The alleged split came amid backlash Kirkconnell received regarding her unsavory past when it comes to racial sensitivity, including photos of her attending an antebellum-themed party in 2018 that resurfaced online. Considering the racist history of the party and her vying for the affection of a Black man, spectators were outraged.
Though James chose Kirkconnell in the end, by the time the After the Final Rose special aired, James said he couldn’t continue on with their relationship and that Kirkconnell’s actions hurt him as a Black man. Kirkconnell was apologetic, saying she learned from her actions and was still madly in love with James and hopeful for a future.
Still, rumors spread that the two were in constant communication, photos of the two together leaked online and more. But neither confirmed their romance until months later.
In an exclusive interview with Hollywood Life, the two say they have leaned on each other to help deal with the scrutiny from the public.
“For us, it came with such scrutiny and everything at times,” Kirkconnell says. “But even through all that, we found ourselves wanting to be together and we really couldn’t let go of each other. So, I think that really holding on to that person and making things work when times are tough [is important].”
For James, he says encouragement from their inner circle was also helpful. “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.”
Ultimately, they are learning to ignore the noise and focus on their love. “I would just say [it’s important] to take everything day by day and not get wrapped up in any outside voices,” James explains. “None of that stuff ultimately matters. It’s just being present with each other.”