'Bachelor' fans call for plus-size casting: 'Fat people deserve a chance to find love'

Only a select few "Bachelor" contestants through the years have been plus size. A new fan-led campaign wants to change that. 

Ahead of Monday's season premiere of "The Bachelorette," a group of fans announced a new social media initiative: Roses for Every Body, which calls on the show to regularly cast contestants with diverse body types.

"The message the 'Bachelor' is sending by only casting thin people is that thinness is a prerequisite to being given a chance at finding love," reads the Monday press release. 

The group comprises eight members – a few of whom were also involved with the fan-driven Bachelor Diversity Campaign in 2020, which called for more diverse casting of people of color as contestants – and assembled by Jenna Vesper of the "Bachelor" recap podcast "Date Card Podcast."

The group's campaign lists five demands to the "Bachelor" franchise, the production team and network: cast at least five diverse fat people every season; give those cast members equal air time in which they aren't talking about their weight; choose "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" stars interested in dating diverse fat people; offer support to fat contestants "including inclusive clothing options when required for sponsored events and mental health support to navigate anti-fat harassment from the audience"; and hire fat staff and production members behind the scenes and provide them with fat inclusion training. 

USA TODAY has reached out to ABC and Warner Bros. representatives for comment. 

More on this season's stars:The next 'Bachelorette' is a first: Gabby and Rachel will seek love at the same time

Franchise alums including former "Bachelorette" star Katie Thurston and "Bachelorette" contestant Clay Harbor have shown support on social media following the launch, co-signing the campaign and sharing it with their followers. 

"Fat people exist. Fat people are beautiful. Fat people deserve a chance to find love," the release reads. "One-third of the U.S. population is considered fat. That translates to roughly 2 million people within the audience of 'The Bachelor' who are excluded from seeing themselves reflected on screen. They are being told they are not lovable, and that they are not worthy of marriage."

In 44 seasons of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," the franchise has featured more than a thousand contestants, only two of which identified as plus size and both of whom were sent home on the first night.

More:Why are there no plus-size contestants on 'blind' dating shows?

Bo Stanley, second from right, competed in Chris Soules' 2015 season of "The Bachelor."

Bo Stanley, a surfer, model and body activist, appeared on Chris Soules' season in 2015, and Bryan Witzmann, a former professional football player, appeared on Michelle Young's 2021 season. 

"While the franchise has long been viewed as a microcosm of our society, it has been a slow adopter in the effort to include individuals with diverse storylines and backgrounds," reads the release from the campaign. "And when the show does make an effort to showcase socio-political topics, they often miss the mark, doing so with the goal of eliciting a passionate response from its audience (see the many weekly recap podcasts, blogs, vlogs, and think pieces) rather than contributing to positive on-screen representation. While we believe the franchise is trying, it frankly needs to do better." 

Bryan Witzmann, pictured here playing for the Kansas City Chiefs, appeared as a contestant on Michelle Young's 2021 season of "The Bachelorette."

Two years ago, the Bachelor Diversity Campaign called for "The Bachelor" to cast a Black lead for the 2021 season and ensure that all future seasons have at least 35% of its contestants identify as people of color. Behind the scenes, it also called for more screen time for nonwhite contestants, storylines that reflect their backgrounds and the hiring of a diversity consultant.

More:'Bachelor' alums, fans call on ABC to diversify contestants in wake of Black Lives Matter protests

Days later, "The Bachelor" announced that Matt James would serve as the franchise's first Black male lead. "They also hired more BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) producers and crew and began to cast a more diverse group of hopeful singles," Monday's campaign release noted.

"We’re grateful for the work the Bachelor Diversity Campaign has done to pave the way for more onscreen diversity," the news release added. "The franchise still has a long way to go to move away from its white-washed past, and a present where cultural appropriation and reduced screen time for Black contestants and people of color remain the norm. However, Bachelor Diversity Campaign’s significant successes demonstrated the effectiveness of public pressure and demanding what is long overdue."

Previously:What will it take to fix 'The Bachelor' franchise's racism?

Chris Harrison, who was ousted as the franchise's longtime host last summer over a racism controversy, said in a 2014 New York Times interview that the show had never considered casting a "chubby" contestant because "that’s not attractive, and television is a very visual medium."

This isn't the first time fans have voiced hopes for diverse body types in the "Bachelor" franchise. Kate Stayman-London's 2020 novel "One To Watch" imagined the journey for the first plus-size star of a certain reality dating show, which entailed rude comments from contestants and fans, uncomfortable situations sparked by producers not understanding how to help the star feel comfortable, and the media attention that comes with being a franchise "first."