Matt James is speaking out about his journey as the first Black Bachelor.
James appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Friday and dished with guest host Arsenio Hall about the pressures he faced being the franchise’s first Black male lead.
“It was a lot,” he admitted, per a People report. “On both sides, because, you know, my dad’s Black and my mom’s white.”
“There was pressure on both sides,” he continued. “But ultimately, your heart leads you where love is and that’s what I followed.”
He ultimately picked contestant Rachael Kirkconnell, but the pair confirmed in March that they split after her past racially insensitive antics surfaced online. Kirkconnell had reportedly liked pictures with the Confederate flag in them and attended a “plantation-themed formal in 2018,” theGrio reported.
Kirkconnell was a member of Kappa Alpha at Georgia College & State University, a group that embraces Confederate General Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual leader.” During its annual Old South Week, Kappa Alpha has been known to hold parties on former plantations and use Confederate flags as decorations.
In February, Kirkconnell released a statement, saying, “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 ok or acceptable in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
James initially called Kirkconnell’s photos, “incredibly disappointing,” in an Instagram post. He later revealed that he was still “pursuing” a relationship with her, explaining that she has been “doing the work” in educating herself about racism.
“A lot of what I’m focused on right now is the work that I’m doing in the community,” he said, “and with the [marathon] training.”
While speaking on the “Pomp” podcast, James said that things with Kirkconnell have “been great” and revealed he decided to rekindle their romance after receiving an ultimatum.
“She was like, ‘If you’re going to make this work, let’s do it. But, if you’re not going to make it work, I’m going to let you do your own thing,’” James recalled. “That’s really all I needed. It was an ultimatum that I needed.”
“It was honestly a commitment that we made to each other that we were going to work on the relationship,” he added. “There came a point in time where it was evident that my working on the relationship looked different than Rachael’s, because I wasn’t really honoring that commitment that I made to working on the relationship.”
James told Hall on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Friday that he and Kirkconnell are taking “things day by day and we’re very much in love and very happy right now.”
This article contains additional reporting from Blue Telusma and Jared Alexander
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