Colton Underwood, the first star of "The Bachelor" franchise to come out, says he was blackmailed before he announced last month that he is gay.
Variety, which has an exclusive interview, says Underwood "secretly visited a spa known for catering to gay clientele. Shortly thereafter, he received an anonymous email, which has been reviewed by Variety, from someone claiming to have taken his nude photos at the venue."
Underwood, a former professional football player, said the incident forced him to come out to his publicist. That led to his public announcement in an interview with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" in April.
Underwood confirmed to Variety that he has a Netflix series in the works about his coming-out journey, with fellow gay athlete Gus Kenworthy acting as his guide.
While initially praised for his decision to come out, Underwood, 29, has weathered his fair share of controversy, including allegations of harassment.
After appearing as a contestant on "The Bachelorette," he was cast in "Bachelor in Paradise" (both in 2018), where he had a fling with fellow contestant Tia Booth. In 2019, he was chosen as the resident Prince Charming for Season 23 of "The Bachelor," the flagship series of ABC's wildly popular dating show franchise.
Colton's Netflix show prompted backlash, with more than 35,000 people signing a Change.org petition to scrap the series rather than feature someone allegedly guilty of "abusive, manipulative and dangerous behavior."
Underwood's coming out sent shockwaves through Bachelor Nation. He also received support, including from celebrities such as Billy Eichner, who had previously told him during a guest appearance on "The Bachelor": "Maybe you're the first gay Bachelor, and we don't even know."
Talking to Variety, Underwood addressed some of the controversy he has faced since then.
“I never want people to think that I’m coming out to change the narrative, or to brush over and not take responsibility for my actions, and now that I have this gay life that I don’t have to address my past as a straight man,” Underwood said. "Controlling situations to try to grasp at any part of the straight fantasy that I was trying to live out was so wrong.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.