Time will tell if Rachael Kirkconnell is The One for Bachelor Matt James, but the season 25 contestant has at least one thing in common with the lead — both had never been in love before arriving at Nemacolin Resort in Pennsylvania.
“Though Rachael says she is a hopeless romantic to her core, she has never been in love and believes that Matt may just be the guy to change that,” the 24-year-old Georgia native’s ABC bio reads. “Rachael is hoping that her love story will be something huge and life-altering. She wants to look back on her life when she’s old and feel like she has made the absolute most out of every single day.”
Matt, for his part, has been open on the show and in interviews about the fact that he doesn’t have much experience with love.
“Love to me looked different before I got to Nemacolin because of what I experienced up to that point,” he told Entertainment Tonight earlier this month. “And yes, I guess I’d say I haven’t experienced love until I got out there.”
Chris Harrison also shed light on Matt’s candid revelation about the L-word during an exclusive interview with Us Weekly in November 2020.
“It’s not that he hasn’t said ‘I love you’ before. I think the problem with him is he realized being the Bachelor, he had never fully understood what it means. He didn’t understand the weight of it,” he said. “And now I think this has really opened [his] eyes and one thing about the Bachelor or Bachelorette — you can ask any of them — it changes you.”
Harrison added that Matt’s personal journey wasn’t smooth sailing during filming.
“I think he had a bit of a rude awakening of the man he is, the way he loves [and] what love means to him. It really is an amazing journey you’re going to take with Matt, not just as the Bachelor but also as this man who realizes, ‘Wow, OK, this is love and this is what it means and I’m really here to find this,’” he said.
One month later, the host teased Rachael’s role on the series as he introduced the contestants via a YouTube video.
“Rachael is just a down-to-earth southern girl, really personable and just as sweet as cotton candy, but also really competitive,” Harrison said.
After the January 4 premiere, Rachael came under fire when a TikTok user accused her of being racist in high school. She was also accused of “liking” offensive Instagram images.
“I have not spoken to anybody since the show ended, but I would say that you have to be really careful about what you are doing on social media,” Matt told Entertainment Tonight on February 2 when asked about Rachael’s social media activity. “Rumors are dark and nasty and can ruin people’s lives. So, I would give people the benefit of the doubt, and hopefully she will have her time to speak on that.”
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The same month, however, pictures surfaced online of Rachael and her sorority sisters at the Georgia College & State University enjoying an “Old South” bash on a plantation in 2018. While Matt and Rachael have yet to address the photos, Harrison was accused of downplaying the controversy during an interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay on February 9. He later apologized for “wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism.”
Rachael broke her silence on the scandal on February 11.
“While there have been rumors circulating, there have also been truths that have come to light that I need to address. I hear you, and I’m here to say I was wrong,” she wrote via Instagram. “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
The contestant continued: “Racial progress and unity are impossible without (white) accountability, and I deserve to be held accountable for my actions. I will never grow unless I recognize what I have done is wrong. I don’t think one apology means that I deserve your forgiveness, but rather I hope I can earn your forgiveness through my future actions.”
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The Bachelor airs on ABC Mondays at 8 p.m. ET. Scroll through for five things to know about Rachael: