Matt James' season of The Bachelor came to a close Monday night with a dramatic finale that showed the first male Black lead choosing Rachael Kirkconnell as the woman that he'd run off into the sunset with, before ending their relationship in response to the 24-year-old Georgia native being accused of past racist behavior. Now, Kirkconnell is opening up about and apologizing for how the resurfacing of her past after the show finished filming impacted the way that the season was portrayed.
"just when you think you found your way, life throws you onto a new path. it’s unpredictable, unexplainable, and things might not go the way you hoped for," Kirkconnell captioned a slideshow of photos from her time filming in Pa. "while i certainly wish things turned out differently, i also believe there is a reason for everything."
During After the Final Rose, which was hosted by former NFL linebacker and author of Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man Emmanuel Acho, who stepped in for Chris Harrison, Kirkconnell and James explained what was going on behind the scenes as photos of Kirkconnell attending an antebellum-themed party in college and evidence of her interacting with controversial social media posts came to light while they were developing a relationship off-camera.
"The most disappointing thing for me was having to explain to you why what I saw was problematic and why I was so upset. And that’s why it was problematic," James said. "When I questioned our relationship, it was in the context of you not fully understanding my Blackness and what it means to be a Black man in America. And what it would mean for our kids when I saw those things that were floating around the internet. And it broke my heart because this is the last conversation I thought we’d be having."
Kirkconnell shared both on-screen and on Instagram that she lost "the love of my life" as a result of her ignorance. "i knew from the first night i met matt that he was something special, and i was praying to share something exceptional between the two of us if that’s what was meant to be," she wrote in her caption. "while i never expected this outcome, i respect his decision completely."
And while James himself called the situation "disappointing" during the finale special, Kirkconnell shared a similar sentiment on social media.
"this was supposed to be a monumental season, and one of the biggest disappointments has been the overshadowing of these beautiful women and their stories," she wrote of her fellow Season 25 contestants. "they are some of the strongest, most brilliant, most extraordinary women and i was lucky enough to have met them. you all deserve more, but i promise to always stand by and support each of you in any way i can."
While James made it clear on television that there likely won't be a reconciliation between him and Kirkconnell, Kirkconnell shared hope that people took away something much bigger after tuning into their difficult conversation.
"at the least, i hope tonight sparks conversations and a level of understanding. i hope it opens your mind to unlearning bias, to educating yourself, and gives you the push to initiate change. there are so many actions you can take, but i believe it starts within the small corners of your life, and having these conversations with those around you. it can’t happen overnight and will be a never-ending ride, but i encourage you to take the leap and make a difference. we can change the world, together," she concluded. "i love you all and here’s to new beginnings."
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