‘The Bachelorette’ star Gabby Windey addresses Erich Schwer’s blackface photo controversy

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The Bachelorette star Gabby Windey has addressed her fiance Erich Schwer’s blackface photo that resurfaced on social media shortly before the Season 19 finale aired.

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Earlier this month, a high school yearbook photo of Erich in blackface surfaced and offended Bachelor Nation, and Erich released a statement September 8 on his Instagram account, apologizing for his “ignorant” and “insensitive” actions as a teenager.

RELATED LINK: ‘THE BACHELOR’ FRANCHISE COUPLES NOW: WHO IS STILL TOGETHER?? (PHOTOS)

Erich admitted his behavior was “damaging” and he felt “deeply ashamed.” He said he’ll always regret the offense and believes accountability is only the first step of making a change.

The Bachelorette fans, however, didn’t hear from Gabby about the scandal — until now.

“With his yearbook photo, I found out with the rest of the world, and I was incredibly shocked,” Gabby toldPeople of Erich, whom she got engaged to on The Bachelorette’s Season 19 finale.

Gabby and Erich were already engaged by the time the blackface photo resurfaced on the Internet and Erich was being subjected to backlash and criticism.

“[I] just really had to process my thoughts and feelings,” Gabby said, “and it made me really think about those scenarios independently and then think about how we can grow as a couple and learn from this.”

Gabby admitted she was “pretty much devastated and shocked after seeing that.”

When Erich apologized for the photo, he wrote in full on Instagram, “I wholeheartedly apologize for the insensitive photo of me in Blackface from my high school yearbook that has been circulating. What I thought at the time was a representation of my love for Jimi Hendrix, was nothing but ignorance.”

He continued at the time, “I was naive to the hurtful implications of my actions to the Black community and those closest to me, and will forever regret my offensive and damaging behavior. I am deeply ashamed by my actions and understand that my apology is only the first step in taking accountability.”

There was no mention of Erich’s blackface controversy on The Bachelorette finale that aired Tuesday night on ABC, but Erich was asked to address a different scandal during the three-hour live broadcast.

RELATED LINK: ‘THE BACHELORETTE’ COUPLES NOW: WHOM DID ‘THE BACHELORETTE’ STARS AND THEIR BACHELOR PICKS ULTIMATELY END UP WITH?! (PHOTOS)  

RELATED LINK: ‘THE BACHELORETTE’ COUPLES NOW

Erich’s ex, Amanda Kaylor, claimed they had dated right up until he left to film The Bachelorette, which he allegedly only wanted to do for “clout” and new career opportunities, and Erich had hoped to reunite with her after he returned home from filming.

The Bachelorette host Jesse Palmer even read one of Erich’s texts to Amanda out loud on The Bachelorette: After the Final Rose in which he said the show “isn’t real.”

“I wanted to do this to see if there was something else I could do with my life,” Erich added in the text, before apologizing to Amanda for blindsiding and hurting her.

Erich explained that he had taken the “cowardly way” out of that relationship because he didn’t see a future with the single mother, and Gabby shared how she and Erich talked about the scandal at length — even before Amanda’s texts with Erich were released to the public in July.

“I was expecting the text messages,” Gabby told People. “He was scared they were going to leak and I’m like, ‘You have to prepare yourself now and tell me the truth.’ And he did, so there’s not really anything I can say or do.”

“It was a time for us to take a step back and reflect on our relationship… and see if we can get through this. Because it’s challenging for both of us,” she elaborated.

Gabby previously said on After the Final Rose how Erich was “gracious” and “honest” about the situation and so she chose to forgive him.

“I do believe what he says,” Gabby admitted to Jesse.

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“So, I’m not saying [he] was right in his actions. [He] was kind of an assh-le to her… but his honesty and [willingness] to take accountability is all I can really ask for and something I want in a partner.”

Gabby told People how it’s “a whole new world” for Bachelor or Bachelorette couples once they end filming and re-enter the real world.

“You have to really lean on your communication and be really honest with each other while having these tough conversations,” Gabby said.

“So I think these are new challenges. They both happened pretty recently, so we’re just kind of grounding down and seeing how we can become better.”

RELATED LINK: ‘THE BACHELOR’ COUPLES NOW: WHO DID ‘THE BACHELOR’ STARS AND THEIR BACHELORETTE PICKS ACTUALLY END UP MARRYING? (PHOTOS)

Gabby said there was no way she could have prepared herself for these post-show challenges.

“I think, honestly, people are really quick to judge. We’re agreeing to live our lives in the public, so I understand it comes with the territory, but I think if everybody lived their relationship in the public eye, not many of them would succeed,” Gabby reasoned.

“So I just hope… people give us grace and respect our decisions that we make.”

Gabby reiterated how this is a time of self-reflection for them both.

“You’re going to see how much you really know yourself as a person and how much you really know your relationship — because if you have a really good, solid ground, hopefully these things can’t really destabilize you,” Gabby noted.

Gabby pointed out how any concerns or worries must be brought to the table immediately for a reality TV couple to survive and thrive.

“You have to bring it up sooner rather than later for yourself, because your time is so limited together,” Gabby said. “You would address some things in person and then be together again. You get into more of a rhythm.”

But Gabby suggested nothing feels better than “new love” and she’s “grateful” to have that with the 29-year-old real estate analyst from Bedminster, NJ, who currently lives in California.

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“Our commitment to each other is there,” Gabby shared.

“And now it’s just doing… the hard work in the relationship, which is getting to know each more, [good] communication, [and] really strengthening those building blocks before we get to the altar.”

Gabby is currently competing on Dancing with the Stars’ 31st season, and she revealed on Live with Kelly and Ryan earlier this week that she plans on living with Erich and moving in together once his lease in Los Angeles is up.

RELATED LINK: ‘THE BACHELOR’ FRANCHISE COUPLES NOW: WHO IS STILL TOGETHER?? (PHOTOS)

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About The Author:
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski

Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.

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