The Bachelor has announced Matt James, who was initially cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley's season of The Bachelorette, will be the star of The Bachelor's upcoming 25th season.

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Matt, a 28-year-old real estate broker, entrepreneur and community organization founder, will be the first black The Bachelor star ever, following in the footsteps of The Bachelorette's first lead of color, Rachel Lindsay.

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ABC has cast only one black lead in 40 seasons and 18 years of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette prior to Matt.

Matt will also be the first The Bachelor star who did not appear on The Bachelorette before landing The Bachelor role since Matt Grant starred on Season 12 in 2008.

Beginning with Jason Mesnick in 2009, every The Bachelor star has been someone who had previously competed as a suitor on The Bachelorette, with the exception of the show's 2011 season which featured Brad Womack getting a second chance at love after initially starring as the Bachelor in 2007.

Matt's The Bachelor casting announcement was made several months earlier than usual during Friday's broadcast of Good Morning America.

Historically, each year's The Bachelor star is not announced until late August or September, shortly before the season begins production.

"The brand new Bachelor being revealed right here, right now, and for the first time ever, he is black," Amy Robach noted on GMA. "This is a big step forward for a show that's been criticized for its lack of diversity."

Matt appeared on the GMA broadcast and said it's "an honor" to be named The Bachelor star and represent people of color on the franchise.

"I'm just going to lean into myself and how my mom raised me, and hopefully when people invite me to their homes on Monday nights, they're going to see I'm not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful," Matt said, revealing his mother just found out about his casting with the rest of the world.

"I'm sorry mom, but she can't keep a secret... One thing I try to do is keep it real and I am an authentic person and if I said anything else [about not telling my mom ahead of time], I'd be lying."

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ABC acknowledged "a responsibility" to implementing diversity in The Bachelor franchise in a statement that accompanied the announcement of Matt's casting.

"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," ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said.

"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."

"Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare's season. 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."

On his reaction to getting the call from The Bachelor producers and ABC, Matt revealed, "My first reaction was, 'Does this mean I don't get to meet Clare?' Because I was looking forward to meeting her!"

Matt was announced back in March as one of Clare's 32 potential The Bachelorette suitors, but franchise host Chris Harrison has made it known Clare could end up seeing a totally different lineup of men given production on her season has been delayed drastically due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Clare's The Bachelorette season is now tentatively scheduled to film later this summer and air on ABC this fall.

"I had set aside all this time and had gone out to California but then was called back to quarantine. So I'm super excited for her and her season, but I'm looking forward to meeting her eventually," Matt added, confirming he will no longer compete for Clare's heart on The Bachelorette later this year.

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Matt was also asked whether he sees his The Bachelor casting as not just a change, but a lasting change for the show.

"Well, I think it's a step in the right direction. When Rachel speaks, we listen. She has a very important voice in this, being the first black woman or person of color to have a lead," Matt explained.

"So I think we're all following suit in that conversation. This is hopefully the first of many black men to be in this position I am in now."

Rachel has been expressing her dissatisfaction regarding the lack of diversity in The Bachelor franchise recently as America has seen nationwide protests expressing outrage about the killing of George Floyd and promoting the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

Rachel, who starred on Season 13 of The Bachelorette in 2017, stated there are "deep-rooted, 18-year systemic problems" with The Bachelor franchise, saying the show needs to cast leads who are interested in dating outside of their race, diversify producers behind the scenes, and stop giving people of color "problematic storylines."

"I have come to the conclusion that if changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it," Rachel wrote in a June 8 blog post.

"I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective. These changes have to extend beyond casting a lead of color. The whole franchise needs a diversity makeover."

Rachel, who currently co-hosts The Bachelor franchise's official podcast, had also threatened to cut her ties with the show in an interview conducted several days before her blog post was published.

"I cant, I have to see some type of change. It's ridiculous, it's embarrassing. At this point, it's embarrassing to be affiliated with it," she told AfterBuzz TV.

When Matt was asked on GMA if his casting is "too little too late" given the times, Matt responded, "My opinion is I don't think it's ever the wrong time to do the right thing. So, 'too little, too late,' is this happening and we can't have change until you put that first foot forward."

"And that first foot forward for The Bachelor franchise is having a black lead, so I'm excited to take on that role," he added.

Matt believes sharing his story is relevant and important, even though The Bachelor is known as a guilty pleasure and some would say it shouldn't be taken that seriously.

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"I think a lot of people are in that situation where they're uncomfortable with dating outside their race or are uncomfortable being in that position. It's a conversation starter for a lot of people and hopefully it paves the way for a lot of diverse love stories," Matt explained.

In terms of what qualities he's looking for in a woman, Matt said, "I'm looking for a lot of qualities that my mom embodies, and that's selfless, honest, caring and compassionate."

"Those are qualities found in women of all shapes, sizes and races, and it's not a black or white thing," he continued. "So I'm hoping when that limo pulls up [on Night 1], there's a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo."

Matt initially came into the limelight last year as he's best friends with The Bachelorette alum Tyler Cameron, who was the runner-up on Hannah Brown's 2019 season of The Bachelorette, and they started a small charity, ABC Food Tours, together.

Not only did Matt and Tyler -- who regularly appear on each other's social-media accounts -- become roommates in New York City, but they've also been quarantining with each other in Florida in recent months, and Hannah was also part of their "Quarantine Crew" for several weeks and seemed to become close with Matt.

Rachel was shown saying on GMA that choosing Matt as The Bachelor star "is a start" but there is still much more work to be done.

"I need acknowledgement [they're] not putting a Band-Aid over the situation, and saying, 'Hey, we're going to put this here. Are you happy now?'" Rachel said.

After Rachel publicly expressed her opinion on diversity in The Bachelor franchise, a petition was also launched on Change.org, calling on ABC and the show's Warner Bros. production company to cast more people of color.

The petition, which has garnered more than 85,000 signatures as of Friday morning, called the franchise's lack of diversity "unacceptable" and asked ABC and Warner Bros. to "combat" racism by casting a black male for The Bachelor's 25th season and casting more people of color as contestants on future editions of the show.

Matt, however, made headlines back in April after Clare seemingly called him out for wanting publicity and fame out of his The Bachelorette experience.

Clare tweeted the following about her initial cast of bachelors: "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 didn't name any of the guys in particular, but she additionally wrote in a separate post, "Respect the opportunity you've been given. Respect the rules. Respect me."

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Matt appeared to respond to Clare's tweets when he clarified he was personally using the Cameo app to raise money for COVID-19 relief.

"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," Matt claimed in his Instagram Stories, according to People.

"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."

Clare was subsequently asked about Matt's activity on the Cameo app and reportedly wrote to a fan on Twitter about her previous scathing post, "It was about MULTIPLE men and a general thought I was having while we sit here in a real life crisis where someone's (everyone's) time + sincerity hold so much weight and value."

Matt is originally from North Carolina and attended Wake Forest University, where he majored in economics and played wide receiver for their football team.

Matt and Tyler were teammates on the school's football team before Tyler transferred to Florida Atlantic University.

Matt went on to briefly play professional football, before moving to New York City.

ABC says Matt has a passion for food and created ABC Food Tours to find creative ways to encourage physical and mental wellness for children from underserved communities in New York City, while also giving them opportunities for new experiences.

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