SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “The Bachelor” Season 25 premiere.
“The Bachelor” answered a call to action to diversify the franchise when they cast Matt James as the Season 25 lead. Now, his season has turned into one of firsts.
Not only is Matt the first Black bachelor, but also the first in recent years to be plucked from normalcy rather than after being a rejected contestant. While originally scheduled to appear on Clare Crawley’s season of “The Bachelorette,” the franchise promoted him to “The Bachelor” before ever appearing on viewers’ screens. While new to the world of reality TV, he was a familiar face to Bachelor Nation — known for being best friends with fan-favorite contestant Tyler Cameron.
Matt’s intro package revealed he resides in New York and splits his time between working in commercial real estate and leading ABC Food Tours, a non-profit he founded that takes kids on food and fitness tours throughout the city, with 50% of participants being homeless students.
The 28-year-old also shared his family-oriented roots: Matt was a product of interracial parents (his dad is Black, mom is white) and was raised in a Christian household by his mother. During a sit-down with his mom, he discussed how he viewed relationships through the lens of growing up in a single-parent home. He continued the conversation with host Chris Harrison before the women arrived.
During their chat, Matt considered the pressures of being the first Black bachelor, including outside judgments on interracial relationships.
“You’ve got people who have certain views — old school views — on what a relationship and what love looks like. You’ve got people who are cheering for you to find love, and then you’ve got people who are cheering for you to end up with a specific person, a specific person of a specific race,” he said. “That’s something that kept me up at night. I don’t want to piss off Black people. … I don’t want to piss off white people. But I’m both of those. How do I please everybody?”
After the conversations with Chris, viewers met the 32 women vying for Matt’s heart. A record number of applications flooded in after Matt’s casting, which resulted in the most diverse franchise cast to date.
The North Carolina native welcomed each woman as they arrived from their limos at the Nemacolin Resort in Pennsylvania. Several contestants relied on gimmicks to stand out: Katie Thurston, for example, brought “something from home that was really special” that turned out to be her vibrator. Kaili Anderson came undressed to let Matt pick her outfit. Kit Keenan (daughter of fashion designer Cynthia Rowley) arrived in a Bentley. Fellow North Carolinian Khaylah Epps impressed by driving a stick shift truck up the chateau. Alana Milne secured the first kiss by splitting a bowl of spaghetti “Lady and the Tramp” style. Lastly, Victoria “like the queen” Larson arrived via four men carrying her, before tripping up the stairs.
“I feel like I’m more nervous than the women. Everything I thought I was going to say or how I thought I was going to act just completely went out the window,” Matt said.
After entrances, Matt moved inside to converse with the cast. He led the group in prayer before speaking individually with the women. While he was impressed with Sarah Trott (a broadcast journalist turned caregiver for her father with ALS) and Rachael Kirkconnell (a graphic designer who said “like” over 20 times in her two minutes on screen), it was Abigail Heringer who stood out the most.
In a continued effort by ABC to diversify contestants, Abigail joined the show as the first Deaf contestant. She discussed her disability with Matt, sharing that she and her sister both were born with full hearing loss. She received the first real kiss and the first impression rose.
With one rose locked in, the others headed to the rose ceremony for the first elimination. Matt narrowed down his suitors from 32 to 24, sending Alicia Holloway, Amber Andrews, Carolyn Vallejo, Casandra Suarez, Corrinne Jones, Emani Curl, Kimberly Courneya, and Saneh Ste. Claire home.
“The Bachelor” airs on Mondays at 8pm on ABC.