By Mariella Mosthof at Romper
Hometown dates kicked off in Baltimore with Rachel Lindsay meeting Eric Bigger’s warm, supportive family, but one woman in his life instantly charmed Twitter. His aunt wasted no time in bringing up race, refreshingly asking Rachel how she’s been handling the pressure of being the first black Bachelorette. So who is Eric’s aunt on The Bachelorette? Auntie Verna already has a lot of Bachelor Nation fans.
Eric has spoken frankly on the show about growing up in Baltimore and how hard he struggled to avoid falling victim to the criminalization of his low-income neighborhood. He was a straight-A student and managed to navigate the struggle of class mobility with grace. But he’s also talked about how his mother wasn’t able to meet his needs as a child, and his father struggled to break out of the cycle of criminalized behavior which his environment perpetuated. Both of his parents were enthusiastically on hand, however, to greet Eric and Rachel with the rest of his extended family. The first person to cheer, “Welcome to Baltimore!” as Rachel crossed the threshold was his Auntie Verna, who was also the first person to take Rachel aside for a private chat.
The importance of seeing black women speak about relationships intergenerationally was not lost on Twitter, and Auntie Verna has some very high-profile stans. Janet Mock, for example, praised her in a not at all big deal set of tweets.
It’s no surprise that Verna felt comfortable bringing up race with Rachel and giving her a safe space to process her feelings, considering what she does for a living. According to a Baltimore Sun profile on Eric, Verna Myers works as a diversity consultant in Baltimore.
“So I was like, ‘the first black Bachelorette,’” Verna said to Rachel, motioning air quotes around her official title. “How are you dealing with that and like, were you like prepared for that? How does one prepare?”
Rachel spoke about how black people are obviously not a monolith, but being in her position, she’s faced with the unavoidable assumption that they are. So she feels like she’s stuck representing a whole group of people, while simultaneously being judged by that group of people. “I don’t think people realize that,” Verna agreed. “You’re having to worry about what an entire group of people think about your choices.”
It was one of the most refreshing and progressive conversations that’s ever happened during hometowns and, thankfully, Aunt Verna is getting the praise for it she deserves.