Matt James admits it was “frustrating” watching his season of “The Bachelor” as the show’s first Black lead in 2021.
James told the Los Angeles Times: “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.”
The piece stated that the show failed “to show him as an accomplished young Black man who had overcome many personal and professional challenges.”
James’s season would be draped in controversy with the Chris Harrison drama and the issues surrounding Rachael Kirkconnell, to whom James gave his final rose. They split after the show once a 2018 photo of her attending an antebellum South-themed party in 2018 was released and it was revealed she had ‘liked’ racially insensitive posts on social media.
They’ve since got back together.
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In James’s new book First Impressions: Off-Screen Conversations With a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness, he doesn’t mention the controversy often.
“I didn’t want to use that story for people to engage with my book,” he said. “There will be another Bachelor, and there will probably be another Black Bachelor, and there will be another tell-all book. I wasn’t interested in that. If that’s what interests fans, and that outweighs the personal things I want to share, then my book isn’t for them.”
The star added of the drama already being heavily reported on, “There wasn’t anything left to rehash. My relationship had been made into a sideshow, a complete circus. Rachael and I have moved on. We’re one of the only couples from that franchise still going strong. 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.”
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James went on, “Maybe I would have told that story if the franchise had made a more concerted effort to take part in that conversation when it was at its height.
“That opportunity was lost because everyone was afraid and sitting on their hands. I understand it, but that’s the kind of thing that happens when you bring people of colour into your space.
“If they’re not willing to have that conversation, they should strongly consider not going there in the first place. There are things about being Black that people who aren’t Black can never understand. It’s too much for them to handle. But it’s my life.”
James insisted he was having constant meaningful conversations with the women on the show about race and other issues, “but when that didn’t come across on the show, it looked like I lacked substance, I lacked depth. We had the opportunity to have those tough conversations, but the show missed the mark.
“I’m disappointed, not only for myself,” he went on. “Middle America could have benefitted so much. So many lives could have been enriched, not only by my conversations with Rachael but with the other women who were on this journey.”
Despite all of this, he doesn’t have any ill feelings towards the show, telling the paper: “I took this responsibility head-on.
“I knew what I was signing up for. It wasn’t the right audience. My message was not the one that ‘The Bachelor’ was trying to promote across their franchise, which is fine. That’s on me, being naive. Rachael and I were the ones accountable and having the conversations. The franchise is a collection of people. I’m one person. Rachael is one person. How do you hold an organization of people responsible? You don’t.”
James added of whether he’d do it all over again, “I’d do it tomorrow. It was still an incredible experience, and so much good stuff came out of it. It was frustrating and disappointing. But there’s another way to look at it. 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… but I’ll take it.”