When Matt James was announced as the first Black lead of The Bachelor, the first in the show’s 25-season history, many fans and non-fans were excited at the potential diverse suitors selected for his season. Alas, many thought that a Black couple would emerge from the reality dating series. But that didn’t happen.
James chose Rachel Kirkconnell, who during the season airing was blasted for attending an antebellum-themed party just a few years prior in 2018. Kirkconnell apologized after her participation in the racist party was made known to the public, but it was already widely speculated that she was given the rose from James in the end.
James eventually said that the backlash from Kirkconnell’s past got to him and he called it quits with her for a while. But, they soon reconciled, with many thinking him announcing he’d called it quits was just a ploy to calm the conversation down. He admits it’s been difficult ignoring the noise about his relationship with Kirkconnell. But he’s also now revealing that he felt extreme pressure going into the show and during filming to choose a Black woman.
“It was a lot,” he told Arsenio Hall, who was guest-hosting The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “On both sides, because, you know, my dad’s Black and my mom’s white.” When DeGeneres asked if he felt pressure to pick a Black suitor, he replied, “One hundred percent…There was pressure on both sides,” he continued. “But ultimately, your heart leads you where love is and that’s what I followed.”
He told Hollywood Life in a previous joint interview with Kirkconnell that the support of their loved ones got them though. “One of the first conversations I had with Rachael’s mom was when she told me that it was a choice that you had to make every single day and that is real,” he says. “Not every day is going to be sunshine and rainbows, but you have to continue to make that decision to love that person every day, regardless of what is going on.” Rachael also said that she and Matt do a “really good job at not letting anyone else get to [them],” even though there are “people who want to bring [them] down.” He’s currently competing on the 30th season of Dancing With the Stars.