"It makes me feel like I can be a representation of a lot of women that look just like me, because growing up I didn't always see that," she says. "So it means a lot for me to have that opportunity."

Tayshia Adams holds the honor of presiding over one of the strangest seasons of The Bachelorette in show history — two Bachelorettes, filming in the midst of a pandemic that necessitates a strict bubble environment. It's also a season of firsts: Clare Crawley, who left mid-season after finding love, was the show's first Latina Bachelorette, and now Tayshia, who took over, is the first Afro-Latina to step into the role. "It makes me really proud," Tayshia tells People CHICA. "It makes me feel like I can be a representation of a lot of women that look just like me, and for people who are also biracial to feel seen on the TV screen, because growing up I didn't always see that. So it means a lot for me to have that opportunity."

Fans love the Bachelor franchise for its fantasy and romance, but that doesn't mean Tayshia's season has shied away from addressing tough topics. During a one-on-one date, she had a lengthy conversation with Ivan about the Black Lives Matter movement; in another, she talked openly with Zac about his struggle with drug addiction. "These are real conversations," she explains. "These are topics that people really struggle with or are experiencing, and the fact that we are having these conversations goes to show that this is real for both of us. As much as it is a show on your television screen, I'm being myself and these men are doing exactly that. We are being vulnerable, raw, and I love that we dive in deep."

Tayshia Adams
Credit: The Bachelorette /ABC

The show still has tons of sparkle, of course, but for Tayshia, it's important that it also addresses things like racial inequality. "That's what's happening in the world around us. It's reality for a lot of people every single day," she says. "Those are real conversations I would have with anybody that I'm dating on- and off-screen."

Adams, 30, is of Mexican descent on her mother's side and African American descent on her dad's side, and celebrates both cultures. "Half of my family is in Mexico. Growing up I spent summers in Mexico, diving into the culture there, which has been amazing," she recalls. "I always had very different grandparents on each side. We would have collard greens, but we would also have tamales at the holidays. It was always so fun going to each household. I didn't realize that not everybody's Thanksgiving or Christmas looked like that. I had the best food!"

She wants to find a deep-rooted love like the one shared by her parents, who have been married for over three decades. "My parents have gone through quite a bit," she says. "They have shown me that there are going to be good and bad times, but you work through them. You have to have a strong foundation and strong support system behind you. I'm looking for a long-lasting love, and I know I have their support no matter what that looks like."

So what is she looking for in a soulmate? "There are some core values that I would love: a man of God, someone that is close to his family, someone who has big goals, that is honest and loyal, and treats people really well," she shares. "I've started to fall in love with people's personalities as opposed to their looks."

She has also shown women of all ages that you can open up to love again after heartbreak. "Divorce is something that nobody plans for or thinks it's going to happen to them, and I think at that time I was at rock bottom," she says of her marriage to Josh Bourelle, which ended in 2017. "I questioned everything, even myself, and I didn't feel worthy and I didn't feel like I deserved all the things I had planned for my life. I felt like I failed. My mom, my faith, God was there for me. I leaned into that and I turned that hurt into not something that defines me but that motivates me to go after what I want. I turned that around, and when I look back, I don't define myself by the trauma but by the healing and how much I came out learning. Now look at me — I'm the happiest I've ever been."

Dating on television during the pandemic has been challenging, but the unusual scenario has also helped Tayshia and the men on the show cut through the noise and open up to one another. "I feel that everyone is craving something real. This year has been really heavy and has put a lot of things into perspective," she says. "Not having that human interaction has helped people put their walls down and be real and vulnerable and honest, and you're seeing that on the show."