There’s something disarming about Michelle Young. An elementary school teacher from Minnesota and a fan favorite from Matt James’ Bachelor season, Michelle has led the first few episodes of her season with an impressive blend of vulnerability and confidence. From her first episode, she’s devoted herself to sussing out her men’s red flags—and on Tuesday, she made quick work of season villain Jamie Skaar.
Jamie’s manipulation comes straight from the Bachelorette villain playbook: He previously stirred up drama by warning Michelle that her character had been called into question, without disclosing that he happened to be the only one doing that. In one unfortunate candid camera, Jamie can be seen telling a producer that “Michelle is in spring-break mode and it’s genuinely a turnoff.” (No, that’s a turnoff.)
Michelle did not waste time letting Jamie go once she figured out his game. While she was at it, she gave her men a directive: “I’ve worked really hard to build a strong character and will not stand to be manipulated in conversations, lied to, [or have my character called] into question,” she said. “I am looking for my soulmate, and I’ve built myself up for my soulmate. And that’s not someone who is so quick to tear it down.”
This week’s episode was a testament to Michelle’s strength—her ability to not only withstand upsetting experiences, but to use them as inspiration for what she wants for herself. Like everyone else in Bachelor Nation, Michelle has proclaimed her commitment to finding love. Not everyone who says those words is ready—on the show or in real life. Michelle is.
During a one-on-one date with Rodney Mathews, Michelle stated one of her most important needs in a relationship. As she explained, her mother is white and her father is Black—and the nature of their partnership has inspired what she wants for herself.
“There are so many times when my dad didn’t have to speak up because my mom would be the one standing in front,” Michelle said. “She protected him so much—as much as he protected her. That’s not necessarily a comfort that I’ve felt in previous relationships.”
Michelle went on to explain that a recent relationship ended after someone called her the N-word at a grocery store. “When I got home and was visibly upset, the response was more of how I was giving the woman more power because I was upset about it,” Michelle said. “I tried to explain where I was coming from, and looking back on it, that was my sign.”
“I shouldn’t have ever had to justify my feelings,” the Bachelorette continued. “Whatever emotion I was feeling in that moment, I was allowed to feel. And I was allowed to feel it as long as I wanted to feel it. If I have to explain that, I’ll also be explaining that the relationship’s not gonna work.”
It’s these kinds of conversations that Bachelor and Bachelorette fans who are pushing for more diversity within the franchise hope to see. The franchise has had a spotty history when it comes to telling authentic stories that delve outside its usual homogenous box, so Michelle’s season could never be a one-step cure. But so far it feels like a start.
Michelle—whom I’ve never met but whose charisma is powerful enough to make me feel like we’ve definitely brunched before in a past life—seems to be a person who knows what she wants, and in the end that will be what sets her apart as a Bachelorette. Half of the search for love can be an internal expedition—to figure out how to detangle the way we interact with others now from how we’ve been treated in the past so that we can see the person in front of us clearly. (At least I think it is? As a single woman who lives with two dogs and dreams of pulling a Carrie Bradshaw—that is, in this case, marrying myself just for the registry—I might not be the best authority.)
One indicator of Michelle’s emotional intelligence is how keenly she understands trust—not just in broad terms, but how it must exist within all communication in a relationship. “The funny thing about trust,” she said at one point, “is that trust is something I truly believe makes or breaks a relationship. It takes all these small or large vulnerable moments to build it up and it can come crashing down in one instant.”
And although Bachelor and Bachelorette poetry dates tend to be peak cringe, Michelle’s felt like the ultimate testament to her power as a Bachelorette—a sincere poem composed of direct couplets. “Growing up I would take a look around, knowing already there would be no others like me to be found,” Michelle recited. “You see, early on society coined me as the token Black girl. I was their stamp on diversity, all thanks to my nappy curls. As the token Black girl I was still able to make friends; I got invited to all the big parties, as long as I followed the basic white trends.”
“I was never the girl invited to cute dates at the apple orchard in the fall,” Michelle said later. “I was the girl picked last for prom but first for basketball. I made a promise to empower myself, to empower all hues of Black, white, and brown—fighting for opportunities that allow them to blossom from the ground. Being that role model young brown girls see when looking around.”
“Hey soulmate,” Michelle concluded, “if you’re listening, you’ll need to understand... in my heart of hearts, all I’ve ever wanted was love, and I hope you can be that man.”
What can I say? Disarming.