Matt James Says He '100 Percent' Felt Pressure to Pick a Black Woman on 'The Bachelor'

"Ultimately, your heart leads you where love is and that's what I followed," said the reality star, who is dating his finalist Rachael Kirkconnell

Needless to say, Matt James' journey as the Bachelor was no walk in the park.

On The Ellen DeGeneres Show Friday, guest host Arsenio Hall asked guest James, 29, about the pressures he faced being the ABC franchise's first Black male lead.

"It was a lot," the Dancing with the Stars contestant admitted. "On both sides, because, you know, my dad's Black and my mom's white."

Asked whether he felt "pressure" to pick a Black woman in the end, James 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."

James' Bachelor season aired earlier this year. Contestants Rachael Kirkconnell, Michelle Young and Bri Springs made it to the final three.

MATT JAMES
Matt James. Craig Sjodin/ABC/Getty

Though he picked Kirkconnell, who is white, the pair confirmed during the season's After the Final Rose special in March that they had split after past racially insensitive behavior of hers surfaced online, engulfing the franchise in controversy. But the couple found their way back together, and James confirmed to PEOPLE the following month that he was "pursuing" a relationship with Kirkconnell again.

"You've got to be very stern in how you feel about things," James said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Friday. "You don't want to rush things, so we take things day by day and we're very much in love and very happy right now."

Recently, Kirkconnell, 24, opened up about how the two have worked to reach a "good place" in their relationship.

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

"It was a bit of a journey. But I think we're in a really good place. We've had a lot of love come our way," she told Extra.

"I like to think that even though people have been super, super nice, we just like to focus on each other and put all of that aside and let that outside noise stay a little more quiet these days," she continued. "So it's been good. We've been good."

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