Joey Graziadei is bringing ‘The Bachelor’ back to life. But on social media, it’s the women vying for his heart who are the real stars.

Season 28 of The Bachelor premiered on Jan. 22 with 28-year-old tennis pro Joey Graziadei as the lead looking for love on reality TV.

Graziadei, who made it to the final two on Charity Lawson’s season of The Bachelorette, made a name for himself among Bachelor Nation fans thanks to his active listening skills and “lover boy” tendencies.

As the lead, he appears to have achieved what has felt like an impossible feat as of late: He’s reignited a genuine interest in the franchise.

Graziadei’s season premiere of The Bachelor was watched by 6.02 million viewers across ABC, Hulu and other streaming platforms in its first week of release, according to Nielsen data. Week 4 marked a season high — raking in 5.9 million views after just three days.

That’s a big change in viewership compared to Bachelor Zach Shallcross’s Season 27 finale, which brought in 3.4 million viewers.

Suzana Somers, a data analyst who runs the Bachelor Data Instagram account, which tracks and assesses data surrounding contestant screen time, popularity and social media growth, told Yahoo Entertainment that “The Bachelor is back” after a number of seasons that stumbled.

She attributes the rising interest in Graziadei’s season to three main factors: Gen Z is watching, the season lead is a fan favorite who people are “rallying for” and there have been significant changes in how the show gets edited.

“We’re seeing so many Gen Z influencers and just Gen Z people in general on TikTok actually watching the show and discussing it,” she said, citing influencers like Xandra Pohl, who’s documented herself watching the season. “Joey is [also] the first lead in quite some time that viewers saw on The Bachelorette and [said], ‘We want this man as our next lead.’ We haven’t seen that in a number of years.”

Joey Graziadei, star of The Bachelor. (Stephanie Augello/Disney via Getty Images)

How the Season 28 women differ from other contestants

The Bachelor has been historically marketed as a show meant to help a hopeful lead find a forever love. But recently the franchise has also effectively spawned a slew of social media influencer careers, so much so that contestants are often asked if they’re there for “the right reasons.”

Emma Gray, co-host of the Bachelor Nation podcast Love to See It told Vox in 2020 that the press cycle and coverage of the early seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette were “heavily controlled by the tabloids.” The show’s reputation as a breeding ground for social media influencers, on the other hand, was fostered by the advent of Instagram in the 2010s — when book deals, brand collaborations and paid promotions became the norm as contestants actively pursued alternate endeavors to maintain their fame and make a profit.

“I think people had a bit of Bachelor fatigue in general, especially with all the contestants going on there to gain a social [media] following. … Sure, they want to find love, but they are also [looking for] a way out of this actual reality through the influencer world,” Kay Brown, co-host of the Betchelor podcast, told Yahoo Entertainment.

Chad Kultgen, co-host of the Game of Roses podcast, told Yahoo Entertainment, “It all exists on this spectrum [for contestants] of ‘I’m doing it for the right reasons’ to ‘I’m doing it for completely the wrong reasons.’ And everybody [is] somewhere in between.”

Yahoo Entertainment reached out to ABC for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

The Bachelor Nation to social media influencer pipeline is a path so well worn that we often question the authenticity of these men and women who choose to join the franchise — and whether “finding love” is merely a facade.

In Season 28, however, it seems as though viewers have done away with their reluctance to believe and even like these contestants. Many of the women on Graziadei’s season have grown significant social media followings based on their likability alone. Suddenly the audience is finding itself wanting to learn more about these women — because they’re women they can see themselves befriending.

Many of the Season 28 contestants have taken to Instagram and TikTok to share authentic parts of their personalities and their lifestyles — be it through choreographed dances, hair tutorials or “day in the life” videos. Unlike some of their Bachelor Nation counterparts, these women are using social media to connect with, rather than sell to, their audience.

Somers told Yahoo Entertainment that Daisy Kent and Maria Georgas, two women in Graziadei’s final four, have gained social media followers at an unprecedented rate this season thanks to their usage of both Instagram and TikTok.

“This cast in general is the first cast to truly embrace using both social media platforms,” she explained. “What Daisy and Maria are doing is by embracing TikTok and making frequent content, not only are they going viral because of what’s happening on the show, but they’re also controlling their own story when it comes to social media by making their own content. And I think something that a lot of contestants fail to do when they go on the show is they don’t realize that when people watch the show, they get excited about the contestants, and then go follow them on social media because they want to learn more. They want to see what their daily lives are like. They want to really get more of that content.”

Race, Somers noted, also factors into a contestant’s popularity on social media.

“When we look at our final four contestants, we can expect that Rachel [Nance], who is our only nonwhite contestant remaining [this season], [will not] see the same social media growth that her white counterparts are going to see. And that’s just based on looking at every single previous season on social media growth,” she said. “If we look at Charity’s final four where Joey was the only white contestant left, he got significantly more followers than any other contestant.”

With just three episodes left in the season, Somers says continued follow gains for the remaining contestants will depend on who makes it the furthest and whose story “tugs on the viewers’ heartstrings.”

“I think we’re gonna see Daisy, Maria and Kelsey A. take off in social media growth in these coming weeks. And it’s really going to come down to how these final storylines really pan out,” she said.

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