Matt James, the first Black Bachelor in the ABC show’s history, is a 28-year-old real estate broker from North Carolina.
On Friday, the television network announced that it would be casting James, originally cast as a contestant on The Bachelorette, as the lead in the upcoming 2021 season. The reality TV dating show, which first aired in 2002 and has the lead select a romantic partner among a group of contestants, has never had a Black lead before. Rachel L. Lindsay starred as the only other Black lead in the franchise, in season 13 of The Bachelorette.
James received a degree in economics from Wake Forest University and went on to work at companies like Merrill Lynch, Verger Capital Management LLC and Davenport & Co. According to Page Six, he left his last job to work as a researcher for commercial real estate company CBRE. After playing college football, James has also had a brief career in the NFL.
James had originally been cast as a contestant on the latest season of The Bachelorette, which got put off in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing,” James said when asked to comment on the show’s long-running diversity controversies in an interview with Good Morning America.
While the lack of diversity among Bachelor and Bachelorette leads have been brought up for years, the calls got stronger in the wake of recent police brutality protests — an online petition for the show to “reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country” received nearly 90,000 votes.
“I was hoping when I came on to be a trailblazer for that and to increase diversity in the audience that watches it but in the last three years there really haven’t been changes made,” Lindsay said of her own experience after appearing on The Bachelorette.