At the time Matt James was offered the opportunity to be “The Bachelor,” he was the first Black male lead the franchise had ever picked. The journey he experienced was not what he had envisioned, and he opened up about some parts of that in a June 2022 Los Angeles Times article. His commentary came shortly after the release of his first book, “First Impressions: Off Screen Conversations with a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness,” which debuted in May. James is still dating his final rose recipient, Rachael Kirkconnell, but his reflections on the experience contain a variety of mixed emotions.
Here’s what you need to know:
James Says He & Kirkconnell Are Not ‘Playing Games’
James noted his book is not a juicy breakdown of the drama he experienced as “The Bachelor.” In fact, he felt “there wasn’t anything left to rehash,” given all the attention his season received heading into the finale, he told the LA Times. “My relationship had been made into a slideshow, a complete circus.”
Kirkconnell was accused of racism shortly before “The Bachelor” finale aired, and James touched on this in his book, excerpted by Cosmopolitan. When a photo of Kirkconnell from a college formal held at a Southern plantation emerged, James wrote, “The picture forced deeper realizations about our relationship as well. Rachael and I had hardly talked about race.”
But James told the LA Times in June that “Rachael and I have moved on.”
“We’re one of the only couples from that franchise still going strong,” he told the outlet. “The reason is we’re going at things at our own pace. We’re not playing games that a lot of people play just to stay in that circle.”
He Admits to Being Naive When He Accepted the Gig
While the ABC network had expressed a commitment to diversity and representation throughout the “Bachelor” franchise, James told the LA Times that as his season kicked off, “there was nothing to lay the framework — my background, who I was or why I’m here. The show went straight into seeing these women doing crazy things. It was very frustrating to watch.”
Rather than seeing him as “an accomplished young Black man who had overcome many personal and professional challenges,” the LA Times wrote, many viewers found James “boring” and “even labeled him an Uncle Tom.”
“My message was not the one that ‘The Bachelor’ was trying to promote across their franchise, which is fine,” James told the outlet. “That’s on me, being naive.”
Despite feeling the experience was “frustrating and disappointing,” James said he’d “do it tomorrow” all over again.
“It was still an incredible experience, and so much good stuff came out of it,” he told the LA Times. “One of the main reasons I went on the show was to find someone who was compatible with me, and I did that despite the show, which is hilarious. I found what I was looking for, which shouldn’t have been the case.”
James told E! News’ Daily Pop on May 17 that he sees marriage in his future with Kirkconnell. “I think marriage is always the endgame at my stage of the game,” he said. “I think the good thing about our relationship is we go at our own pace. And you’ve seen with other couples—they force the engagement and they’re not together anymore. So, I think what we got is a working recipe and we’re gonna get there.”