Matt James’s season of The Bachelor is monumental in more ways than one. Not only did Warner Bros. cast its first Black male lead in the show’s 18-year history, but the group vying for his heart is the most diverse pool of women yet.
Abigail Heringer made history on Monday night as the franchise’s first deaf contestant — and the 25-year-old from Salem, Ore., didn’t have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance. The financial analyst got quality airtime; she revealed during the Season 25 premiere she “was born completely deaf.”
“So, there’s something a little bit different about me,” she told James during their first meeting. “And that is I’m deaf. So I’m going to be reading your lips a lot tonight, but thankfully you have really beautiful lips. So I’m not complaining!”
“I love that! I’m going to enunciate for you,” James replied.
The two established a connection, which was evident later on in the evening when Heringer secured the first impression rose. As Bachelor Nation knows, that makes her a frontrunner. Host Chris Harrison even called Heringer “one of our favorites” and teased she’s “here for the right reasons.”
Here’s why this is a big deal.
Representation of deaf and hard-of-hearing people onscreen is critical, according to the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), and Heringer’s story may help bring more societal acceptance to the community.
“NAD appreciates every opportunity for the viewing public to see real deaf and hard-of-hearing people on television, because this leads to more openness and acceptance of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in all aspects of society,” Howard Rosenblum, NAD’s CEO, tells Yahoo Entertainment.
Heringer is one of four children, and both she and her older sister, Rachel, were born with congenital hearing loss. They both successfully received cochlear implants at age 2. In an interview with the Salem Statesman Journal, their mom, Suzie, said she was surprised to learn Abigail was “willing to share her story about her hearing loss” on national television.
“It’s something she usually doesn’t talk much about,” Suzie Heringer said. “With her disability, if that can impact one other person, it’s worth sharing the story.”
“Any time anyone sees someone that is ‘different’ from them, [that] expands their minds and offers an opportunity to accept differences,” he tells Yahoo. “The more we see appropriate representation on any form of media, but especially television, the more likely we are to search about whatever it is that is ‘different’ and learn more. This goes for seeing a deaf person on a reality TV show like The Bachelor.”
That’s evident, as there was a spike on Google for the search term “cochlear implant” during Monday’s premiere.
This is why representation is important 👏🏼 look at how many people are educating themselves on the deaf community and cochlear implants just from abigail’s story #TheBachelor #BachelorNation pic.twitter.com/5X4TfQByn8
— M (@M37851382) January 5, 2021
“When we, deaf and hard-of-hearing people, see deaf and hard-of-hearing out in the mainstream, we feel seen,” Rosenblum explains.
Heringer isn’t the first deaf person featured on reality television — actress Marlee Matlin appeared on The Apprentice and Dancing With the Stars, Nyle DiMarco on America’s Next Top Model and Justin LeBlanc on Project Runway — but given the Bachelor’s popularity, it’s a big moment in the show’s history. After only one episode, Heringer is not only a frontrunner but also a fan favorite.
— peter’s golf cart 🌹 (@petersgolfcart) January 5, 2021
She is so great and sincere she's already one of my favorites!
— Leigh Samuels (@LeighSamuels10) January 5, 2021
Matt giving Abigail the rose is the only good thing that’s ever happened on a first episode of the bachelor
— Charlotte Wilder (@TheWilderThings) January 5, 2021
THIS WAS BEFORE SHE GOT THR FIRST IMPRESSION ROSE I AM MANIFESTING IT #TheBachelorABC
— Julie (@jclementine9) January 5, 2021
— liz (@paytongirl44) January 5, 2021
SO NO ONE WAS GONNA TELL ME THE BACHELOR HAS A DEAF CONTESTANT FROM THE PNW?? THE WAY I STARTED TO CRY WHEN SHE SPOKE MY HEART FELT SO HAPPY. SHES MY GIRL AND IDK HER BUT LIKE ABIGAIL BABY IM ROOTING FOR YOU!!
— Allie. (@g0ldcage) January 5, 2021
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