How Did Matt James Become The Bachelor 2021? Who Is the New Star?

Matt James Chris Harrison

ABC Matt James and Chris Harrison shake hands on the season premiere of The Bachelor.

For the first time since 2008, a completely fresh face will lead the way as The Bachelor. Matt James, a 29-year-old former college football who lives in New York City, is the first Black man to take the reins as the Bachelor, despite not previously competing on The Bachelorette.

It’s a bold choice for ABC, which has settled into a comfortable cycle of choosing fan favorite contestants to be their Bachelor and Bachelorette leads. While Chris Harrison and others have gushed about James, it remains to be seen how viewers will embrace a brand new lead to the franchise.

So who is James and how did he get to be the leading man in the first place?

Matt James Was Set to Compete for Clare Crawley’s Heart

Way back in the beginning of March 2020 — when COVID-19 hadn’t yet been labeled a pandemic — James was named as one of men who would be on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette. But just as the season was about to get started, production was shut down and delayed until the end of summer.

James wasn’t quite an unknown to Bachelor Nation at that point, though. He was a vocal defender of his best friend, The Bachelorette season 15 runner-up Tyler Cameron, and beefed with Hannah Brown over her handling of the final two in that season. Later, they patched things up and James, Cameron, and Brown were all part of “The Quarantine Crew,” which created TikTok and Instagram videos during the lockdown period of the pandemic. Now Brown calls James a close friend.

His social media presence seemed to bother Crawley, and Cameron said James “dodged a bullet” by not appearing on her season.

James was pulled from the cast when ABC executives decided in June that he was better suited as the next lead of The Bachelor. Whether or not Crawley’s preseason interaction with James had anything to do with that decision hasn’t been revealed.

Matt James Is a Former Football Player Who Runs a Nonprofit

James was a wide receiver at Wake Forest University where Cameron was a backup quarterback (although Cameron later transferred to Florida Atlantic and played tight end). He graduated with a degree in economics and spent time in training camps with the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, but made neither roster.

He began working at CBRE in October 2017 and is currently listed as an associate with the commercial real estate firm.

But his passion project is ABC Food Tours, a nonprofit organization he founded in May 2018 and currently runs with Cameron. In December 2018, his organization was highlighted on an episode of The Rachael Ray Show.

“The idea came from when I was leaving my favorite establishment in the lower east side, Bobwhite’s,” James said on the show. “I’ll go there, I’ll get fried chicken, mac and cheese — I’m a southern boy so that’s my comfort zone — and I run into some kids from P.S. 188 and they’re giving me a hard time about how high my shorts are, and we’re just going back and forth teasing. They told me they had never been to Bobwhite’s before… I’m like I have to get these kids in there. It’s right across the street, we have to get these kids in there.”

The organization leads New York City students on free tours of restaurants to teach them about culture, taste, and nutrition.

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