Bachelor Nation sticks together. After Colton Underwood came out as gay during an emotional interview on Good Morning America, supportive messages from past contestants on the ABC franchise came pouring in.
Underwood, 29, opened up about his sexuality in a conversation with Robin Roberts, which aired on Wednesday, April 14. “This year’s been a lot for a lot of people and it’s probably made a lot of people look at themselves in the year and figure out who they are,” he said. “I’ve ran from myself for a long time, I’ve hated myself for a long time. I’m gay. I came to terms with that earlier this year, and the next step in all of this was sort of letting people know. … I’m the happiest and healthiest I’ve ever been in my life. That means the world to me.”
The Indiana native previously competed on Becca Kufrin‘s season 14 of The Bachelorette in 2018 before being named the lead of season 23 of The Bachelor the following year. In his 2020 memoir, The First Time: Finding Myself and Looking for Love on Reality TV, Underwood remembered his dad, Scott Underwood, discovering that he might have been questioning his sexuality.
“He’d pulled up the history of recent Google searches, which included gay porn sites and a variety of questions: Am I gay? How do you know if you’re gay? Why don’t I like having sex with my girlfriend?” Colton wrote. “At first, I denied responsibility. Then I owned up to having been curious. He asked if I wanted to talk about it. I said no, explaining that I’d figured things out on my own. I begged him not to tell Mom. I’m sure he did. But neither of them ever spoke about it with me. All that research, though, led me to understand that I was definitely attracted to girls.”
After finally coming forward with his truth, the Bachelor in Paradise alum said that his family cheered him on wholeheartedly — especially his father.
“His reaction was sort of … ‘I wish you would have trusted me sooner,'” he said on Wednesday. “He followed it up with, ‘How can I help you? How can I take this off of your plate? Who can I tell?’ To me, that was more meaningful than ‘I love you.’ The only reason I’m here today is because I have the love and support of my family.”
Colton’s search for love on The Bachelor didn’t end with an engagement, but he walked away from the season with winner Cassie Randolph, who he dated until May 2020. During his GMA interview, the former NFL player admitted that he “made a lot of bad choices” following his split from Randolph, 25, and apologized for “how things ended.” However, he asserted that his connection with the California native was genuine.
“I loved everything about her and it’s hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were in going through that relationship with her was because I obviously had an internal fight going on,” he recalled. “I would just say that I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for any pain and emotional stress I caused. I wish that it wouldn’t have happened the way that it did. I wish that I had been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else.”
In September 2020, Randolph filed a restraining order against her ex-boyfriend, who she claimed was harassing and stalking her. At the time, the former athlete denied the allegations and the case was later dropped.
The philanthropist’s Bachelor journey might not have turned out the way he predicted — but he’s still grateful for the experience. “I do think I could have handled it better, I’ll say that,” he admitted on Wednesday. “I just wish I wouldn’t have dragged people into my own mess of figuring out who I was. I genuinely mean that. … At the same time, I can sit here and say I’m sorry to all of those women, I can also say thank you. Without them and without the Bachelor franchise, I don’t know if this would have ever came out.”
Executive producers from the ABC franchise shared the love on Wednesday, writing in a statement, “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.”
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Keep scrolling to see how members of Bachelor Nation are rallying around Colton after his coming out.