Matt James is making history as the franchise's first-ever black male lead


Sean Lowe is passing down some wisdom to the newest BachelorMatt James.

Sitting down with PEOPLE this week, the former male lead — who found his happily ever after on the show with now-wife Catherine Giudice Lowe — had some advice for James on his journey.

"It's a running joke now because I think I've given advice to almost every Bachelor since I've been on the show," says Lowe, 36. "And I'm not sure how that advice has been received, but I would just say to have fun, try to be yourself."

"There's going to be a lot of distractions: cameras, sound techs, producers and all of that, but just try to be yourself, focus on the women that are there," the father of three adds. "Then, once the show's over, that's when the hard part starts. So if he decides to propose to a woman at the end, or just be in a relationship with a woman at the end, don't let all the other stuff distract you from her."

Sean Lowe Matt James
Sean Lowe; Matt James
| Credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty; Stephen Lovekin/Shutterstock

Lowe's stint with the franchise began in 2012 when he became a third-place finalist on Emily Maynard's season of The Bachelorette. A fan-favorite that season, it earned him the spot as ABC's next Bachelor in 2013.

There, he met and fell in love with Giudice Lowe, 34, proposing to her at the end of the show. They tied the knot the following year and now share three children together: baby daughter Mia, 5 months, and sons Isaiah Hendrix, 2, and Samuel Thomas, 3½.

Ahead of Father's Day, Lowe is partnering with Gillette and Target to encourage dads everywhere to rock a clean-shaven face. Research studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact with a newborn is essential for parent-child bonding — and as Lowe says of his own daughter Mia, "She doesn't want my scratchy, prickly scruff on my face."

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Last week, The Bachelor announced James, 28, as its next leading man, making him the franchise's first-ever black male lead. Good Morning America revealed James' historic casting with a statement from ABC.

"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," the statement read. "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.”

Matt James
Matt James
| Credit: Matt James/Instagram

The former NFL wide receiver was originally meant to be competing on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, which was put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

James' new role comes after Bachelor Nation called for more diversity in the franchise, with thousands rallying around a new petition that called on ABC and executive producer Mike Fleiss to cast more people of color.

Former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay was also vocal about the lack of diversity on the show, calling on them to rectify the problem. Lindsay was the first and only black lead in the history of the ABC franchise until James' casting.

James told Good Morning America, "When Rachel speaks, we listen. She has a very important voice in all this, being the first black woman, person of color to be a lead, and ... this is hopefully the first of many black men to be in the position I'm at now."

"It's an honor. 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 see that diverse love stories are beautiful," he added.