Life after the final rose proved to be more challenging than expected for Matt James, but the former Bachelor is ready to share his side of the story in his new book, First Impressions: Off Screen Conversations with a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness.
“It’s been such a crazy journey to that point,” the 30-year-old former reality TV star said on Us Weekly’s “Here for the Right Reasons” podcast ahead of the memoir’s Tuesday, May 3, release. “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.”
Bachelor Nation officially met James when his season debuted in January 2021. He made history as the first Black Bachelor — something he wasn’t aware of when he accepted the gig in June 2020 — and for being one of the only leads that had never been part of the franchise. (While he was set to compete on Clare Crawley’s season 16 of The Bachelorette in 2020, production was shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic.)
“I wasn’t really asking the right questions or, I guess, I didn’t think that was something that hadn’t been done. It’s 2022, I didn’t think that that was something that we hadn’t crossed yet,” James told Us of admitting he didn’t know he was the first Black male lead in the show’s decades-long history. “I’ve seen a bunch of Black people come through the franchise that I guess I assumed [there had been a Black Bachelor].”
James was living with Bachelorette alum Tyler Cameron in Florida when ABC reached out to him weeks after Crawley’s season was put on hold.
“Initially, I thought it was a prank call because it was in the middle of COVID and I was living in a quarantine house with all my friends, and we were all just messing around at the time,” he recalled to Us. “So when you got calls like that, you kind of took it with a grain of salt. You’re like, ‘All right, whatever.’ And then when they follow it up, I’m like, ‘Oh, snap.’”
Days after he agreed to be the Bachelor, James learned how historic the season was being billed to be.
“I didn’t accept the role to be the savior. My sole focus was finding someone that I could spend the rest of my life with and fall in love with and just looking for that in my life because I was missing it,” James told Us. “And it wasn’t until after I accepted it that I really felt the weight of, you know, everyone’s expectations on my journey. And I’m like, ‘I wonder if anyone else has felt this stepping into a role like this.’ And they hadn’t because it was at the right time in the country where we were going through everything that we were going through from a racial standpoint — [and] still are going through. It really dawned on me a couple [of] days after or just as time approached [to film] the show, like, people telling me what I had to do and what I should do. And I’m like, ‘I hadn’t even got there yet. What are y’all talking about?’”
In the end, James picked Rachael Kirkconnell, but their relationship was plagued with scandal after photos of her at a Rose Ball Formal on a plantation in college resurfaced. After longtime host Chris Harrison asked for “grace” for Kirkconnell while the season was airing, he came under fire and ABC cut ties with him. While James addresses his reaction to the controversy in the book (and explains how he and the Georgia native got back together), he left out the Harrison drama.
“We spent enough time talking about that stuff. I hate beating a dead horse and everything’s played out how it’s played out and there’s no need to go back [to] something that we’ve talked so much about because unfortunately, those type of conversations overshadowed context that I would’ve liked to have been applied to the season that would’ve answered a bunch of questions,” James told Us. “They had things that I talked about and discussed and went into in-depth in my dates and on group dates and on one-on-ones that never aired. So I didn’t wanna take any more time to talk about that stuff. I wanted to focus on themes that I felt could really help people and I don’t think that going back on that would be any help to anybody.”
First impressions is available now. Scroll through for more: