Spoilers ahead for the February 3 episode of The Bachelor on ABC.
Peter Weber and the remaining ladies looking for love on The Bachelor traveled to Costa Rica in the February 3 episode, and more than just 22 stitches awaited them. Weber surprised the women with a photoshoot challenge with the Cosmopolitan team, including editor-in-chief Jessica Pels and a photographer. The challenge winner chosen by Pels would appear with Weber on the digital cover of Cosmo's March issue. Victoria Fuller was selected as the winner, but Pels has since revealed that Fuller won't appear on the Cosmo cover after all.
In the broadcast of the episode, Cosmo editor-in-chief Jessica Pels and her photographer directed the women in their modeling, and everything seemed to be going well aside from those who weren't happy when Victoria Fuller boldly grabbed Peter Weber to kiss for the cameras.
In a letter from the editor posted on Cosmopolitan.com, however, Jessica Pels explained that she and her team knew nothing about any of the models before the shoot, so she had no idea of Victoria Fuller's background as a model for an ad campaign with a "White Lives Matter" message until weeks later. Pels explained why Fuller's modeling drove the decision to pull her digital Cosmo cover:
It’s been reported that what she modeled for was actually a Marlin Lives Matter organization focused on preventing white and blue marlin from being overfished, which used 'white lives matter' and 'blue lives matter' messaging on its promotional shirts and hats. In my view, the nature of the organization is neither here nor there—both phrases and the belief systems they represent are rooted in racism and therefore problematic.
Unequivocally, the White Lives Matter movement does not reflect the values of the Cosmo brand. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and any cause that fights to end injustices for people of color.
Victoria Fuller's modeling gig included a picture of her wearing a hat with a fish and "WLM" on it, and other merchandise from Marlin Lives Matter shows a t-shirt with an image closely resembling the Confederate flag with fish in the stripes and a t-shirt with "WHITE LIVES MATTER" on the back.
According to Jessica Pels, the fact that the merchandise was actually angled toward preventing marlin overfishing didn't override the "white lives matter" message. So, no digital Cosmo cover for Victoria Fuller!
That's not to say the situation was entirely straightforward, not least because Jessica Pels and Cosmo didn't find out about the White Lives Matter photos of Victoria Fuller until weeks after the initial Bachelor photoshoot. Pels elaborated on making the decision to pull the digital cover:
My team and I had many long discussions about how we wanted to address this issue. We’d already printed the fashion shoot in our March issue, complete with an inset of the cover, and of course the episode had already been filmed. Ultimately what felt right was choosing not to publish the digital cover on our website or social feeds, and simply being honest with you, the audience we respect, about what happened and where we stand.
The issue of Victoria Fuller's White Lives Matter photos didn't mean the Bachelor photos wouldn't be published in Cosmo, so the events of the episode still made it into the magazine. The winner of the Bachelor challenge was evidently never going to get a print cover, making it a matter of pulling the digital cover.
This is hardly the first time that unsavory aspects of Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants' lives came to light after filming concluded, but this isn't just another case of offensive social media activity like Garrett Yrigoyen during Becca Kufrin's season of The Bachelorette or Jed Wyatt's dirty laundry being aired via interview while Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette was airing.
Victoria Fuller's participation in a White Lives Matter campaign was about fish, but the optics of the message were bad enough that she lost the Cosmo cover. Take a look:
Victoria Fuller continues to be one of the most talked-about women in Peter Weber's season of The Bachelor, with this Cosmo cover mess coming shortly after the episode of Fuller awkwardly reunited with ex-boyfriend Chase Rice while on a date with Weber. Rice felt duped by the reunion, so the whole situation was messy.
See what happens next for Victoria Fuller in new episodes of The Bachelor, airing Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. For more of your viewing options, swing by our 2020 winter and spring premiere schedule.