James is the franchise's first-ever black lead in its 24-season history

By Andrea Wurzburger
June 12, 2020 12:16 PM
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Welcome to Bachelor Nation, Matt James!

The 28-year-old is the first-ever black lead on The Bachelor in the history of the franchise. Good Morning America announced James' new history-making role with a statement from ABC saying they are "privileged to have Matt" as the first black Bachelor.

"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.”

Privileged indeed! After all, have you seen this man?

James gets our First Impression Rose, and a fast track to hometowns. But now he's in the driver's seat!

In addition to being totally handsome and making history, here are a few more things for you to know about Bachelor Nation's newest leading man.

He was originally cast on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette. 

Jesse Grant/Getty; Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan/Getty I

James was originally meant to be competing on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, which was unfortunately put on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result of both the delay in filming and the pandemic itself, James spent a ton of time on TikTok (we'll get to that) while quarantining with friend and former Bachelorette suitor Tyler Cameron (more on that in a minute too).

In April 2020, the upcoming Bachelorette tweeted about the men who will soon be vying for her heart on national TV, claiming some of them were only seeking fame and attention based on their pre-show behavior. Many fans assumed the message was aimed at James specifically.

"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," she wrote on Twitter without naming any of her season's suitors. In another post, she added, "Respect the opportunity you’ve been given. Respect the rules. Respect me."

RELATED VIDEO: Casting Matt James as the Bachelor ‘Has Been Talked About for Quite Some Time,’ Producers Say

James addressed Crawley's comments on Instagram story, explaining, "Now for those of you who may have missed the messaging earlier this week, myself and Alex Bachman ... pledged all of our Cameo earnings to the Robin Hood Foundation to fight this fight. We're just coming up with creative ways to raise money for these kids that are the future and I hope y'all can help."

Crawley eventually explained that her tweets were about multiple men from her season.

In a statement, president of ABC Entertainment, Karey Burke, said: "When filming [Crawley’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."

He's ready to take on the role of Bachelor.

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. 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.

He used to play professional football.

James played football for Wake Forest University in college and had a brief stint as a wide receiver in the NFL. "I didn’t think I was going to make a career out of football, but I thought my stint in the NFL would be longer than a few months," James said in an interview.

James is more than just a jock, though. He has a degree in economics and worked for PNC bank before working as a research analyst at a commercial real estate company.

He's a total sweetheart

A former colleague who worked with James from 2017-2018 confirms he's a "genuinely good guy" who goes out of his way for others. The source tells PEOPLE that he sent flowers, cookies and a handwritten note to congratulate her when she got a new role – after James had already left the company for another job. Talk about coworker goals.

He started ABC Food Tours for a great cause

James is not only incredibly good looking, he is also dedicated to helping others. James and Cameron run the non-profit ABC Food Tours, which takes kids from underserved communities and takes them to different restaurants to teach them about food, fitness and wellness. The goal, according to James, is to inspire students. "It is going to give them something to aspire to aside to what they may be seeing at home, or what they are seeing on TV or what they are seeing in their community," James told NY1.com.

He was New Yorker of the Week in 2018.

In October 2018, well before a stint on The Bachelor was a gleam in his eye, James was named NY1's New Yorker of the Week for his work as a guide on ABC Food Tours. In our eyes, he's New Yorker of ... Forever.

He's best buddies with Tyler Cameron, who was the runner-up on Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette. 

Quarantining together during the coronavirus pandemic aside, these two have been besties since they both attended college together, and their bromance is one for the ages. When they're not quarantined together in Florida, they're actually roommates in N.Y.C.

Which means he is now friends with Hannah Brown

While everyone was speculating about whether or not Tyler and Hannah were starting a quarantine fling, Matt and Hannah were becoming buddies, too!

He's really great at making TikToks.

Don't believe me? Follow him on TikTok and see for yourself.

Honestly, he was making them before it was trendy to make them. Here's a video he made in 2014 that I could totally see scrolling through my 'For You' page.

He has always been a trailblazer, TBH.