Speaking with Robin Roberts, the former "The Bachelor" contestant said, "I'm still the same Colton everybody met on TV, I'm still the same Colton to my friends and my family. I just happen to be able to share with people now all of me and I am proud of that. I am proud to be gay."
"I've ran from myself for a long time," he added. "I've hated myself for a long time. I'm gay. And I came to terms with that earlier this year and have been processing it. And the next step in all of this was sort of letting people know."
Colton first appeared on the 14th season of "The Bachelorette" starring Becca Kufrin, where he spoke openly about his choice to remain a virgin. Moving on to star in "The Bachelor," Colton's virginity was still a hot topic.
"One thing about being labeled the virgin 'Bachelor' was I fully was a virgin," he told Robin. "I could never give anybody a good enough answer on why I was a virgin. The truth is -- I was a virgin bachelor because I was gay and I didn't know how to handle it."
Despite now feeling "the happiest and healthiest" he's ever been, Colton said it was a struggle to get to that point -- one that included suicidal thoughts.
"There was a moment in L.A. that I woke up, and I didn't think I was gonna wake up," he explained. "I didn't have the intentions of waking up, and I did. I think for me that was my wake-up call. Like, this is your life, take back control. Beyond that -- even just suicidal thoughts. I'm driving my car close to a cliff, like, 'Oh if this goes off the cliff, it's not that big of a deal.' I don't feel that anymore."
"I think overall the reason why now is because I got to a place where I didn't think I was ever going to share this. I would have rather died than say, 'I'm gay.'"
During his "Bachelor" season, he eventually gave the final rose to Cassie Randolph in March of 2019. They dated for over a year, in which Colton published "The First Time," where he maintained the reality show helped him realize he was attracted to women. He also revealed he had questioned his sexuality in his youth after repeated bullying.
In May of 2020, Colton broke off his relationship with Cassie. The two had a messy split, with Cassie accusing Colton of monetizing it for a new chapter in his book. She also had a restraining order filed against him, accusing him of stalking her, tracking her car, and harassing her and her friends from an anonymous phone number. The charges were eventually dropped.
During his interview, Colton admitted his feelings for Cassie were real, but he also apologized to her.
"I loved everything about her, and it's hard for me to articulate exactly what my emotions were in going through that relationship with her because I obviously had an internal fight going on. I would just say that I'm sorry from the bottom of my heart. I'm sorry for any pain and emotional stress I caused. I wish that it wouldn't have happened the way that it did. I wish that I had been courageous enough to fix myself before I broke anybody else."
Congrats to Colton Underwood but also What?? You apply & compete with other men to go on a TV show looking for love & you think you might be gay? What about processing that without involving TV crews and 25 girls. It's a great day for gay men, bad day for young women. #Bachelor
After the news broke, executive producers of "The Bachelor" released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, saying, "We are so inspired by Colton Underwood’s courage to embrace and pursue his authentic self. As firm believers in the power of love, we celebrate Colton's journey in the LGBTQIA+ community every step of the way,"
And on social media, fans and followers were quick to respond with love and support for Colton. Among the first from Bachelor Nation to send their message was show host Chris Harrison, who said, "Very proud of you today @coltonunderwood Happy to see you stand up and openly live your truth. You have my love and support my friend."
Demi Burnett, who competed on Colton's season and later made history when she and then-girlfriend Kristian Haggerty became the first queer couple on "Bachelor In Paradise," sent her congratulations as well -- tweeting, "Welcome to the community brother."
"I support Colton for having the courage to finally be able to live his life authentically," Colton's runner-up Hannah Godwin told PEOPLE. "Nobody should have to hide who they really are. I'll always wish Colton the very best and hoping he has found his peace."
"Tayshia is very happy that Colton is able to now live his life openly and without fear of sharing who he is," a rep for Tayshia Adams, another runner-up, told Page Six.
Fellow contestant Onyeka Ehie tweeted, "Happy for@colton for speaking his truth. We support you. Just a reminder that homophobic comments will not accepted or tolerated today or any day. You've been warned."
Both Catherine Agro and Nicole Lopez-Alvar also said they were "proud" of him for coming out.
Andy Cohen tweeted, "You're free now, @colton A toaster is on its way. 🏳️🌈," while Meghan McCain shared, "Sending @colton love, light, support and deep respect. It is real bravery to live your truth in this world. Thank you for being so open and courageous with your journey."
Although, former "RHONY" star Carole Radziwell had a different take, writing, "Congrats to Colton Underwood but also What?? You apply & compete with other men to go on a TV show looking for love & you think you might be gay? What about processing that without involving TV crews and 25 girls. It's a great day for gay men, bad day for young women."
"I'm happy for Colton to be living his truth now. Is anyone talking about whether @ABC executives should be vetting their contestants better?" she mused in another tweet. "Or what the women think? @RobinRoberts @BachelorABC What's good?"
Radziwell got a lot of backlash in the comments, where she only doubled down on her POV. "I've known many men who've struggled and come out at different times in their lives. It's very difficult," she replied to one critic. "But I believe this was a TV show involving 25 women all I'm saying is if there is any doubt why do that? Seems harder..."
Keep reading for more reactions, below.
“Coming out” can be a terrifying, uncomfortable, and traumatizing experience because we still live in a world where we are made to fear the consequences of living freely. Let that sink in. So happy for @colton Underwood. His courage will undoubtably save lives today. ♥️ https://t.co/gAaYldPD9a
I'm soooooo proud of my friend @colton! Taking that step to be the most authentic version of yourself is never easy! Spread your wings and prepare to fly, for you have become a butterfly! https://t.co/Ssc41aERVO