How Rachel Lindsay Finds Balance in the Hustle

Optimism correspondent Katy Lemieux and Rachel Lindsay, Dallas attorney, sports radio host, and former Bachelorette, share a conversation about optimism + hustle.

Dallas attorney Rachel Lindsay discovered a lot about herself in a way most people would never dream: by going on a reality show. First a contestant on the 21st season of The Bachelor and then the show’s first African American Bachelorette on the show’s 13th season, Rachel took control of her life in a very public way. Now a rockstar thrust into celebrity life and the host of ESPN’s Football Frenzy, she’s scaling back her hustle and allowing herself to say, “No” to the pressure to do it all.

Katy Lemieux: I have to confess, I’ve never watched The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.

Rachel Lindsay: My favorite type of person—never watched the show.

KL: You were that type of person!

RL: Yes, I had never seen an episode. I started watching it as I was packing to go to Los Angeles for the show.

KL: You’re kidding!

RL: I called the girls who signed me up, and said, “I can’t do this. This is not for me.” But at that point, I was contractually bound to go.

KL: So how did you get there in the first place?

RL: Two coworkers at my legal job came to my office one day and said I should try out for The Bachelor. I just remember laughing. But the auditions weren’t far from the office. So, I said, “Why not? I’m kind of curious. Let’s just go and see what happens.”

KL: It seems like you were just being yourself in the audition, and that was really appealing to them.

RL: I hadn’t watched other seasons, so I had nothing to compare myself to. So that’s the only thing I could do—be myself. I was very skeptical about everything. I had my antennas up because it was so important for me to not be seduced. I wanted to have no regrets.

KL: You were in a long-term relationship before going on the show. How did you process that and make a big change at the same time?

RL: I had been in a relationship for five-years. You should be moving forward and not staying in the same place. It was pretty much dead, and I knew it. I just kept going back, even though I knew it was over.

“As confident and strong as I might be, I’m not that way all the time.”

KL: The Bachelor was a definitive way to move on.

RL: The Bachelor was me closing the door to that relationship. I think, where would I have been if I had stayed in that place? I would have been so unhappy not going after what I really wanted for myself. It was kind of a slap of reality. Walking away from that relationship, I knew exactly what I wanted. It took five years, but when I look back, it was beautiful.

KL: That’s interesting that you talk about it being an “opportunity.” Did you feel like you were able to be authentic on a reality show?

RL: They allowed me to be me. There were moments where I was laughing, I was being goofy, I was cursing someone out. I was emotional. Being an attorney, that is the exact opposite of what you want to do. But I am a very sensitive person, and I wanted to show the vulnerability and the sincerity that I was going through. I won’t say things are scripted, but you know you’re not going to like all 31 men that show up to see you. So that’s what I would say is the most scripted part, because you have to keep people you don’t want. I’ve always been outspoken, always telling it like it is. I feel like the biggest compliment I get is that I was very authentic on the show. That’s really what I tried to be.

KL: You’ve said that you’ll always be known as the “black bachelorette.” You had to be a representative for African-Americans. I am curious how you managed to be an ambassador and shut down stereotypes and still remain true to yourself.

RL: I was very sure about who I was. I needed to process some things before I accepted: being the first black Bachelorette, introducing myself as a black lead to an audience that had never seen one before. How would the black community perceive me? How would the Bachelor community perceive me?

KL: That must have been so overwhelming!

RL: My mom didn’t want me to do the show for those very reasons. But it felt bigger than me. But it needed to happen, and I could do it well. This was an opportunity for an audience to see someone in this role they’d never seen before. That was the driving force. I stopped being fearful of it, and I started to look at is as an honor. The show had been on the air for 16 years, and they’d never had a black lead.

KL: How was it actually being there?

RL: I’m not going to say that I didn’t have hard days. There’s one point in the show where I break down, I’m like, you have no idea what it’s like to be in this position. You have no idea what it’s like to satisfy multiple audiences, and everybody’s watching you. But I’m also proud of that moment, because things aren’t always okay. And as confident and strong as I might be, I’m not that way all the time. It was not easy.

KL: What was the response from the producers when you broke down?

RL: They were silent. Because what I was saying was, “You don’t understand what it’s like to be in this role as a black woman.” And there was truly nothing that they could say because they weren’t black women. They weren’t even black.

KL: When you were beginning your career as an attorney, did you encounter biases against you that you had not confronted before?

RL: Absolutely; It was being young, black, and female. I started off as a prosecutor in municipal court. I can’t tell you how many times an attorney would come in and then ask me, “When is the attorney arriving?” And I’m sitting at the table, as the prosecutor. They assumed I was a paralegal or a clerk with the court, not the attorney.

KL: Wow.

“The “no’s” have really been the driving force for me to try to do it all.”

RL: I’ve been in depositions where attorneys were very condescending to me, but my number one was an older, white male: he wouldn’t speak to me in the same way. That is something I never really had experienced prior to being an attorney.

KL: You have an ESPN radio show where a lot of men are listening to you. Do you feel like you want to educate them? Or, is it just more about normalizing it?

RL: I definitely look at it as normalizing. Internally, I feel the pressure that they’re thinking: 1. She’s here from The Bachelorette, and 2. She’s here because she looks a certain way—what does she really know about sports? I just try to be on top of my game. It’s one of those things where you have to be twice as good in that role.

KL: You’ve been public about some controversial topics. Are you welcomed to have a voice about these things on the radio?

RL: I do think that I’m welcome to it. And honestly, I think it’s because I’m an attorney. I think I’ve already established myself as the outspoken, opinionated one. What offers me the credibility behind that is being an attorney.

KL: Do you have support from the network?

RL: ESPN encourages me to speak up and speak out. I remember when I was first hosting, producers were in my ear saying, “Get in there. Say something. Speak up. Give an opinion.”

KL: How do you manage all of these different intersections in your life?

RL: It’s a lot. I’m a hustler. At this time last year, everybody was telling me “no” when it came to sports. It was hard for me to get an agent. Those “no’s” have really been the driving force for me to try to do it all. Now that I’ve had these opportunities this NFL season, it’s exciting. But it is also exhausting. I’m coming to the realization that you can’t do it all, and you don’t have to.

KL: The ability to say, “No, this is too much. It’s not good for me anymore” is hugely important.

RL: Right. And it’s hard when you’re so in it. Right now, I feel like how I’m able to balance is by just going through the motions. I’m like a robot. I can feel myself drowning, and I’m going to lose myself in the process. I’m fortunate enough that I can recognize that. So you will see things shift for me in the next couple months.

KL: What are you hoping to scale back?

RL: I think I’ll re-shape how I do things for my legal career, because—

KL: You’re still practicing?

RL: I’m literally entering time as I’m talking to you.

KL: Oh, my!

RL: This is what I mean! I like to speak about this because people think, oh, you’re so confident, and you’ve got it all together. But sometimes what drives me to always saying yes is the fear of the unknown.

KL: I really appreciate that you talked about having to scale back and really look at yourself, because I just don’t think that’s something we feel we’re allowed to do.

RL: People are like, “You seem to be balancing it all and doing it all.” And it’s like, “No, I’m not. And that’s OK!” I’m asking, where do I want to go? What can I put on the back burner? Because I have to. I don’t have any “me time.” I barely sleep. All my personal time is spent catching up on work. And so I’m at a place where I am having to evaluate. In 2019, you’ll see me step back and prioritize things rather than just saying yes to everything, so I can really focus on myself. I can get more in a creative space and really work on my brand. But if I panic in 2019, doing 50 different things, don’t judge me!

Video portraits by Dyar Bentz.

Similar Stories

Follow Your Dreams, But Make It Fashion

Chelsea Francis talks with Houston-based designer Nicholas Phat Nguyen about his success in the fashion industry, achieved through hard work, determination, and his personal journey to accept himself and follow his dreams.

Music Always Finds A Way

El Dusty, renowned DJ, and Adrian Quesada of the Black Pumas discuss how their worlds have changed since the shut down, and how they’ve managed to thrive creatively despite the pandemic.

Painting the World in Pure Imagination

Chelsea Francis talks with Dallas-based artist Charlie French about his art and the freedom it gives him, both to connect with others and to express himself to the fullest.