Rachael Kirkconnell and her Bachelor boyfriend Matt James sure look amazing in swimwear. The reality couple aren’t shy about showing off how she can rock a bikini, while he looks so sexy shirtless during their lake outings, trips to the Caribbean and other sunny destinations.
The Georgia-born reality star had been posting plenty of photos in bikinis before she ever appeared on season 25 of The Bachelor in 2021. Going all the way back to Instagram photos in 2018, Rachael proved she was a total beach girl, going on plenty of seaside trips with her college gal pals.
Now, Rachael has replaced her university friends with hunky Matt in swimsuit photos, as they fell for each other on the ABC reality hit. But she proved to be one of the show’s most controversial contestants while winning the heart of the first Black Bachelor in the show’s history.
While Matt didn’t propose in the finale episode, Rachael did earn his final rose, along with him telling her, “I see you as my wife. I see you as the mother of my kids.”
However, by the time the episode aired, Rachael found herself the subject of a racism scandal when photos emerged in February 2021 of her attending an “Old South” antebellum-themed fraternity formal party while still in college. That caused outrage considering the optics that she was white and vying for the heart of the first Black Bachelor.
Host Chris Harrison came to Rachael’s defense in February 2021 as the show was airing, telling Rachel Lindsay, who was the first Black Bachelorette, on Extra that the self-described “Southern sweetheart” was a victim of the “woke police” blowing things out of proportion
“And again, I’m not defending Rachael,” Chris stated, adding, “I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to. We are not looking under the same lens.” Despite a profuse apology, the controversial comments ended up causing Chris to step aside from all Bachelor-related shows, and he later exited the franchise in June 2021.
Matt expressed his disappointment in a February 22, 2021, Instagram post where he wrote, “The reality is that I’m learning about these situations in real time, and it has been devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly.” Rachael then put out a statement of her own where she wrote, “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them,” adding, “My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not OK or acceptable in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.”
While Matt and Rachael didn’t end up together on After the Final Rose due to the controversy, with him breaking up with her beforehand due to the photo scandal, their feelings remained strong enough to later reunite as a couple. A month after the special aired, the pair were photographed together grabbing lunch in Southern California in April 2021 and continued to be spotted on outings with each other, showing more and more PDA. They’re still a happy couple in 2022.
“She 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,’” Matt told the Pomp podcast in May 2021, adding, “That’s really all I needed. It was an ultimatum that I needed. It’s been great.”
Scroll down for Rachael’s hottest bikini photos … along with some swimsuit shots of hunky Matt!