Even before her journey on The Bachelorette began, Rachel Lindsay made a personal commitment to stay true to her heart.
As the first black lead in Bachelor Nation history, Lindsay admittedly felt the pressure to choose a black man from her pool of contestants.
“It wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t. But I had to not let the pressure get to me,” Lindsay, 32, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I had to rise above it to find my happy ending at the end of all of this.”
“I knew that people would be watching myself in this role for the first time, and there would be people who were positive and people who were negative, and I would feel pressure from certain audiences that would say you ‘had to pick a black man.’ And then I would have other audiences that didn’t care about that,” Lindsay shares.
“But for me, before I said yes to being the Bachelorette I had to get over . I had to realize that not everyone was going to be for me when it came to the decisions that I make. Not everyone was going to be happy about my decisions, but I needed to be selfish in this journey and find the one who was perfect for me,” Lindsay explains. “I couldn’t make a decision based on anyone else because I’m the one who’s going to have to live with it.”
And new fiancé Bryan Abasolo couldn’t be prouder of how the Dallas-born lawyer portrayed herself on the show. “Such strength, class and grace,” says Abasolo, who got down on one knee and proposed to Lindsay on Monday night’s season 13 finale.
For more on Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay’s engagement to Bryan Abasolo, including their thoughts on their big debut and plan for the future, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Reflecting on their romance, the newly engaged couple says that race never played a factor in them falling in love.
“Love is blind,” says Miami-based chiropractor Abasolo.
“I’m not going to pick somebody because they look a certain way. I could’ve done that without doing the show. I really put my all in this because I was trying to find that one for me. I was trying to find my person — the person who I want to spend the rest of my life with — and I can’t let color dictate that,” says Lindsay. ”
“I can’t be blindsided by the fact that I have to choose this person because they look the same way that I do. That’s not fair. That’s not what love is about. That doesn’t define love. It’s not my definition of love,” she continues. “My definition of love is sitting right next to me. So it was really important for me to not do that. Everything else was background noise and I was just zeroed in on finding that person for me.”
Now that the couple no longer has to keep their engagement under wraps, and will now be able spend time with one another in public, they realize their lives will be propelled into spotlight.
Watch People Cover Story – Bachelorette Finale: Rachel Lindsay, available now, on the new People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the PEN app on your favorite mobile or connected TV device.
Still, they’re not intimidated about being in a high-profile interracial relationship — or any criticism that may result from others’ biases.
“Honestly, we don’t even think about it or talk about it. I mean, we’re just a man and a woman in love. We just want to enjoy life,” Abasolo shares. “I just think we’re two mature adults, that we can handle anything moving forward. Communication is a big key.”
Adds Lindsay, “I think we’re both strong enough to rise above whatever criticism we may face by being an interracial couple. But between the two of us, we had those tough questions during the season. I know that he is capable of handling it, as am I. For us, we just love each other.”
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