Colton Underwood, 29, has something he wants Bachelor Nation to know. In a Good Morning America interview on Wednesday, the former football player turned star of season 23 of The Bachelor told Robin Roberts that he is gay. "I've ran from myself for a long time, I've hated myself for a long time. I'm gay, and I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it," he said. "The next step in all of this was sort of letting people know."
The announcement comes after a difficult two years for the reality star. After professing his love to Cassie Randolph in his Bachelor finale in March 2019, the couple chose to pursue a relationship off-camera rather than getting married. In March of 2020, Underwood tested positive for COVID-19, and spent several weeks recovering in Huntington Beach, Calif., with Randolph and her parents. But in May 2020, Underwood and Randolph announced their breakup on Instagram. "Sometimes people are just meant to be friends," wrote Underwood, "and that's ok."
Things took a dark turn several months later, when Randolph was granted a restraining order against Underwood, due to alleged harassment and stalking. (She ultimately dropped the order in November of last year.) Talking to Roberts about the breakup, Underwood said, "I would like to say sorry for how things ended... I messed up."
In his 2020 memoir The First Time: Finding Myself and Looking for Love on Reality TV, Underwood wrote about dealing with rumors that he was gay during his senior year in high school. "The rumor became so rampant in our small town, even my mom heard about it," he wrote. Later in the book he mused, "Sometimes I wonder if my life would have been much easier if I had been gay." While promoting his book in March of last year, Underwood told Entertainment Tonight that starring on The Bachelor helped him come to terms with his sexuality: "[The show taught me] that I'm straight and I'm very, very attracted to Cassie [Randolph] and women."
When asked to address the women who may feel "misled" by his appearance on The Bachelorette, The Bachelor, and Bachelor in Paradise, Underwood said, "I would understand why they would think that way... I do think I could have handled it better, I'll say that." Though he's sorry for "dragging people into my own mess of figuring out who I was," Underwood admitted that he's grateful for his experience on the show. "Without The Bachelor franchise, I don't know if this would have ever came out."
Producers of The Bachelor franchise issued this statement of support in the wake of Underwood's announcement: "We are so inspired by Colton Underwood's courage to embrace and pursue his authentic self. As firm believers in the power of love, we celebrate Colton's journey in the LGBTQIA+ community every step of the way." And GLAAD's Head of Talent, Anthony Allen Ramos, said in a statement, "Every LGBTQ person's journey to discovering and accepting their authentic self is different, and Colton Underwood's decision to share his truth with the public reminds us that there is no set timeline for coming out. Given the large and loyal fandom who know Colton from The Bachelor, his coming out and discussion of his faith will hopefully open eyes to the millions of out and proud LGBTQ people who are also people of faith."