“It’s an honor,” James, 28, said on Good Morning America. “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 real estate broker said he is looking for a woman who is “selfless, honest, caring, compassionate,” and that he hopes “there’s a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo.”
James, who is best friends with Tyler Cameron, was originally cast as a suitor on Clare Crawley’s upcoming season of The Bachelorette, which has yet to begin filming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her season is now expected to air in the fall, followed by James’ debut.
“When filming [Clare’s season] 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.
James graduated from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with a degree in economics. During his time at the college, he played wide receiver for the Demon Deacons.
After school, the entrepreneur moved to New York City, where he founded ABC Food Tours. The nonprofit organization finds creative ways to engage children in underserved communities by taking them to local restaurants and also encouraging physical fitness.
The announcement came days after Bachelor Nation launched a Change.org petition calling on ABC to cast a black lead for season 25 and ensure that at least 35 percent of contestants are people of color. More than 85,000 fans have signed the petition.
The Bachelor franchise previously had only one black lead: Rachel Lindsay, who starred as the season 13 Bachelorette in 2017. The attorney, 35, has repeatedly called for more diversity on the show in recent years.
“I have come to the conclusion that if changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it,” Lindsay wrote on her blog on Monday, June 8. “I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of color. The whole franchise needs a diversity makeover.”