This Week in Bachelor Nation History: Matt James Begins His Important Journey as the First Black Bachelor
The wait is over. Matt James’ landmark 25th season of “The Bachelor” premieres this week — and, as the first Black lead in the show’s nearly 19-year history, the handsome real estate broker will be helping the franchise take an important step forward as he begins his search for love.
While the 29-year-old was originally set to compete for Clare Crawley’s heart on Season 16 of “The Bachelorette,” he was chosen as the next Bachelor after filming for her season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation as part of Clare’s season. When filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor,” ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said in a statement in June.
“We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in and we are proudly in service to our audience,” Burke continued. “This is just the beginning and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
Matt’s casting came at a pivotal time in the U.S. when the Black Lives Matter movement was reignited in direct response to the murder of George Floyd and unceasing police brutality against people of color. A nationwide reckoning of systemic racism quickly followed, demanding change in arenas of all kind, from entertainment and fashion to media and politics.
Shortly after his Bachelor announcement, Matt spoke with “Good Morning America” about the significance and potential impact of his role.
“It’s an honor [to be the first Black Bachelor],” he said at the time. “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 nights, they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”
With his best friend and fellow Bachelor Nation star Tyler Cameron by his side, Matt took part in a Black Lives Matter protest last summer in Miami, Florida. He documented his experience via Instagram and opened up about the racial microaggressions he’s faced in the past.
“‘It’s cool, his mom is white’ or how bout ‘Nah he’s good, he’s an athlete...’ Do we have to lead with those things to be treated fairly? This is for everyone who isn’t given the ‘benefit of the doubt.’ It’s everybody vs. racism,” Matt wrote, listing just some of the racially charged language he’s heard before.
Now, he’s hoping to change hearts and minds as he revolutionizes “The Bachelor.”
During an appearance on 2020’s “The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever!” Matt explained, “I’ve heard from a lot of my Black friends that aren’t Bachelor Nation faithful that are excited about me and honored that I’m in the position I’m in and have this opportunity to just represent what it’s going to look like to have diverse relationships and tell those love stories.”