ABC announced the network has cast it’s first Black male lead as “The Bachelor” in the franchise’s 18-year history. Matt James, known as BFF to Tyler Cameron (The Bachelorette, Season 15), will star in the show’s 2021 season.
“It’s an honor,” James told 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 night they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful.”
ABC’s decision appears to be in response to a petition circulating last week calling for the show to name a Black bachelor in the upcoming season.
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IT’S TIME. Join us in asking ABC for a #BIPOCBachelor. Bachelor Nation is ready for change. Link in bio to sign our petition asking for active anti-racism within the Bachelor Franchise, both in front of and behind the camera. Screenshot your signed petition, tag @bachdiversity, and use #BIPOCBachelor. For a quick overview of the petition and our asks of ABC, follow along in our stories.
The petition quickly garnered 90,000 signatures, including popular Bachelor alums Rachel Lindsay, Kaitlyn Bristowe, and Nick Viall.
James is originally from North Carolina and a graduate of Wake Forest University. He works as a real estate broker and entrepreneur. He is also the founder of ABC Food Tours, an organization that engages New York City youth from underserved communities.
The Bachelor Diversity campaign was launched by fans on June 8th. The petition specifically urges producers to cast a Black bachelor as the season 25 lead. Among other requests, it asks that Black, Indigenous, or People of Color are cast in at least 35% of contestant roles in all future seasons.
“As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (“BIPOC”) relationships, families, and storylines,” the petition reads.
“The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country – both in front of and behind the camera.”
Indeed, The Bachelor and the Bachelorette have both run for over 40 seasons, and Rachel Lindsay has been the only Black lead.
Although her time as “Bachelorette” has ended, Lindsay remains closely associated with the franchise as the co-host of its podcast “Bachelor Happy Hour.”
On Monday, the former “Bachelorette” published a blog post listing her past efforts to promote diversity on the show and calling upon the network— yet again— to listen.
Lindsay included helpful suggestions for promoting inclusion: hiring from a diverse pool of producers, casting leads “that are truly interested in dating outside of their race,” and not “creating problematic story lines for people of color.”
Then she made an ultimatum. She wrote, “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.”
“I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of color.”
In an announcement congratulating themselves for casting Matt James, president of ABC Entertainment Karey Burke also admitted that the franchise still has a long road ahead if they’re to meet America’s demand for equal representation.
“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,” Burke said.
“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.”
HuffPost reports organizers of the Bachelor Diversity campaign said, “We’re glad ABC has done the right thing and cast a black lead for the next season of The Bachelor.”
“While we’re thrilled for that first step, we still plan to hold ABC accountable to make sure his representation is handled responsibly. We want to continue seeing greater BIPOC representation within the Bachelor franchise, both on and off camera— as well as providing the resources and support they need during the show and in its aftermath. There’s plenty more work to do, but this is a start.”