Matt James Says ‘The Bachelor’ Turned Him Into a Prop

Matt James was the first Black male lead in 25 seasons of The Bachelor. And looking back at his experience, the reality TV star revealed how the show made him feel more like a “prop” than a person. 

‘The Bachelor’ announced Matt James as the lead following the mass social justice protests in the summer of 2021 

The Bachelor Black male lead Matt James
‘The Bachelor’ star Matt James in 2021 | Craig Sjodin via Getty Images

After 24 seasons, The Bachelor announced James as the show’s first Black male lead in 2021, just weeks after George Floyd’s death and the ensuing mass social justice protests. At the time, some observers thought the optics of the announcement seemed questionable. But producer Rob Mills insisted the decision wasn’t reactive. 

“We could have made this announcement earlier or later,” he told Variety. “Certainly, no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully, this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this. But I don’t want this to look like we’re patting ourselves on the back or taking a victory lap.”

Acknowledging how long it took for The Bachelor to cast a Black male lead, Mills added, “We know this is a few grains of sand in a very big hourglass. We will continue to go further, and I acknowledge it may not be enough. In the last few years, I believe it’s gotten better, and with the announcement of Matt, I hope it keeps getting better.”

The series’ spinoff The Bachelorette featured Black female leads Rachel Lindsay in 2017 and Tayshia Adams in 2020.

Matt James Says ‘The Bachelor’ made him feel like a prop

James’ season of The Bachelor was a turning point for the franchise. But in his new memoir, First Impressions: Off-Screen Conversations With a Bachelor on Race, Family, and Forgiveness, the star suggests the show failed to seize the opportunity and showcase his unique perspective and experiences. 

“In my conversion from person to prop, key pieces of me were left behind,” James wrote. 

One specific example was from a conversation he had with Chris Harrison on the first night of filming. Being the first Black Bachelor, James spoke with the host at length about feeling pressure to pick a Black contestant. 

“I poured my heart out for more than an hour, stressing over the impossible choice before me — an openness to love in all of its many forms on one side and a duty to my people on the other,” James wrote. “It felt impossible to please everyone.”

But when the episode aired, James noticed “only a few seconds” of the discussion were included. And he thought the parts that were shown didn’t represent his sentiments. 

“There was nothing to lay the framework — my background, who I was or why I’m here,” James told the Los Angeles Times. “The show went straight into seeing these women doing crazy things. It was very frustrating to watch.”

But Matt James says he’d do ‘The Bachelor’ again

Despite his experience on The Bachelor, James found love with Rachel Kirkconnell. And berated of all he gained out of the show, he admitted he’d do it all again.

“I’d do it tomorrow,” James said in his chat with the LA Times. “It was still an incredible experience, and so much good stuff came out of it.”

He acknowledged the frustration and disappointment that came with it as well. But in the end, James got what he wanted from the show.

“There’s another way to look at it,” he explained. “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.”

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