Stereotypes aren’t foreign on The Bachelorette. There’s the quintessential not-here-for-the-right-reasons suitor, the heartbreaker, the runner-up and the next Bachelor. But on Rachel Lindsay’s season viewers stamped Lee Garrett with a new label: Racist.
In early June, the singer-songwriter came under fire after a series of 2015 tweets surfaced in which he described the Black Lives Matter movement as a terrorist group, compared the NAACP to the KKK and declared “never trust a female liberal.”
Onscreen, fans of the ABC franchise watched as the clashed with contestant Kenny King, calling the African American wrestler “aggressive” and shamelessly lying to Lindsay about their altercations. Though their feud came to a head on their two-on-one date, Garrett and King once more came face to face on the Men Tell All in July.
After housemates, including King, Josiah Graham and Dean Unglert, confronted the controversial suitor, Garrett denounced his tweets, his actions — and himself: “I’m sorry for saying things when I was not educated and ignorant in those subjects. That tweet was racist.”
Now, for the first time, the Nashville native, 30, opens up to Us about his journey — and life after the drama.
Us Weekly: Let’s start from the beginning. Why did you decide to go on The Bachelorette?
Lee Garrett: I went because I legitimately wanted to get married. I’m ready. I went through the process and It was like eight months of vetting. You have to get your mind ready for that. I went in like, “OK, I’m going to come out of this and be engaged.” You get in the mindset for that. It’s something else.
Us: Did you sign yourself up or did a friend nominate you?
LG: [ABC] scouted me.
Us: You mentioned the vetting process. Did ABC scan your social media pages?
LG: That I don’t know. They can say what they do, but I don’t have any knowledge of that.
Us: But if your account is private, do you have to let them see what’s there?
LG: My account wasn’t private.
Us: When did you go from public to private?
LG: Pretty much when everything went down. You’re supposed to be private, apparently, the whole time and I wasn’t. They were like,”You need to do that, Lee.”
Us: Looking back, how would you describe your overall experience on the show?
LG: It was great. We had a lot of fun and I made a lot of good friends. I learned a lot in the process. Life is different. It’s good. I don’t have any complaints. I think that I took it and I learned with it. You know what I mean? It was pretty harsh at some points in time but I think that it was definitely a blessing in disguise.
Us: Going on reality TV, you’re basically putting your life out for everyone to see. Were you nervous that the public wouldn’t accept you?
LG: I mean, yeah. You’ve got to hold your breath and do it. It is absolutely intimidating knowing that you’re going on a stage that essentially the whole world is going to see. They’re going to see the things that you say, that you do. It’s intimidating to be on something that scale, that size.
Us: Tell Us about your connection with Rachel. What was your first impression when you stepped out the limo?
LG: I think I can speak for anybody, when we walked out of that limo, time just stood still. You just completely blacked out. She was gorgeous sitting there in that dress, just smiling and waiting. When you step out, you go up and you’re nervous. You’re trying not to mess up and then the next thing you know you’re in front of her and then you’re sitting on the couch like, ‘What just happened?’ She was enchanting.
Us: As the weeks went on and you got to know each other, did you see yourself building a life together?
LG: I absolutely did. We had a great time and some great conversation. You saw a few of them. We interacted really well. We got along. She’s an incredible person.
Us: Did you have any qualms or hesitations dating a black girl?
LG: No, not at all. It didn’t bother me at all.
Us: You talked about the guys in the house. Who would you say you were the closest with?
LG: If you go on my social media, I’m in touch with a few of the guys, like Jonathan [Treece, the tickle monster] and I hit it off really well. Fred [Johnson] has always been really good to me. We keep in touch. Bryan [Abasolo] and I, at the first cocktail party, we hit it off really well. He was always really good to me.
Us: In one of your confessionals, you said, “I’m here to mess with everybody.” Was part of your plan to stir up trouble?
LG: Honestly, I do not recall when I even said that! I don’t know the actual conversation that happened, but I didn’t go in there to raise hell. I went in there with the approach that we were vying for a girl’s heart. There were 31 guys. We all had to pick our way to go about it.
Us: It’s a competition.
LG: Yeah, it was and we were trying to avoid that. But, at points, it becomes that. It’s weird. It’s a whole new experience.
Us: A big point this season was your conflict with Kenny. Do you think your edit was an accurate depiction of who you are?
LG: I think that with Kenny and I it was definitely a situation where I think — at least I can speak for myself when I say that looking back — I definitely learned a lot. What I went through during that situation with him especially taught me to be a better friend. Kenny and I hit it off really well in the beginning. Since then we’ve made up. It’s definitely something I’ve learned a lot about. It’s hard to say it was an accurate depiction when you only saw about four percent of what actually happened. I’m not perfect and there was a lot that I could have learned and I did learn a lot from that situation.
Us: During editing, do you think the conflict was blown up to make it into a race issue?
LG: I can’t make any comment on that.
Us: What is your relationship with Kenny like today?
LG: We haven’t been together or hung out at all. We have since then re-added on social media and stuff, so we’ll see where that goes.
Us: When your tweets surfaced in the media, why didn’t you delete them?
LG: They were deleted. It’s not about getting caught. It’s about learning and growing. I think I had to look into myself and look into what I really believe in and what my thoughts really are and grow. I think that’s not an overnight thing. I had to take that time when I got back and go through everything and figure everything out. When I actually did the Tell All, it was very sincere. I missed a lot of these guys. It was very genuine for me.
Us: How do you think the show has changed your perspective on life?
LG: It’s made me more open-minded in terms of not being so hard-headed. I want to put myself in different situations even more than I did before. It’s made me hungry to actually look into other issues and start helping people more and wondering what I can do for myself or what I can do with my business. What can I do to help? Charity is something that I’ve been doing lately.
Us: Post-show, what’s next for you?
LG: Right now, I am working. I’ve been writing music. I’ve been talking about other opportunities that I can’t really speak about. I think that it’s still early. The season just kind of ended. Especially for me and having to watch and go through it all, I’m just getting back to normalcy.
Us: Was it difficult to watch back?
LG: I don’t like watching myself on TV at all. It’s awkward, isn’t it?
Us: What did your family and friends think?
LG: They watched it and everybody has been very supportive. Everybody wants to ask questions and they want to know how the experience was. They thought it was really cool that I got to get in front of Bachelor Nation and get dumped [Laughs].
Us: Would you do reality TV again?
LG: I would do it again but I know that I would do it a lot differently. It’s a learning experience and I think that for these people who do more than one, they learn and they grow every time. One of the most important things to me is growth. I’m grabbing it by reins and I’m going to take it and run with it. So if I had another opportunity to be on, that would be great.
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