The Bachelor's Matt James: What You Don't Know About Him

As Bachelor Matt James and any enthusiastic member of Bachelor Nation know, the franchise's coveted show — The Bachelor — is as iconic as it is dramatic. With a new leading man each season, The Bachelor has offered its viewers some amazing love stories (we're looking at you, Sean and Catherine), some intense break-ups, and some shocking twists and turns. Some Bachelors have made their way through the show without finding love at the end, while others have abandoned their season finale pick for their runner-up. Still others have been pretty awful (is anyone a fan of Juan Pablo?) and a few were just messy — sorry, Pilot Pete.

So it came as a much-needed reprieve to Bachelor Nation when intelligent, accomplished, gorgeous Matt James was chosen as the show's leading man. A newbie to the franchise, Matt was not a contestant on any prior season of The Bachelorette, but was pretty much Bachelor Nation royalty given his close relationships with former contestant Tyler Cameron and former Bachelorette Hannah Brown. 

So as Matt's journey to find love unfolds, we're wondering who he is, what his background is like, what he's passionate about, and what he's looking for in a life partner. So strap in because here's what you don't know about The Bachelor's Matt James.

The first Black Bachelor, Matt James was frustrated about expectations

Diversity in the cast of The Bachelor has been a hot button issue. There have only been two leading ladies of color for The Bachelorette — Rachel Lindsay and Tayshia Adams — and until Matt James, there had never been a Black bachelor. So bringing diversity to the screen with Matt's season was a much-needed change, but there are some aspects of being the first Black bachelor and having such a diverse group of ladies that Matt has specific opinions about. 

While appearing on the Bachelor Happy Hour podcast with Lindsay, Matt said that he is not solely interested in white contestants and that the issue of race among who he pursues is "low-key frustrating." 

"First off, people should, regardless of what they look like, want you to be happy with whoever you're with," he said, as noted by Vulture. He added, "When you're dating somebody, if you're excluding a race, then I don't even know where to begin on that. What I'm looking for in a woman isn't race specific." Matt continued by saying that he has dated "across the board," and has found "redeeming qualities in everybody." One thing's clear: Matt is truly looking for love.

Matt James joined forces with this Bachelorette to form the Quarantine Crew

Before he was the star of The Bachelor, Matt James was one of the members of the "Quarantine Crew." For those who aren't in the know, the crew was made up of Matt, former Bachelorette contestant and fan favorite Tyler Cameron; former Bachelorette Hannah Brown; Tyler's brother, Ryan; and a few of their close friends, as Cosmopolitan reported. The TikTok videos that came from the "Quarantine Crew" almost became a part of The Bachelor franchise themselves, as the group was seen playing games, pulling pranks on each other, and, of course, working out a lot (you can count us out on the last one). 

Fans of Matt, and people who wanted to spy on the ever-engaging relationship between Hannah and Tyler, watched them day after day in the earlier months of the coronavirus pandemic — so no only did we get to watch our favorite "almost" couple change bed sheets together, but we got to know Matt before he made his way onto our screens. Here's to hoping that the crew will reconvene after Matt's season — who knows, they might be adding Matt's fiancée to the group.

Did this Bachelorette call Matt James out online?

Before he was chosen as the Bachelor, Matt James was originally supposed to be a contestant on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, but things got a little weird after the original cast of her season was announced. As noted by People, the production of Clare's season hit a snag due to the coronavirus pandemic, so although the names and photos of men who would be vying for Clare's had been announced, filming couldn't get started. 

Here's where things took a turn — Matt James and the "Quarantine Crew" were blowing up on social media, and James started a Cameo (via Us Weekly). And perhaps as a result, Clare took to her own social media to seemingly call it out. As reported by People, "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," Clare wrote on Twitter. She then posted again, writing, "Respect the opportunity you've been given. Respect the rules. Respect me." Clare didn't name any names, but we can't help but feel like she thought the spotlight wasn't staying where she wanted it to. Matt would not go on to appear on Clare's season.

Matt James went from a career in football to a professional path in Pennsylvania

Matt James is an athletic guy — just think of how many ab shots we've gotten on The Bachelor. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that Matt had a brief professional football career. In an interview with his alma mater's blog, Matt talked about his time as an athlete and what path he took towards career success. 

"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," he said. "Fortunately, I had a support system back home in Raleigh (Mom) who allowed me to stay at her house and train while I figured out my next steps." 

Matt said that, by the end of his first football season back in 2016, he had officially moved on from the sport. He found himself in Pittsburg, taking the role of a corporate and institutional banker with company PNC. "After a 1 ½ years in Pittsburgh, which I loved and still cherish, I spread my wings [and] flew up to NYC where I felt like I was missing out on life," he said. We love a man who is driven.

The Bachelor couch surfed until he found his footing in New York City

From the looks of his life and career as depicted on The Bachelor, Matt James seems to have always been the suave, impressive, successful, and sweet guy that viewers see on screen. But like a lot of us, Matt found himself as a personal crossroads earlier in his professional life, and he even couch-surfed in New York City until he found his footing. 

"My first six months were spent couch surfing, navigating the new NYC landscape and deciding if this new role in advertising as a media planner was for me," he told his alma mater's blog in an interview. "Ultimately, I left that job (just in time as the company went belly up 12 months later) and took a position as a research analyst at a commercial real estate company called CBRE." 

We don't know if Matt had the intentions of making ourselves feel better about our early 20s and our general lack of stability, but it is oddly comforting to know that such a great choice to lead The Bachelor also had points of uncertainty. So take note, everyone: If you couch-surf in New York City, you never know who you're going to meet.

The Bachelor's Matt James likes to give back to the community

One of Matt James' most attractive qualities, both within his role as the Bachelor and outside of it, is his dedication to giving back to his community. As noted by PopSugar, Matt has operated a nonprofit called ABC Food Tours with his best friend, Tyler Cameron, for years and works to introduce good food and healthy lifestyles to kids from low-income areas. As if we didn't love him enough already. 

"I met a group of 'kids' who were students from a local neighborhood elementary school P.S. 188 — where 50% of the students are homeless — hanging outside my favorite restaurant in the Alphabet City.... way later than they should have been out," Matt told his alma mater, Wake Forest University, in an interview. "We joked on each other for a few minutes then parted ways; they didn't realize that wouldn't be the last they saw of me." 

Matt said that he contacted the school's principal the next day and arranged to take the kids to Bob White's, one of his favorite restaurants. "This occasion marked the first food tour... the rest is history!"

Matt James' time as an undergrad exposed him to a wide variety of cultures

Going to college and experiencing undergraduate life for the first time is really an experience for the books. For most college freshmen, it's the first time that they've lived away from home or gotten a taste of independence, and for some, it's the first time that they've actually had to feed themselves. But for Matt James, his experience as an undergraduate student at Wake Forest University exposed him to a wide variety of people, cultures, and backgrounds. 

"Going to Wake also cultured me," Matt said in an interview with his alma mater. "It was a chance for me to see peers from across the country all aspiring to be different things; see how being brought up in different areas of the country had quite an influence on the type [of] person you became. It inspired me to want the best for myself and question why I would allow anything less than the very best for myself." 

And it's clear that mentality followed Matt throughout his life because it certainly seems like he has always aspired to great professional and personal heights.

The Bachelor is very much a man of faith, which sparked some controversy on night one

The leading men and ladies of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have all gone about sharing their personal lives and stories differently, and Matt James made a mark on his night one by leading his contestants in a prayer before the first cocktail party got started. It may not have seemed to be anything more than a nice gesture and an insight to Matt's faith, but the choice did get a smidge of backlash, as noted by E! Online

Apparently, some members of Bachelor Nation expressed their thoughts about the prayer, with one saying that Matt should've worded the prayer in a "more inclusive way." Another said that if she had been in the room — due, in part, to her own personal faith — she would've found the move uncomfortable. The prayer got far more of a response than ABC executive Robert Mills expected, and he spoke about it with former bachelor Nick Viall on his podcast, The Viall Files

"I didn't expect [the prayer] to be such a hot-button of interest. And I actually understand some of it," Mills said, but Nick cut in and said that it "set the stage" for what matters to Matt. Interesting.

Apparently, Matt James' mom started prepping for grandkids when he became the Bachelor

It seems to be that every mom is more excited to become a grandparent than she was becoming a parent, and Matt James' mom is looking forward to her getting married and having babies. In a video interview with Chris Harrison, Matt divulged that his mom, Patty, had begun planning the "grandkids counter" even before his season of The Bachelor began, adding that his mom is expecting him and his future wife to have enough kids to make "a basketball team." 

But Matt's mom seems to have had a tremendous amount of positive influence over him, and it doesn't just all relate to her want for grandkids. Matt said that the values that his mom raised him to have certainly would influence what kind of Bachelor he would be, and honestly, we love to see it. 

"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're going to see that I'm not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful," he said.

This is what BFF Tyler Cameron thinks Matt James' ideal partner will be like

The saying goes that when you start dating someone, they have to quickly understand that they're dating your best friend too. And that is the case with Matt James and his best friend, Tyler Cameron, who has an idea of what kind of woman he thinks Matt should (and will) end up with. 

"I think what you're going to look for is someone who kind of resembles his mother. His mother is one of the sweetest ladies: very loving, very willing to help and serve others in the community, and someone that's ready to get on the ground with Matt and change the world," Tyler said during an interview with Matt and Chris Harrison. "That's what Matt's going to do — he's going to change the world." Is that not the cutest thing or what? 

Matt echoed Tyler's sentiment, and he said that he is looking for someone who is "selfless, honest, caring, compassionate." He added that "those are qualities found in women all shapes, sizes, and races; it's not a black or white thing." We love him, if you haven't been able to tell.

You'll never guess who reached out to Matt James to congratulate him on TV stardom

We can imagine that fame does some weird things to your head, your world, and the people who are around you. Matt James' world definitely seemed to turn upside down when he was chosen as the leading man of The Bachelor, and you'll never guess who reached out to him. Speaking with Tyler Cameron and Chris Harrison, Matt said that his phone had been consistently ringing "off the hook" since the announcement had been made, and some people really came out of the woodwork to congratulate him. 

"The most interesting text I got was probably from my third-grade teacher. I hadn't heard from her since I missed [my] book report, so there's people coming from all over the place to share their excitement," he said. We truly wouldn't know how to react if our third grade teacher ever texted us. 

Matt said that the announcement also brought a lot of congratulations from friends that were not avid fans of the franchise. "I've heard from a lot of my Black friends that aren't Bachelor Nation faithful that are excited about me and honored that I'm in the position I'm in," he added.

Growing up without a father figure wasn't always easy for Matt James

Matt James is a very attractive man — he's handsome and his on-screen persona is confident, collected, and determined. He brings his charm and sense of humor to The Bachelor, and he comes across as someone who knows what he wants. So knowing that Matt didn't have a father figure in his life makes his determination to find love that even more enduring. In an interview with Wake Forest Magazine, Matt shared that his "father was absent, and money was tight." He added, "The community really rallied around us and made sure I had what I needed."

Getting a taste of families with both parents involved was definitely something that Matt gravitated towards earlier in his life, and his mom spoke about it with ABC's New York affiliate station in 2019. "He was always drawn to families where the mom and dad were together," she said, noting that his unique perspective allowed him to thrive and grow nonprofits like his ABC Food Tours. "I am so proud of him. He overcame everything and he wants to be a role model for these kids," she said, as noted by Us Weekly.

Matt James suffered from some pretty extreme injuries during his college athletic career

As far as professional athletes are concerned, it seems like many operate under this mentality: It's not a matter of if you get injured, but when. And it seems like injuries plagued a lot of Matt James' athletic career, which is such a hard thing to go through. 

As noted by Wake Forest Magazine, Matt played football and basketball in high school — but eventually chose to play football in college at Wake Forest University. According to Matt, "basketball actually left him with more injuries than the tally of bones broken by football." 

Matt was "redshirted" during his freshman year and missed a total of 16 games throughout his college career due to the following: a separated shoulder, a broken hand, and a broken collarbone. According to Wake Forest Magazine, his best game was played during the final game of the 2014 season against Duke University. But honestly, give this man some physical therapy and some Advil stat.

Matt James and Tyler Cameron are always up to something

Matt James and Tyler Cameron are, in our opinion, two of the most gorgeous men to ever grace Bachelor Nation. But for all their charm seen in professional photo shoots, these two are literally always up to something crazy. The number of pranks that they played on each other while quarantined together was truly so out of control, and it doesn't appear as though the antics are going to stop any time soon. 

As noted by Page Six, Tyler posted a video on his official YouTube page shortly before Matt's season of The Bachelor premiered. What were they doing? Getting waxed, of course. "Today was a day of showing Matt what these girls go through when it comes to getting ready for being on The Bachelor so Matt can have a real appreciation for when these girls come out of the limo," Tyler said. 

And what did they have in mind as to what the experience was going to be like? "I saw 40-Year-Old Virgin and that looked painful, and that's what I was going for," Tyler said. We can only wonder what these two will get up to next.