Katie Thurston and Michelle Young Are the Next Stars of The Bachelorette

Double the Bachelorettes, double the drama.

On tonight's After the Final Rose special, not one, but two women from Matt James' season of The Bachelor were named as the next franchise stars.

Katie Thurston will lead season 17 of the ABC dating competition, which is set to premiere summer 2021, while Michelle Young will resume the role for season 18, airing fall 2021.

So what inspired Katie to take this leap of faith? "I'm ready to find love, and not just, like, the temporary kind," she shared. "I'm talking forever, my husband, and I'm in a place in my life where I feel like I'm the best version of me."

When news that Katie was going to be announced as the next lead in the Bachelor franchise leaked on social media in February, the 29-year-old bank marketing manager responded with a shrug.

"News to me," she wrote on her Instagram Story. Maybe it really was news to her when she posted that Instagram or maybe she was playing down the rumors to preserve the surprise, or maybe we'll never know! Either way, it's now official.

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Katie was sent home during the Feb. 8 episode after a one-on-one. Matt told her that he loved hanging out with her, but the romantic connection was just not there. While Katie and Matt might not have had the right connection, she won the rest of us over with her complete lack of tolerance for anyone's bulls--t. She stood up to Victoria and Anna as they put down other contestants, got to the bottom of what was going on with Sarah and her abrupt exit and kept Matt informed about the insanity taking place amongst the women. She also brought a sparkly purple dildo on night one—she came in with a bang, and she's going out with a new job.

Hopefully, she'll put up with just as little crap on her own season as she did during Matt's.

Katie Thurston, Michelle Young, The Bachelor
Katie Thurston, Michelle Young, The Bachelor

As for Michelle, she was among the five women who were introduced to Matt mid-season. The former college basketball player turned elementary school teacher formed an instant connection with Matt over their shared love of sports and mentoring kids.

Michelle made it all the way to the final two, met Matt's mom and brother, but was ultimately broken up with during tonight's finale after the Bachelor began second-guessing their bond. "I don't think I can get there with you," he told her.

The Bachelor, Katie Thurston, Michelle Young
The Bachelor, Katie Thurston, Michelle Young

Katie and Michelle's promotions mark a return to the way the show traditionally chooses its next lead, which is from the contestants of the previous season. Matt was never a contestant on any season while Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams had been contestants several seasons previously and had since appeared on Bachelor in Paradise.

Though to be fair, 2020 was just a weird year in general and we can't blame ABC for their casting choices—Matt was originally supposed to be a contestant on Clare's season, after all.

In yet another twist for Bachelor Nation, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia have been tapped to replace Chris Harrison as next season's host. He stepped aside from the franchise last month after defending contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's racially insensitive behavior.

Last year, The Bachelorette was delayed by the pandemic until July and didn't air until October. Paradise didn't air at all, but ABC exec Rob Mills told Variety in January that the network is determined to get the show back on the air.

"We are hell-bent on figuring out how we make Paradise work," said Mills, who is the newly named EVP of Unscripted and Alternative Entertainment at Walt Disney Television. "Unless something horrendous happens, I feel very confident that Paradise is coming back on this summer—how and where it's going to be, it's still too early to tell."

The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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