Matt James has been on quite the journey, hasn't he?
First, he was chosen as the first Black Bachelor.
Then, his season aired amid the biggest scandal in series history, one that resulted in Chris Harrison stepping aside as host after he bungled a controversy involving racial insensitivity and a suitor.
Then, that same suitor, Rachael Kirkconnell, was selected as Matt's winner.
And then... Matt broke up with Kirkconnell because the two were simply too different and she could not relate to his experiences as an African-American.
And now James is trying to win Rachael back over!
What is going on here?
What does James truly want?
And how many women did he sleep with during Fantasy Suite Week?
James spilled more tea than ever before in a new interview with Wall Street Journal Magazine, excerpts from which we've posted below...
It Started Off Great for These Two!
On the season 25 Bachelor finale, Matt and Rachael chose not get engaged ... but decided to keep dating and see where their relationship took them. This has become a typical conclusion for many stars of the franchise, although the circumstances that led these two to that resolution (or lack thereof) were anything but typical.
On After the Final Rose special, Matt revealed that the pair had broken up after filming due to the Georgia native's history of racially insensitive actions, such as attending an Old South–themed party at a plantation in 2018. This was a story - coupled with her response to it, and Chris Harrison's response to it - that dominated the season, off-screen, from start to finish, and the fact that Rachael was the eventual Final Rose recipient is just remarkable.
James Summed It Up Pretty Well at the Time
“If you don’t understand that something like that is problematic in 2018, there's a lot of me that you won’t understand,” he told guest host Emmanuel Acho, who filled in for Harrison after his leave of absence, on the ABC After the Final Rose special. “It’s as simple as that.” Was it, though?
Was It That Simple, However?
Soon enough, reports that they were still in contact and possibly even romantically involved began to circulate. "I've seen Rachael a handful of times," James told People magazine in late April, addressing reports that the two are giving their romance yet another shot. "I'm not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it."
Never say never, we guess, even after you refuse to even hug your chosen Bachelor winner on national TV, which Matt did with Rachael at the time after confirming their split on the After the Final Rose episode.
What Caused Matt to Change His Mind... Again?
“I think the best way to put it is that we can have critical conversations about being in this relationship and what I need in a partner — especially if that woman isn’t Black — to understand what comes with me and my life and being Black,” he said in the this Wall Street Journal, published on Wednesday, May 5.
He Still Believes in Kirkconnell
“It’s on people who care about being allies to do the work to be truly antiracist," continued Matt. "And I think it’s unfair to leave people without the ability to unlearn and be better."
Matt Also Responded to Criticism
"What was most important to me was that people [on the show] understood where I came from and who I was so that they could make an informed decision for themselves — if they wanted to be with someone like me, who had this quote-unquote baggage, because that’s what I saw it as initially,” he explained of those who think he was too closed off during filming.
Little by Little, However?
“It wasn’t until I became more comfortable with who I was as a man, as a Black man, as a brother and a son, that it just became more of my story," added James.
Beware of Editing, Too!
James also alleges that he did have more profound conversations with the women that ended up on the cutting room floor. “Ultimately The Bachelor’s about more than myself,” he said. “It’s about all the women who were there and their journeys. There’s a lot of things that didn’t make air that you’ve just got to hope that [the editors] knew a lot better than I do.”
Let's Get to the Good Stuff!
By which we mean, the dirty stuff, as Matt talked too this publication about whether or not he went to bed with Rachael, Bri Springs and Michelle Young during Fantasy Suite Week. The shocking response? ZERO.
“I can’t speak for anybody but myself, but I think the women appreciated it,” he explained. “Because I did learn things about them that I hadn’t gathered — that I don’t think I would have learned if I hadn’t used that time to really dive deeper into something that they might not have been comfortable talking about on camera.”
Et Tu, Rachael?
Kirkconnell, for her part, confirmed to the magazine via email that she and Matt are, indeed, back together after their numerous ups and downs. She noted that it was "helpful to have privacy" now that the cameras are off and the two can focus on their romance without producers watching.
A Family... Reunited?
James also talked about the controversy of producers featuring a heartfelt chat between himself and his absentee dad. “The conversations I had with my mom, my brother and my dad weren’t in vain,” he told WSJ. “After the show, I reached out to my Pops, and we talk on a regular basis now. He’s taken steps to make amends with the rest of the family and be a better dad to his kids."
Is There a Future for the Show?
Harrison will not host Katie Thurston's season of The Bachelorette. The franchise is under extreme fire for how its handled the topic of diversity, and many aren't sure for how much longer it can survive.
Your Take, Matt?
“If you have different people of color all across the board, it’s going to help you tell a story that’s more representative,” he said, adding that he thinks the franchise will last "long after" he's gone.
As for Matt James? Personally?
"I have spoken to therapists — I wouldn't say I have a specific therapist," he said of how he's doing overall these days. "As you talk about things, that's when the healing can start."