Hello, hottie! Matt James‘ Bachelor debut in January 2021 made him the first Black leading man in the franchise’s history.
The real estate broker is also the first Bachelor in 12 years who hasn’t previously appeared on The Bachelorette. ABC announced in June 2020 that the North Carolina native would be the series lead for season 25 after previously being named as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette.
“It’s an honor,” James said on Good Morning America 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.”
The former college wide receiver added that he has some key personality characteristics that he’s looking for in a woman — but he’s hoping his contestants will be physically diverse.
“Selfless, honest, caring, compassionate and those are qualities found in women all shape, sizes and races,” James explained. “It’s not a Black or white thing so I’m hoping that when that limo puts up there is a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo.”
The ABC Food Tours founder was introduced to Bachelor Nation as Tyler Cameron‘s best friend, who frequently posted pics with his bestie on his social media accounts. The model’s late mother, Andrea Cameron, even nominated James as the Bachelor, according to Entertainment Tonight.
The Wake Forest University alum was originally cast on season 16 of The Bachelorette, but the show’s production was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
James clashed with the Crawley before they ever sparked a romance when he started a Cameo account to raise money for COVID-19 relief.
“If you are doing interviews and creating Cameo accounts before you are even on my season… you are in it for the wrong reasons … #dontwasteyourtime,” the hairstylist tweeted in April 2020.
James revealed that he had no hard feelings against Crawley during his appearance on Good Morning America in June 2020.“I was looking forward to meeting her. I had set aside all this time and we had gone out to California and been called back with quarantine so I’m super excited for her and her season but looking forward to meeting her eventually,” he said.
The former athlete exclusively told Us Weekly in January 2021 that he “put it all out there” during his journey for love, which was filmed in a quarantine bubble at the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania in late 2020.
He also revealed that he learned that he is “capable of loving” while on the show.
“It was one of the toughest things I’ve had to do, but I would do it again,” he told Us ahead of the season 25 premiere. “It’s tough because there’s a lot of things that I’ve avoided in my personal life that, as you saw in the preview, brought me to tears. I want to be vulnerable and show them that I’m here and I’m not going to hold back. You never know where that’s going to take you when you’re that real in the moment, you know.”
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Scroll down to see James’ steamiest social media photos through the years.