While we’re out here protesting police brutality and demanding justice, The Bachelor’s first Black lead Matt James was announced instead. We’ll take it, I guess. After all, our nation must work on addressing issues in all parts of society—including our entertainment. That includes this fan-favorite reality dating show.
On June 12, ABC broke the news on Good Morning America, sharing that The Bachelor is “privileged to have Matt” as their first Black Bachelor. The franchise’s first Black lead was Rachel Lindsay in 2017, who made history as the star of season 13 of The Bachelorette. Three years later and some 24 seasons in total for The Bachelor, we finally have her counterpart.
“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,” read ABC’s statement. “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.”
The announcement comes after days of criticisms over the franchise’s lack of diversity. Bachelor Nation rallied behind a petition, started by Bachelorette alum Lindsay, which called for ABC and executive producer(s) to hold themselves accountable and begin hiring more Black castmembers, producers, and stage crew, as well as other people of color into these roles. The Change.org petition has since gathered more than 86,000 signatures—and Lindsay believes that James’ hiring is not enough.
“I want producers of color,” she told Hollywood Life after the announcement. “I would like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race, that aren’t just getting their 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 gonna put this here, are you happy now?’”
Let’s hope that ABC’s executives really do “continue to take action.” Matt James has already existed as somewhat of a sidekick to fellow Bachelor franchise star Tyler Cameron, as fans first encountered him within Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette. The 28-year-old real estate broker and non-profit organizer was also already slated to appear on Clare Crowley’s delayed season of The Bachelorette. While it’s unclear if he’ll still be participating there, we can at least celebrate that he’s getting his own chance to shine for now.