Matt James Says 'The Bachelor' Was 'Frustrating to Watch' Because 'Key Pieces of Me Were Left Behind'

James said the ABC franchise "missed the mark" by focusing on making his relationship with Rachael Kirkconnell into a "sideshow" rather than highlighting authentic conversations about race

Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James attend the 2021 Sports Humanitarian Awards on July 12, 2021 in New York City
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty

Matt James was the first Black Bachelor, but his impact in the role wasn't what he hoped for.

In his new memoir First Impressions: Off-Screen Conversations With a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness, the 30-year-old explains why he was unhappy with how he was portrayed on the show, writing, "In my conversion from person to prop, key pieces of me were left behind."

In a conversation with The Los Angeles Times, James explained why the book didn't delve deeper into some parts of his experience on The Bachelor.

"There wasn't anything left to rehash," he said, pointing to the racism controversy surrounding his final pick Rachael Kirkconnell's past. "My relationship had been made into a sideshow, a complete circus. Rachael and I have moved on."

He added, "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."

Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James attend the 57th Academy of Country Music Awards on March 07, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada

When James' finale aired, fans witnessed an "After the Final Rose" special like none before. Kirkconnell publicly apologized for her past behavior, and guest host Emmanuel Acho led the then ex-couple (who later reconnected) into a conversation about race.

"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," James said. "That opportunity was lost because everyone [at ABC] was afraid and sitting on their hands. I understand it, but that's the kind of thing that happens when you bring people of color into your space."

James had other complaints about the show's choice of conversations. He added that he had important chats with contestants about race and about his life as a Black man in America. However, James said they were omitted from the show's final cut.

"It looked like I lacked substance, I lacked depth," he said of the editing. "We had the opportunity to have those tough conversations, but the show missed the mark."

The Bachelor
Bri Springs and Matt James on The Bachelor. Craig Sjodin; Getty Images

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And for James, the lack of dialogue about race issues in America wasn't just a missed opportunity for him or other people of color — it would have been of value to all viewers.

"I'm disappointed, not only for myself," he continued. "Middle America could have benefited 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."

In his mind, the series highlighted all of the wrong things. "There was nothing to lay the framework — my background, who I was or why I'm here," James shared. "The show went straight into seeing these women doing crazy things. It was very frustrating to watch."

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