Joan Vassos’s journey was cut short on ‘The Golden Bachelor.’ As the Golden Bachelorette, she’s ‘hoping that we change’ perceptions of aging.

Looks like Bachelor Nation is ready to kick-start another journey to love, this time with new Golden Bachelorette Joan Vassos.

ABC announced Tuesday that the 61-year-old private school administrator from Rockland, Md., would be handing out the signature roses on the network’s inaugural season of The Golden Bachelorette.

Finding out she was cast, Vassos told CNN, “I almost felt like I was floating over my body, it was kind of surreal.”

“In our culture, I feel like growing old is not a dignified thing, you’re just supposed to kind of fade in the back, take a back seat to the next generation. And I’m hoping that we change that a little bit,” she told the network in an interview. “There’s a lot of knowledge that we have inside of us because we’ve lived life.”

Fans of the senior dating series will recognize the familiar face, as Vassos’s time on last fall’s The Golden Bachelor was cut short.

“I got a text this morning, and I think that I need to go home and be a mom,” Vassos told Golden Bachelor Gerry Turner after her daughter, who had recently given birth, reached out to her while she was on the series. “So as much as I don’t want to leave, and I don’t want to leave our journey, I’ve got to be a parent and I’ve got to go home to my kids.”

A visibly shaken Turner acknowledged that he understood.

“I get it,” Turner, 72, told her. “But I can’t tell you how disappointed I am.”

Vassos endeared herself to Turner and viewers when she performed her original poem, “I Just Hope I Don’t Vomit on Your Shoes,” at a talent show during his season. Turner even said that he felt as if Vassos “was just talking to me and no one else around.”

While the educator seemed like a strong contender for Turner’s heart, her unexpected departure in Week 3 steered Turner, and the show, in a different direction.

The Golden Bachelor saw Turner courting 22 women before finally getting down on one knee for Theresa Nist, a financial services professional from Shrewsbury, N.J. While the two tied the knot in a televised ceremony in January, they shocked viewers when they announced their divorce in April.

Following the Golden Bachelorette announcement, Turner offered Vassos his congratulations “from one Golden to another.”

Choosing Vassos as the first Golden Bachelorette wasn’t a complete surprise, but she did have some competition for the role. Runner-up Leslie Fhima, 65, who said that Turner broke her heart by not choosing her, was pegged as a strong contender.

Fhima was game to step into the hot seat.

“If they asked me? Yes, I would do it,” she said on a May 10 episode of the Playing the Field podcast. “I think I would be a great [lead]. Because I have been doing this. I was on the show, so I know a little more of what to expect and not to expect and all of that. Plus, I think I’m fun! I’ll rappel down a waterfall, I’ll get in a hot tub, I’ll go on an ATV. I’ll do anything.”

Golden Bachelor fan favorites Susan Noles and Kathy Swarts, who recently launched a podcast together, told Yahoo Entertainment in April that both Vassos and Fhima were on their list of possible Golden Bachelorettes.

Excitement has been building for future iterations of the Golden franchise since Turner’s season wrapped and his televised wedding aired.

ABC announced spin-off The Golden Bachelorette in February, saying, “After a historic first season watching Gerry and Theresa find love on The Golden Bachelor, this all-new iteration of the hit series will highlight one radiant woman’s second chance at love in her golden years.”

The Golden Bachelor co-showrunner Jason Ehrlich in November 2023 told TheWrap that a female version of the show would be “very different” from Turner’s iteration.

“We’re really interested to see how that will play out, but hope that we do get the opportunity and that we get the same genuine feeling of reasonable people who are looking for love,” Ehrlich told the outlet.

ABC hasn’t yet announced a premiere date for the spin-off, but the network has confirmed that The Golden Bachelorette will air Wednesdays this fall at 8 p.m. ET. Not only that, but the episodes will be expanded to 90 minutes, up from one hour.

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