These two are *officially* back on.
Matt James’ season of The Bachelor was... a lot. Although the season was touted as historic for featuring the first-ever Black Bachelor, James’ season was filled with controversy on- and off-screen, especially when fans deduced that final rose recipient Rachael Kirkconnell had attended a racist Antebellum-themed party in 2018. The couple broke up in the midst of the scandal earlier this year, but later confirmed they had gotten back together. Now James and Kirkconnell seem very comfortable in their relationship, because they just attended their first red carpet event together.
On Saturday, July 10, the pair attended the 2021 ESPY Awards in New York City. James sported his new signature beard and donned a plaid suit, while Kirkconnell opted for a sheer black gown. This is their first major public appearance since James confirmed they were officially back on during the May 25 episode of the Pomp podcast. “[Kirkconnell] 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.’ That’s really all I needed,” James revealed at the time. “It was an ultimatum that I needed. It’s been great.”
In a May 5 interview with Wall Street Journal Magazine, the former Bachelor elaborated on his decision to give Kirkconnell another chance after learning about her past actions. “I think the best way to put it is that we can have critical conversations about being in this relationship and what I need in a partner — especially if that woman isn’t Black — [is] to understand what comes with me and my life and being Black,” he said. “It’s on people who care about being allies to do the work to be truly antiracist. And I think it’s unfair to leave people without the ability to unlearn and be better.”
James shared a look at Kirkconnell putting in the work in a May 27 Instagram post, which shows his girlfriend volunteering with his ABC Food Tours nonprofit. “The gift of conversation lies less in displaying it ourselves than in drawing it out of others,” he captioned the pic. Here’s hoping Kirkconnell continues taking important anti-racist steps regardless of her and James’ relationship status.