reality tv

Brooke Blurton, Abbie Chatfield and what this all has to do with 'white privilege'.

Last week, Brooke Blurton made a statement on Instagram in the wake of her season of The Bachelorette.

She thanked everyone who sent congratulatory messages to her and her winner, Darvid Garayeli, and spoke about how she was still mourning the death of her sister, and that she felt she "personally and mentally" had been "disrupted by all the crap that came with finale week".  

"Everyone who watched the show, or was on the show cast and/or working as crew, will know that I put my heart and soul into it and it meant a lot for me to open myself up so vulnerably like that. Not only that, but for what it meant for LGBTQIA+ and First Nations Community to have that display of representation," she continued. 

Brooke then moved on to the "hardest point". 

She wrote: "For that to be tainted ONCE again by 

1. To what I thought was a close friend

2. Another white woman displaying what white privilege looks like

3. A very clear display of narcissism 

Hurts me. Literally pains me."

She said that “this person's actions show and take away from NOT only me, but what it meant for a Queer woman of colour.”

Brooke's Instagram post. Image: Instagram/ @brooke.blurton  

Although Brooke didn’t name anyone in her statement, it was widely believed she was addressing the actions of former Bachelor contestant and friend, Abbie Chatfield, who announced her relationship with Konrad Bien-Stephens (who was a contestant in Brooke’s season) a few days before the season wrapped up. 

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This was later confirmed when Abbie made a statement on her Instagram addressing Brooke's post. 

In the post, Abbie wrote: "I now understand the timing of publicly sharing our relationship should have been more considered and that is my fault. I didn’t take into account the Australian media landscape and the inherent privilege that I hold as a white woman.

"My actions had the potential to undermine the importance that this pivotal season of The Bachelorette holds to the First Nations and LGBTQIA+ Communities. In future, this will be at the forefront of my mind and I will continue to listen to and amplify minority communities, and endeavour to learn."


What struck many from both Brooke and Abbie's statements was the mention of 'white privilege' and how it fits into the discussion. 

So let me explain.

White privilege is defined by Oxford Languages as the "inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterised by racial inequality and injustice". 

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White privilege seeps into all aspects of life, one of them being the media industry. The Australian media has been highly criticised for only platforming white people, especially when it comes to reality TV shows. 

Around this time last year, on The Undone podcast, I said: “As a Person Of Colour, I know that I will never ever, ever be able to be given the opportunity to make a career out of a reality TV show.”


Mary Viturino, who was a contestant on the seventh season of The Bachelor, responded: "It’s definitely harder for people of colour. There’s not much of us around. And while some reality stars are given the opportunity to keep going and do other shows or grow their experience on TV, I’m still waiting to see one that is not white."

Listen to Em speak about underrepresentation in reality TV on The Undone podcast. Post continues below.

Abbie Chatfield is a white woman who has been able to do exactly that. She has been able to make an extremely successful career out of her first reality TV stint. 

Sure, there are a few people of colour on mainstream reality TV now. But that doesn't mean the 'representation issue' is solved. Because the white-washing of Australian media becomes particularly visible after the talent leaves their initial platform. We all watch. Waiting to see if the industry recognises their worth and continues to provide them with more opportunities.

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Right now, women of colour and LGBTQIA+ communities are just waiting and hoping that Brooke comes out of this on top. That she will be given opportunities and choices to grow her career within the media landscape because that’s what we need right now. 

Brooke was Australia’s first First Nations and queer Bachelorette, and personally, as a woman of colour, seeing that on my screen meant more than I thought it would. It meant that an industry that I love and have dedicated my career to is finally listening. 

But as I watched Brooke look for love, all I could think was “what comes next?” This might be the biggest opportunity Brooke will receive in the media. I hope not, but that's what history has taught me. I prepared myself for one of the white contestants to take the narrative away from Brooke. And that's what happened with Konrad (similar to how the focus was on Abbie during Matt Agnew's season of The Bachelor). I’m not saying this is wrong, I’m saying that it comes at a cost to many underrepresented communities. 

So when Abbie announced her relationship with Konrad, I knew straight away that was the end of any hope of ongoing representation in the Australian media. 

This is white privilege. With just one post, Abbie shifted the narrative and spotlight off Brooke's groundbreaking season of The Bachelorette onto herself. And we all lapped it up, myself included. Abbie apologised and acknowledged that she should have known better - and it's up to you if you want to accept that - but whether intentional or not is really beside the point, the fact is that white privilege means white people don't even have to consider it, to think about it, to acknowledge it. And in the end, that's the real problem. 

In the final week of The Bachelorette, I didn’t hear much about the show, but I did know everything about Abbie and Konrad’s relationship. And I’m sure you did as well. It was everywhere. 

Watching a white woman eclipse her friend’s experience hurt. Because it happened to me and it happens to many women of colour constantly.

Here's just one example: A few years ago, a makeup brand reached out to me asking if I wanted to be one of their face models. They told me I would be their first South Asian representative. I was stoked. Later that evening, I had dinner with a group of (white) friends and I could not contain my excitement about this opportunity. Straight away one of them said, “They asked me to model as well, and also asked me to be an ambassador for their brand, but I haven’t decided if I want to do it." The conversation then continued with all of us (me included) congratulating her and discussing whether or not she should do it. It made me so embarrassed that I had brought it up in such an excitable way in the first place.

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I asked other women of colour to share their own stories, and this is what they told me. 

One woman recalled asking her white friend to assist her on a styling shoot. Her friend completely took over the shoot and told her that her problem is that she was not being direct enough. She said they aren't friends anymore because "for me, you show that you’re not really an ally if you cannot stand in a position where I am leading you". 

Another example sent through to me encapsulates the 'un-acknowledgement' of white privilege that I see daily (by my own friends). 

“When we’re explaining to a white person about the struggles we go through as a person of colour, whether it’s about not being heard, seen, or respected, or managing our parents and culture and then the white person (often female-identifying) will try to relate by bringing up their own story. It’s nice that they’re trying to relate but our experiences are not the same and shouldn’t need to be related to in order to be understood. It’s often done by female-identifying people as a way of drawing in feminism but it’s not intersectional. So I feel like in the same way that white people can eclipse our positive achievements and space, they can also eclipse our tribulations and oppression by not identifying their own privilege."

A point that I believe isn't being said enough is how brave Brooke was for deciding to be the Bachelorette in the first place. As a pansexual woman of colour, there was so much resting on the season and unsurprisingly, many headlines were dedicated to pointing out the low ratings of the season. 

The fact that not only a white person, but a close friend, chose to announce her relationship without seeming to consider the intensity, pressure and embarrassment that Brooke might have been going through at the time says it all. It shows exactly how the decisions someone in power makes without acknowledging their white privilege not only affects the person whose experience they’ve eclipsed but also the many, many people who have been watching on with their teeth clenched. 

So many of us were on the metaphorical edge of our seats hoping that this wouldn’t be the last form of representation we see on our screens. We were so close to the finish line when that announcement was made, overthrowing so much work and dedication it took to get us there in the first place. 

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