The Bachelor alum Matt James has slammed the franchise again, saying it failed him and turned his relationship with Rachael Kirkconnell into a "sideshow" and a "circus."

"My relationship had been made into a sideshow, a complete circus. Rachael and I have moved on," Matt told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview.


"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."

Matt, who starred on The Bachelor's 25th season in 2021, recently publicly urged The Bachelor franchise to become more transparent, claiming his season never aired "real sh-t" he had talked about with Rachael and other women in regards to his past, personal life, professional goals, and being raised as a Black man in America with mixed parents.

During his interview with the Times, Matt insisted he had frequent meaningful and serious conversations with the Season 25 bachelorettes -- including ones about race -- while filming The Bachelor in late 2020.

"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," Matt explained to the newspaper.

Matt also said he believes the significance of his position as the first Black The Bachelor star was overshadowed by a focus on petty drama amongst the women.

"There was nothing to lay the framework -- my background, who I was or why I'm here," Matt said. "The show went straight into seeing these women doing crazy things. It was very frustrating to watch."

Matt said he never received a warning from The Bachelor producers about the direction they planned to take with their editing, and from what viewers saw on The Bachelor 25, many fans called Matt boring and complained there wasn't anything captivating about him.

As Matt watched the season unfold on TV, he said he found himself mentally and physically exhausted.

Matt felt that The Bachelor had botched its chance to highlight the struggles of people of color and change its reputation of being discriminatory, an allegation that has plagued the franchise for about a decade considering ABC had the tendency to cast only a small pool of diverse candidates every season.

Matt wrote in his new book First Impressions: Off-Screen Conversations With a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness that he went through a "person to prop" conversion during his time in the spotlight, according to the Times.
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"I'm disappointed, not only for myself," Matt 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."

Matt, for instance, recalled having an hour-long, heartfelt conversation with former franchise host Chris Harrison, who received a settlement for leaving his job following an early 2021 racism scandal in which he had dismissed racially-insensitive photos from Rachael's past.

Matt claimed that when filming began, he and Chris had discussed the burden and anxiety he felt over the pressure to choose a Black woman at the end of his season -- a conversation which only received "a few seconds" of air time.

Matt even told The Times that the show misrepresented his view on the topic, however the interview did not clarify what was allegedly misrepresented.

Matt apparently still prides himself on having taken the "responsibility" of being the first Black Bachelor "head on," and he insisted he has no ill will against the franchise.

"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," Matt said.

"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."

Matt's new claims that he knew what he "was signing up for" with The Bachelor and had complicated conversations about race with his white bachelorettes, including Rachael, appear to conflict with his prior public comments.

Matt wrote in First Impressions how he wasn't aware he was going to be the franchise's first-ever Black star until "more than a week" after he had already accepted the Season 25 gig, according to Us Weekly.

"I didn't know my decision would be a groundbreaking one. I hadn't watched the show before," Matt wrote, adding, "If pressed, I would have assumed that a Black man had been chosen as the lead in the past... Hadn't it been on air forever? Surely at least one brother had led the franchise."

And in March 2021, Matt also told Good Morning America he never asked Rachael or his other white bachelorettes their thoughts about being in a biracial relationship or raising biracial children.

During his GMA interview, Matt claimed he only had those conversations with a few of his bachelorettes of color -- and that was a decision he came to regret, in hindsight.

"I wish I would have asked more clarifying questions," he noted at the time.


Matt also told the Times he refused to turn his book First Impressions into a Bachelor Tell-All. He reportedly never mentioned Chris by name in the book and didn't dive into the scandal surrounding Chris' dismissal of Rachael's racism controversy.

"There wasn't anything left to rehash," said Matt, who reportedly also avoided getting into too much detail about how he and Rachael navigated her own racism controversy.

Matt said maybe he would have told that story "if the franchise had made a more concerted effort to take part in that conversation [about diversity] 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 color into your space," Matt explained.

"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."

Despite Matt's bold statements about the show failing him and turning his relationship with Rachael into a circus, Matt said if he could do things all over again, he'd still do The Bachelor again.

"I'd do it tomorrow," Matt told The Times.

"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."

Matt concluded, "I found what I was looking for, which shouldn’t have been the case. But I'll take it."

Matt was initially selected to compete for Clare Crawley's heart on The Bachelorette's sixteenth season in 2020, but when the coronavirus pandemic delayed production on Clare's season, ABC chose to promote Matt and announce him as the Bachelor prematurely in June of that year instead.

Matt selected Rachael as his The Bachelor winner but the pair briefly split in February 2021 over Rachael's racism scandal.

Matt and Rachael, however, reunited on After the Final Rose and never stopped communicating.

Although Matt explored the "gray space" of their complicated post-show relationship and acted like a single man again, the couple officially got back together in April 2021 and have seemingly been inseparable ever since.

Matt even recently said that an engagement, marriage and "everything is on the table" with Rachael, and he's working on their communication "brick by brick."

"I couldn't be better. I'm healthy, which is the biggest blessing, and I'm in a great headspace. I'm in a great relationship. I recently moved down to Miami and it's allowed me to reallocate my time, energy and resources on things that are most important to my life," Matt said.

He added, "It's been so fun to live life with Rachael as my best friend now. It's fun and easy."


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About The Author: Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.