Matt James is now starring on The Bachelor as the first Black male lead. In 24 seasons of The Bachelor, there had never been a Black man handing out the roses.
Though that is pretty on par for a franchise that has been called out multiple times over the years for its lack of diversity, there have been a few Black men who came close to having the coveted position in the past.
The first was Marquel Martin in 2014.
Who is Marquel Martin?
If you’re new to the Bachelor franchise, you may not remember Martin. He first appeared on Andi Dorfman’s season of The Bachelorette. He then went on the first season of Bachelor in Paradise.
Though he didn’t go on to be the first Black Bachelor, he is happy that the title has finally gone to someone.
“It’s good to see,” he said on the Help! I Suck at Dating podcast.
He revealed that he had had a number of conversations with producers in 2014 about being the first Black lead and was “leaning towards yes.” But the position made him nervous.
“It would be a hard decision to make for me personally because I’ve predominantly dated outside my race,” he said.
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“So I had that vision of OK, if I am fortunate enough to be selected to be the first Black Bachelor and we have this diverse group and if I end up with a white woman, what does that look like? ” he continued. “If I end up with a Latino/Hispanic [woman], what does that look like? If I end up with a Black woman what does that look like?”
Ultimately, Martin was not chosen and Chris Soules went on to be the season 19 Bachelor.
After he was passed up, Martin wrote a blog post about how he was passed over due to race.
“I remember writing a blog as to my truth of why I thought and it wasn’t an indictment on the franchise, but more so — hey, in 2014, the world was not ready for a Black Bachelor. I think.
That’s just my own personal opinion,” he said. “I felt like they would do much better if they had a Black woman on first, which they ended up doing.”
Mike Johnson as the Bachelor
After Martin, Mike Johnson was also a strong contender to be the Bachelor. He first appeared on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette and fans instantly fell in love with him. He had all the makings of a good Bachelor. He was good looking, kind, a veteran, and emotionally intelligent. When Peter Weber became the Bachelor instead of Johnson, fans were confused. When he was passed over again for James, who had never even been on a Bachelor show, people were even more perplexed.
Rachel Lindsay, the franchise’s first Black lead, asked production why they skipped over Johnson.
“I definitely asked,” Lindsay told Entertainment Tonight of going to bat for Johnson. “I was extremely vocal about Mike Johnson and how he checked all the boxes and it doesn’t make sense why he is not the lead.
And it even seemed as if the audience wanted him.
The audience was not into Peter.”
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But ultimately, there was some reason Johnson was not chosen.
“I was told there was a reason,” she said. “What that reason may be, I don’t know. I wasn’t given a specific answer.
“Maybe they can’t specifically tell me why they didn’t choose him.
And I think if they could tell us, they would, because it just looks so bad that they didn’t pick him,” she continued. “I mean, Michael Johnson was a gift.
To me, it was an easy decision, but I’m not in the decision room.”