Matt James Is The First Black Bachelor: Look Back on the Franchise's History-Making Moments

Matt James is the franchise's first Black male lead after 40 seasons of television.

By Chris Harnick Jun 12, 2020 6:30 PMTags
Watch: "The Bachelor" Casts Matt James as First Black Male Lead

It's been a long time coming: The Bachelor has cast its first Black male lead with Matt James.

Matt will hand out the roses in 2021 as the franchise's first-ever Black male lead in season 25. Since beginning in 2002, The Bachelor franchise has only had one Black lead when Rachel Lindsay was the star of The Bachelorette in 2017. The casting of Matt James comes after sustained questions surrounding the long-running reality show's diversity. He was originally cast in The Bachelorette season 16 starring Clare Crawley, but production on the reality show never took off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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All of the Men Who Were Almost the Bachelor

"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," Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement. "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. 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."

Watch: Rachel Lindsay Breaks Down Convo With Hannah B., Racism & More

While it is a step, many, including Rachel Lindsay, have said the series has a long way to go in terms of representation. "I want producers of color," Rachel said on Good Morning America. "I'd like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race that aren't just getting their first-time experience—for the first time—on national TV. I need the acknowledgment of that. Not putting a band-aid over the situation and just saying, 'Here, we're going to put this here. Are you happy now?'"

Below, take a walk down memory lane with key moments in The Bachelor franchise's history.

The First Bachelor

Alex Michel headlined the first season of The Bachelor in 2002.

The First Bachelorette

After coming in second on the first season of The Bachelor, Trista went on to headline the first season of The Bachelorette in 2003.

The First Bachelor Wedding

Trista and Ryan Sutter said "I do" in front of millions viewers as part of a three-episode series in December 2003.

The First Bachelor Baby

Trista and Ryan Sutter, the first couple to come out of The Bachelorette, were also the first Bachelor Nation couple to welcome a child in 2007.

The Two-Time Bachelor

Brad Womack headlined season 11 of The Bachelor in 2007, but didn't propose to anybody. So, he came back to hand out the roses in season 15.

The First Single Mom Bachelorette

After winning Brad Womack's second season of The Bachelor (and later breaking up), Emily Maynard went on to hand out her own roses in 2012's The Bachelorette season eight. Emily was the first single mother to star as The Bachelorette.

The Switcheroo Pt. 1

Jason Mesnick proposed to and became engaged to Melissa Rycroft at the end of The Bachelor season 13 (2008)...until the finale when he asked for a second chance with Molly Malaney. They eventually wed.

The Two Bachelorettes

Season 11 of The Bachelorette (2015) was the first to begin with two stars, Britt Nilsson and Kaitlyn Bristowe. It was up to the male contestants to decide which would be the one handing out roses.

Let's Talk About Sex

Kaitlyn Bristowe, star of The Bachelorette season 11 (2015), was one of the first to talk about sex on the show. She and Nick Viall had sex in week six after she invited him into her hotel room in Ireland.

The First Black Bachelorette

In 2017, Rachel Lindsay became the franchise's first-ever Black lead as the star of The Bachelorette. In 2019 she married the winner of her season, Bryan Abasolo.

The Many Appearances of Nick Viall

Nick Viall is now synonymous with Bachelor Nation. He first appeared in The Bachelorette season 10 in 2014 and tried to win Andi Dorfman's heart. He was runner-up. In 2015, he returned to the show to compete for Kaitlyn Bristowe's love and made it to the finale. That didn't work. So in 2016 he went to Bachelor in Paradise. When that didn't work out, he was given his shot at handing out the roses as the star of The Bachelor season 21.

The Switcheroo Pt. 2

At the end of The Bachelor season 22 (winter 2018), Arie Luyendyk Jr. made his choice: Becca Kufrin. But then he changed his mind. So, with cameras by his side, he broke up with Becca and informed her of his feelings for the show's runner-up, Lauren Burnham. Arie and Lauren are still married.

Like a Virgin

Season 23 (winter 2019) of The Bachelor introduced viewers to the show's first virgin star, Colton Underwood. The virginity aspect was played up throughout his season. Colton was also the first Bachelor star to jump a fence. That happened after Cassie, who would go on to become his girlfriend, said she was leaving the competition.

Let's Talk About Sex Pt. 2

In season 15 of The Bachelorette (spring of 2019), Hannah Brown got candid about sex and relationships. It culminated in an argument with Luke Parker after he tried to sex shame her and repeatedly tried to cut her off while she explained her stance on sex.

The First Same-Sex Couple

Demi Burnett appeared on Bachelor in Paradise in the summer of 2019 and came out as bisexual. Her then-girlfriend Kristian Haggerty joined Demi on the series and they became the franchise's first same-sex couple.

The First Black Bachelor

On Friday, June 12, 2020 ABC announced Matt James would be the franchise's first Black male lead of The Bachelor.

The First Mid-Season Star Switch

Clare Crawley was announced as the season 16 Bachelorette in March 2020, and then waited all the way until July to begin filming, thanks to a global pandemic that delayed all productions. Then, a couple of weeks into filming her season, sources tell E! News that she fell so in love that she asked to quit, and will be replaced by Tayshia Adams in a true franchise first. 

Matt James' season of The Bachelor is set to premiere in 2021 on ABC.