At the age of 38, Clare Crawley is about to become ABC’s oldest Bachelorette in the history of the franchise when she takes her place in May as the leading lady of Season 16.
It makes sense that ABC is skewing older this season given the emotional turmoil on current Bachelor Peter Weber’s season that many fans have attributed to the young age of his contestants. Historically, “The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” generally cast women in their twenties and early thirties. Last season’s star, Hannah Brown of Season 15, was a whopping 14 years younger than Crawley, having been 24 at the time her season was filmed last spring. The oldest “Bachelorette” before Crawley was Rachel Lindsay, who was 32 during her time starring on Season 13.
However, those age guidelines have not historically applied to the men of the franchise, with past Bachelors having been as old as 40 — such was the case for Byron Velvick on Season 6. Brad Womack was 38 during his second stint as the Bachelor on Season 15, and Nick Viall was 35 when he starred as the Bachelor on Season 21.
And, of course, it’s worth mentioning that ABC just added another “Bachelor” spinoff to its growing repertoire — this time, for senior citizens over the age of 65.
The current season of “The Bachelor,” which stars 28-year-old Weber, has faced much criticism over how young the contestants are, with only a single person out of the whopping 30 women chosen to compete for Pilot Pete’s love topping the age of 30. Natasha Parker, who was 31 at the time of filming compared to Weber’s 28 years, made it to the top 6 before being sent home.
Crawley is no stranger to the “Bachelor” franchise, having first come in as runner-up on Juan Pablo’s controversial tenure as the 18th Bachelor in 2014. She later went on to appear in the first two seasons of “Bachelor in Paradise,” and eventually got engaged to Frenchman Benoît Beauséjour-Savard on “Bachelor: Winter Games,” though the pair later split before tying the knot.
The unprecedented choice to cast Crawley, an older woman in “Bachelorette” years, got mixed responses from fans on Twitter Monday, with some protesting that the Sacramento native and professional hairstylist is too old for the dating series and other defending ABC’s bold choice.
“Thank you, [executive producer Mike Fleiss], for listening to [Bachelor] nation!! No more 23 year olds with zero real life experience! @Clare_Crawley better have some great guys who are in their 30s!” wrote one Twitter user.
It’s a sentiment that has been echoed by “Bachelor” fans this season, with many complaining that Weber’s final three contestants– Hannah Ann, 23, Madison P., 23 and Victoria F., 26–might be too young to make a lifetime commitment like marriage. Weber’s season has also been filled with excessive drama and angst, which some also attribute to the age of the contestants.
Robert Mills, head of alternative programming at ABC, addressed the ages of this season’s contestants in an interview with Entertainment Tonight that foreshadows Monday’s new “Bachelorette” decision.
“I think it’s that we need to look at things going forward. You see a lot of people talking about the age of contestants, I think that’s something we’d probably look at and say, ‘Does it need to be aged up? Are these girls ready?'” Mills said. “This is a show about hopefully finding a life mate, and that has happened on this show. I think just making sure everybody’s ready, and you can’t ignore the fact that, not even for the right reasons anymore, but are you there to be an influencer? Are you there for Peter? Looking at all that. They all, I think, are very sincere; I think the girls are actually great, but you look at everything and take that into account moving forward as we think about who the next Bachelorette is going to be.”
Here’s wishing the best to Crawley on her search for love.