After 24 seasons of the hit reality show — and eight months after he was first announced as the franchise's first Black lead — it's finally time for Matt James to find love on The Bachelor. Though the previews feature many of the hallmarks of a standard Bachelor season, Matt's journey will be unique since he is a complete newcomer to Bachelor Nation.
"He never came up to the mansion before, he never went to a rose ceremony — he doesn't even know how to get a rose or give a rose," Chris Harrison told Us Weekly in November of Matt's introduction to the franchise. "We really had to walk him through and teach him; it was Bachelor 101. And it was trial by fire." However, the host emphasized that Matt's unfamiliarity with the process was a good thing, as it allowed him to experience everything in a unique and open-minded way.
With Matt's Bachelor crash course behind him, there are still millions of loyal viewers who could use an introduction to the show's new star. Learn about Matt and exactly what he's looking for before he starts handing out roses on Monday, Jan. 4.
He Has An Impressive Résumé
According to ABC's press release, Matt is a "real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder" from North Carolina who now lives in New York City. He attended Wake Forest University, where he majored in economics and played football — which means he's smart and athletic — and even earned a tryout with the Carolina Panthers in 2015. After a brief stint playing pro ball, Matt moved to New York and co-founded ABC Food Tours, which works to "find a creative way to engage kids in underserved communities."
He And Tyler Cameron Are BFFs And Roommates
If Matt seemed familiar to fans even before he became the new Bachelor, that's probably because he's very close with fan-favorite Tyler Cameron. According to People, the duo first met while playing college football together and have remained close friends and business partners (Tyler is also a co-founder of ABC Food Tours) in the years since.
In fact, they're so close that Tyler's late mother is actually the person who submitted Matt for consideration in the first place. "[Andrea] would be happy to know that I followed through with it," Matt told Entertainment Tonight in June. "She had nominated me and I think she saw everything that it did for Tyler and the way that he had changed as a man, and me being his roommate and being one of her sons, I think that she wanted something like that for myself."
In September, as he left to begin filming his season at Pennsylvania's Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Matt promised Tyler that he would return "with a plus one" once filming was over. "What a crazy 6 months," he wrote on his Instagram Story at the time. "I love you brother, wouldn't be here if it wasn't for you and [your] mama."
He Was Originally Cast On Clare's Season Of The Bachelorette
Long before her whirlwind romance and engagement to Dale Moss, Matt was interested in potentially winning Clare Crawley's heart during her season of The Bachelorette. While he was included in the cast in February, when production was suspended the following month due to the coronavirus pandemic, ABC decided that he would be a better fit for the show's lead.
"Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare's season," Karey Burke, ABC president of entertainment, said in a June press release. "When filming 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."
Matt was excited about the prospect of potentially meeting Clare, even admitting during a June interview with Good Morning America that "my first reaction [after being named the Bachelor] was, 'Does this mean I don't get to meet Clare?'" He ultimately did not get to meet her, which may have been a good thing; back in April, the Bachelorette seemed to accuse Matt of being on the show for "the wrong reasons" after he set up a Cameo account to raise money for charity.
He's Proud To Be The First Black Bachelor
After being announced as the new star, Matt told GMA that it was "an honor" to be chosen as the franchise's first Black male lead. "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 see that diverse love stories are beautiful," he said.
He also gave credit to The Bachelorette's first Black lead, Rachel Lindsay, for pushing so hard for more diverse casting. "She has a very important voice in all this, being the first Black woman, person of color to be a lead," Matt explained, adding that he hopes to be "the first of many Black men to be in the position I'm at now."
His Season Is The Most Diverse One Yet
During the GMA interview, Matt explained that he doesn't want to be the only person of color on his season of The Bachelor. "I'm hoping that when that limo pulls up, there's a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo," he said. And it seems like he got his wish: Harrison revealed that the show received a record number of applications from women who wanted to romance Matt, and the 32 women who were chosen make up the franchise's most diverse cast yet.
He's Very Family-Oriented
In addition to his close bond with the Cameron family (Matt has been staying with Tyler and his brothers in Florida since February), the new Bachelor often shares photos with his mother, Patty, on Instagram. Cameron himself has emphasized Matt's close bond with his mother, telling Harrison in June that he sees Matt's perfect match as "someone who kind of resembles his mother. His mother is one of the sweetest ladies, very loving, caring, compassionate, ready to serve others, help out in the community."
It seems like Matt is also interested in starting a family of his own. In their press release, ABC revealed that Matt "has strong family values, a great career, and over the past few months, he has used his growing platform for good." The real estate broker also spoke previously about how much he loves working with kids. "They're at an age where they're super impressionable. No one is born racist or rude; these are all traits that are acquired through influence and experience," he told DeacLink, according to ET. "If you can positively influence these students at this age, you can potentially change the course of their lives."
He Got A "Rude Awakening" During Filming
In an interview with Us Weekly, Harrison opened up about the process of filming with Matt. However, the host wasn't just referring to group dates and rose ceremonies; he emphasized that the show also encouraged Matt to take a second look at what he really wanted from a relationship. "I think he had a bit of a rude awakening of the man he is, the way he loves, [and] what love means to him," the host said, adding that viewers can expect major moments from a "man who realizes, 'Wow, OK. This is love and this is what it means and I'm really here to find this.'"
He's Looking For Love For "The First Time"
That's right; according to Harrison, Matt is looking to fall in love for the very first time. Somehow, this 6-foot-5, handsome, charitable, athletic, and smart man has never been in love before. "It's not that he hasn't said 'I love you' before," the host told Us Weekly. "I think the problem is he realized [as] the Bachelor, he had never fully understood what [love] means, and now I think this has really opened [his] eyes."
... And His Abs Are Glorious
One look at the previews for his season confirms that there will be plenty of shirtless shower and hot tub scenes. It's truly no surprise that this man (and his muscles) inspired a record number of applications.
Fans will get to follow along with Matt's eye-opening — and ab-bearing — journey when his season of The Bachelor premieres on ABC on Monday, Jan. 4.
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