Matt James is reflecting on his roller coaster season of The Bachelor.
Following his emotional finale on Monday night, the 29-year-old real estate broker joined Michael Strahan on Good Morning America on Tuesday to share his experience — including what it was like to see Rachael Kirkconnell again, following their split and the controversy over her past photos and social media activity.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Matt admitted. “I felt the weight of everything that I was carrying throughout the season, with what we were dealing with as a country, and have to explain that, why it was problematic to me and our relationship, which was extremely difficult.”
On Monday’s After the Final Rose, Matt praised Rachael’s “authenticity” and said that their time together immediately following the show’s happy ending was “like an extended honeymoon.” The controversy began when Rachael’s past actions came to light in January. First, a TikTok user accused the graphic designer of previously bullying her for dating Black men. Then, another user accused Rachael of liking racist photos. Pics have also surfaced of her at an Old South plantation-themed party while in college.
“That’s the frustrating part about the position that I’m in,” Matt said on GMA. “Having to explain, not only to Rachael, but to the rest of America, why things like that are problematic. We don’t have the chance to have that ignorance. Think about Breonna Taylor, think about Tamir Rice. They didn’t have the opportunity to have that ignorance.”
“The conversations that have come from everything that’s taken place are more important than anything I could’ve left with.” @mattjames919 talks about the emotional ending of his @BachelorABC season. https://t.co/CyqusvKxxIpic.twitter.com/If5tPBaTLa
Matt said on Monday that Rachael’s past actions took him “to a place that I often try not to think about,” as someone who grew up in the south, where there are “events, people, places that I’m not welcome.” He then revealed that the pair had ultimately split.
“When she spoke out and publicly acknowledged that she would do better and she apologized is when I was finally able to take check on myself and see where I was at, and I wasn’t OK,” he recalled. “It was in that moment and the conversation that I had that [I realized that] Rachael might not understand what it means to be Black in America.”
Rachael has since apologized for her past actions and asked people to stop defending them.
On GMA, Matt said that he was hopeful about Rachael’s apology and pledge to educate herself, adding, “I know that Rachael’s a good person. Everything that she outlined in her apology, in her statement, I’m looking forward to seeing her do, because I know she’s capable of it.”
However, he did not sound hopeful about a possible reconciliation anytime soon. “I think there is a lot of work that needs to be done before I can think about being in a relationship with anybody,” he shared. “I need time to process everything that is going on and I want to respect Rachael and what she has to do as well.”
As for whether Matt feels like he missed out on exploring other relationships during his time on The Bachelor, he shared his opinion that “the conversations that have come from everything that’s taken place are more important than anything I could have left with. If that means that I leave under the circumstances that I left, so be it.”
“As the love stories become more diverse the people that tell them should become just as diverse,” he added when asked if there was anything he would do differently about his season. “There’s way more qualified men and women of color who can step in and fill those roles. I’m excited to see the institutional change take place and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
"As the love stories become more diverse the people that tell them should become just as diverse…I'm excited to see the institutional change take place and I'm honored to be a part of it." @mattjames919 talks about the future of @BachelorABC franchise. https://t.co/fSvXNfQiozpic.twitter.com/KDHgnDtlzF
Monday’s After the Final Rose also saw the announcement of not just the next Bachelorette, but the next two Bachelorettes.
Katie Thurston, 30, and Matt’s runner-up, Michelle Young, 27, will each get their own season of the show. Katie’s journey as The Bachelorette is set to premiere summer 2021, and Michelle’s season will air fall 2021. And as Chris Harrison continues to take time away from the franchise following his controversial statements in defense of Rachael Kirkconnell, Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe are taking the lead on the new season.
Warner Horizon and ABC Entertainment confirmed to ET last week that the pair would be stepping in for the franchise host and “supporting the new Bachelorette” in the upcoming season.
“I’m excited,” Matt said on GMA of the franchise’s big changes. “It’s a fresh start. We need more women hosting, it was the right move.”
See more on the future of the franchise in the video below.
'The Bachelorette': Katie Thurston and Michelle Young Announced as Next Two Leads
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