary exit from the franchise, as he seemingly defended her actions in an interview with alum Rachel Lindsay.

James noted that he doesn’t believe anyone to be “irredeemable” and plans to see Kirkconnell “do the work that she’s committed to doing.”

Kirkconnell also addressed the breakup during the special.

“I was very blindsided, but once that initial reaction went away, I thought about how strong I thought our relationship was. So for him to end things, he must have been very, very hurt by everything,” she recalled. “It was hard because I lost the love of my life, but in the process of that, I hurt him while doing so.”

She added: “I love him so much, and I always will. I do feel like I finally do know what real love feels like.”

Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams have been tapped to replace Chris Harrison as hosts on the next seasons of “The Bachelorette.” 

Fox News’ Nate Day contributed to this report.

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