In 18 years of “The Bachelor” history, there has never been a Black male bachelor leading the reality TV show — until now. Matt James is officially the franchise’s first, according to the show’s announcement on Twitter.
James, a 28-year-old real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder from North Carolina, will be the star of the show’s 25th season.
The franchise announced the news on social media today, writing, “It’s official … your next bachelor is @mattjames919!”
— The Bachelor (@BachelorABC) June 12, 2020
“It’s an honor,” James told “Good Morning America” after the announcement. “I’m just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me and hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday night they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”
“The Bachelor” has faced wave after wave of criticism for its lack of representation of people of color; thousands of people even signed a Change.org petition calling for more contestants of color and for a Black bachelor.
In 40 seasons, the show has only devoted one season to a Black person: Rachel Lindsay of “The Bachelorette.”
“In my opinion I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing,” James said of the controversy. “We can’t have change until we put that first foot forward and the first foot forward for ‘The Bachelor’ franchise is having a Black lead, so I’m excited to take on that role.”
James had originally been cast as a suitor on Clare Crawley’s season of “The Bachelorette.” That season has been postponed to the fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, James was given his own turn in the spotlight as a bachelor rather than a suitor.
As for what James is looking for in a partner, he told “Good Morning America” that he wants someone who has the qualities that his mom embodies: “selfless, honest, caring, compassionate.”
“Those are qualities found in women all shapes, sizes and races and it’s not a Black or white thing,” James added. He says he hopes his role helps pave the way “for a lot of diverse love stories because those are beautiful stories.”
Season 25 of “The Bachelor” is scheduled to premiere in 2021.