Matt James, a former contestant on The Bachelor, recently shaved his beard. Matt grew out his beard after his time on the show, and his girlfriend Rachael Kirkconnell has been supportive of his facial hair over the last few years. When Matt appeared on The Bachelor season 25, he had not yet started growing out his beard. Matt and Rachael’s relationship began during season 25, and they have been off and on since then. While Matt and Rachael hit it off early on in the season, social media posts of Rachael attending a pre-Civil War-themed sorority party surfaced along with other allegations of racist behavior by a former high school classmate. Initially, Matt attempted to support Rachael and dismiss the controversy, but he was eventually unable to reconcile with her behavior.
Matt is noted as being the first Black lead on The Bachelor, and Rachael’s past behavior heavily complicated their relationship on the show. Matt felt that Rachael would never be able to understand his experiences and decided to end the relationship. Rachael later claimed to make an effort to educate herself on the history of racism in the United States. The two shared a rocky reunion shortly after their split but did not officially get back together until April 2021. After his time on The Bachelor, Matt decided to distance himself from the show, removing any evidence of his TV appearance from his Instagram bio after returning from a social media absence.
Matt revealed to Us Weekly that the reason he began growing his beard originally was to separate himself from his appearance on The Bachelor. Matt explained that he felt his time on the show had caused people to judge him unfairly and one-dimensionally, saying, “That was something I did. It’s not who I am. I think a lot of people got that confused.” Matt confirmed that he grew out his beard “despite” the public’s expectations for how he should look and committed to the beard after that. Matt even pretended to shave it as an April Fools’ Day joke.
Matt continued, saying that he was “not here to please” the public and that he instead was “here to be the best version of [himself].” Matt believed that his identity should be more closely associated with “how [he is] treating people and the work that [he is] doing in the community and the type of impact [he is] trying to leave,” rather than the way he looked or his actions on The Bachelor. Despite the reasons for growing his beard out, Matt shared that he didn’t feel that the beard was necessary and that he decided to shave his face because he no longer felt “an emotional connection to the beard. It was just time to go. There’s a new chapter.” Matt also noted that his relationship with Rachael is “true love” because according to him, she “was the only person who seemed to like [his] beard.” But having made a bet with cryptocurrency brand BlockFi, Matt stayed true to his word and tweeted a photo of his shaven face, tagging the brand in the caption to his post.
Matt will appear on Dancing With The Stars season 30, so there is no way to know whether his appearance on the show will impact his feelings towards the beard, but it is clear that Matt knows who he is regardless of how he looks. Matt no longer feels pressure to change his appearance to fit the image that The Bachelor carved out for him, and that extends to Rachael’s feelings about the beard as well. While it is important for Rachael to have supported his appearance both on and offscreen, showing that she supports Matt’s image of himself over public expectation, it is even more significant that Matt’s ability to change his appearance is not limited or impacted by Rachael’s approval.
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Source: Us Weekly