It’s been a long morning of interviews for the Bachelor Matt James, starting with an appearance on Good Morning America (in a tux, no less), followed by Live! with Kelly & Ryan (in an everyday suit), and now me in his preferred wardrobe: a track suit. “In a perfect world, I’d always have sweats on,” says the former football star from his stunning apartment in New York City. “I love being outdoors, and I missed the cold and hustle of the city.”
It’s only been about five weeks since James, 29, wrapped filming on the 25th season of The Bachelor, but his debut has been anticipated ever since his casting was announced last June. As the franchise’s first Black bachelor, James says he didn’t see a lot of kids that looked like him growing up and hopes his journey will help, in his words, normalize his experience. “I hope that story resonates with somebody,” he says.
The premiere episode also featured another first: After all the limos arrived and James walked into the cocktail party, he said that in lieu of a traditional speech he wanted to take a moment to pray with the women.
The moment was meant with resounding praise—and calls of “Reverend Matt”—as James thanked God for bringing everyone together. He also prayed that the women would have the courage to get through the next few months, which is probably the wisest thing anyone has ever said on this show considering the franchise’s dramatic history.
But knowing how important religion is to James, how will that impact the rest of his journey? After all, different beliefs was one reason why Tayshia’s relationship with Ivan didn’t work out last season of The Bachelorette. It’s one of the many questions I posed to the real estate broker, and his answer is one that may surprise you. Read on.
Glamour: As that first limo was pulling up, is there anything you wish you could go back and tell yourself?
Matt James: I would say breathe and don’t be as nervous, but being nervous prompted what was to follow so I don’t think I’d change anything. I went into that whole experience to be authentically myself, and I felt like I did.
So what will your BFF Tyler Cameron say after watching your debut episode?
We’re going to need to put a pacifier in his mouth! He’s going to have so much to say. He’s just always talking, talking, talking. He’s probably going to give me a hard time, which I understand. He’ll be like, “You look nervous! Why are you stuttering?” Just typical roommate talk.
I thought he might pop up in the first episode, so will we see him eventually?
He might have a little cameo. [Laughs]
Once the women had all arrived, you started the evening with a prayer. We know religion was one of the deal breakers for Tayshia and Ivan, so when it comes to religion or spirituality, what are you looking for in terms of compatibility?
Let me start by saying that my brother, who I would die for and do anything for, doesn’t share the same religious views or beliefs that I do. I’m just speaking for myself, but it wouldn’t be something that would keep me from exploring a relationship with somebody. It’s more so them understanding where I go to for my inner peace, and what are the foundational building blocks of relationship and life for me. It’s never been something that I’ve used against somebody or would exclude somebody from being a potential person that I’d want to be with. It’s more so them getting to know me, and what better way than for them to see where I go to for my strength, especially in a stressful environment. [Prayer is how I] recenter myself.
Tayshia had some really great conversations with the guys on her season about Black Lives Matter, mental health, addiction, and other important topics. Will we see you discuss some of these in depth as well?
I don’t think there was some landmark religion conversation. You’ll just see things interjected here and there that are authentic to what I’m going through in the moment. We have conversations about race because it’s important. Our [future] kids are going to have some sort of pigmentation, and they’re going to deal with a lot of what I had to deal with. It’s only rational to have that type of conversation with someone you’re seriously considering being with, because our kids are going to have to deal with things that you might not have experienced. We had a lot of good conversations—just as you would have with someone you’re trying to figure out if you would spend the rest of your life with.
You opened up to Chris Harrison about pressures you’ve felt in the past to date a certain kind of woman. Can you talk about those pressures, and whether you can really move past them, especially when you’re dating on national TV?
My parents’ dynamic kind of paved the way for how I’ve gone about dating, for better or worse. My dad being Black and from Nigeria and my mom, her parents being from Italy, it wasn’t something that I ever saw. I was attracted to somebody for their character traits, for how they made me feel, for what we experienced together, and less of what they looked like. It was more about their heart. Explaining that to [viewers] is difficult since not a lot of people have grown up in my experience, so the only way to do it is to live it out and try to normalize [my experience]. The further I got into the process and my relationship with these women, the less concerned I became with pleasing everybody because someone is always going to have something to say. All I can do is represent myself and my family and how I was raised. That’s what I did, and I hope that story resonates with somebody.
We see you break down in the previews. What leads to that moment? Is it the pressure of being the bachelor? Or one woman in particular?
I try to focus on being as real as possible. For that to happen, I had to address things in my life that I had run from, like conversations, people, topics, etc. Having those conversations brought me to tears because it was a very dark, emotional place that I chose not to tap into prior because I didn’t feel like I had to. But now, knowing [I wanted to fall in love], I knew I had to tap into that place to experience this breakthrough. That’s what you saw there.
Let’s look ahead to the finale. How would describe what happens in the end?
It’s authentic, it’s real. Hopefully that’s what you’ll see, and that’s what I try to hang my hat on all season.
Are you happy?
Do I look happy?
Well, you look a little cold right now because you’re bundled up. And you’re good at making me think that I don’t know what to think. [Laughs]
If you take anything from my season, it’s authenticity. It’s hard for me to fake the realness. But I am happy.
OK, good. By the way, now that we all know you were in chess club, what else would we be surprised to know?
I love skateboarding, snowboarding, anything action oriented. I’m a thrill seeker, so when I’m not doing something with the kids at ABC Food Tours or working, I’m probably at a skate park or planning something outdoors.