The internet erupted last month when former The Bachelor star Colton Underwood came out publicly as gay during an interview on Good Morning America. Now, in a new interview, Underwood revealed what pushed him to come out in the first place: blackmail.
“I, at one point, during my rock bottom and spiral, was getting blackmailed,” Underwood revealed to Variety Wednesday. “Nobody knows I was being blackmailed.” The reality TV star’s accusation centers on a visit last year to a Los Angeles spa frequented by LGBTQ individuals which Underwood described as a visit “just to look.”
Underwood claims that he received an anonymous email from someone threatening to out him publicly with purported nude photos of Underwood at the spa as evidence. Though Underwood never saw the photos the sender claimed to have, the email panicked him to the point that he forwarded the email to his publicist, Alex Spieller. “I knew that out of anybody in my world, my publicist wasn’t going to ruin me,” Underwood said.
The alleged blackmail came at a dark time in Underwood’s life. His ex-girlfriend Cassie Randolph, whom he met while on The Bachelor, filed a restraining order against Underwood in September 2020 claiming that he stalked her and placed a tracking device on her car following their breakup. The court filing derailed a planned reality series focused on the former couple living as friends in Los Angeles after their split.
Update: The TikTok Tease Kiss Video. This could be a problem. No Colton Underwood blackmail here.
“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. “There is no excuse for any behavior of mine that was holding onto this straight identity or that was operating out of fear of being gay or being outed.”
“It’s not who I am as a human being, and it’s not how I carry myself,” he added. Randolph dropped the restraining order two months later.
Underwood also addressed criticism of the announcement of a new Netflix reality series chronicling his coming out journey with out gay Olympic diver Gus Kenworthy serving as his “gay guide.” The near-simultaneous timing of the project’s announcement with Underwood’s coming out invoked frustration from LGBTQ circles, pointing out the influence of Underwood’s celebrity and privilege as a white, straight-passing cis gay man.
“I know I have a lot to learn and, honestly, when I came into this, I didn’t want to be a role model. But I didn’t have a choice,” Underwood said. “While people are coming out saying ‘we don’t need another white man coming out. We heard this story before,” I’m here to tell you I grew up in central Illinois as an athlete … I didn’t have representation. I know there is far more representation than just who I am physically, but also in the industry, in the community. There are so many different levels where we can do better and support one another and that’s what I want to do.”
Netflix vice president of unscripted and documentary series Brandon Riegg seconded Underwood’s perspective. “One person’s experience will not fill the void of queer stories on TV. We have to do better as an industry to highlight more kinds of lives and love,” Riegg told Variety. “That said, we hope the show will help challenge outdated notions of what kind of stories can or should be at the center of entertainment.”
Underwood’s comments haven’t silenced those that believe he hasn’t fully addressed the stalking allegations, though.