The opportunity to focus on diversity was "lost because everyone was afraid and sitting on their hands," James says.
4. Season 5 (Jesse Palmer)

The Bachelor alum Matt James is reflecting on his experience as the first Black lead for the long-running franchise, sharing that it was "frustrating" to watch his calamitous season.

In an interview with Los Angeles Times published Thursday, James lamented that the historic casting was buried under the usual pandemonium of the show. "There was nothing to lay the framework — my background, who I was, or why I'm here," James said.

"The show went straight into seeing these women doing crazy things. It was very frustrating to watch," he added. It also didn't help that the season was soon shrouded in controversy after frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell came under fire for attending an Antebellum-themed party in 2018. James ultimately chose Kirkconnell anyway, and the two remain in a relationship.

Matt James on 'The Bachelor'
| Credit: Craig Sjodin/ABC

James addresses his time on the turbulent season in his new memoir, First Impressions: Off-Screen Conversations With a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness — but don't expect it to dive into the drama that co-opted his season. "I didn't want to use that story for people to engage with my book," James said.

"There will be another Bachelor, and there will probably be another Black Bachelor, and there will be another tell-all book," he continued. "I wasn't interested in that. If that's what interests fans, and that outweighs the personal things I want to share, then my book isn't for them." Looking back, James said his season "missed the mark."

James said he had many meaningful conversations with the women about race and other important issues, but they were reduced to quick soundbites on the show. The opportunity to focus on diversity "was lost because everyone was afraid and sitting on their hands," James added. "I understand it, but that's the kind of thing that happens when you bring people of color into your space."

The Bachelor finale
Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James
| Credit: ABC

James continued, "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 his experience, James holds no ill will against the franchise.

"I took this responsibility head-on," James said. "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." It was "still an incredible experience," James said, "and so much good stuff came out of it."

While James found his time on the show to be "frustrating and disappointing," he said "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. I found what I was looking for, which shouldn't have been the case."

Related content:

Episode Recaps

4. Season 5 (Jesse Palmer)
The Bachelor

This romantic reality competition series follows a gaggle of women vying for the Bachelor’s heart — and a wedding proposal. Will you accept this rose?

  • TV Show
  • 27
stream service