Twenty years after N’SYNC became the biggest boy band in the world, band member Lance Bass says it was “torture” being closeted during the time of such success.
In an interview with HuffPost Bass recalls the release of N’SYNC’s first album in the spring of 1998 and his fears of being discovered as gay.
“It was torture,” Bass shared with HuffPost. “Onstage, I felt like I was just playing a character, but offstage, unfortunately, I didn’t get to have my real life.”
Being gay was a different experience for young men in the late 1990s. Our military had “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in place; marriage equality was just a dream; prominent politicians didn’t get out front at Pride Parades; and the music industry didn’t give you a pat on the back for coming out even if you made your label lots of money.
All of that, plus a Southern Baptist upbringing in deeply conservative Mississippi, kept Bass quiet and in the closet.
Bass explained how it was disconcerting to play the part of pop star onstage, but life offstage felt very different.
“It was definitely a depression,” said Bass. “Ironically a depression: to be in one of the biggest bands in the world and have the best time of my life. But when I was home, I felt really horrible about myself. So yeah, it was sad.”
It would be decades before we’d see young artists like Troye Sivan and Sam Smith embraced by the music industry.
Bass didn’t feel safe to come out not only out of concern for his own career, but he had a band to think about.
“The ’90s were a different time. If you came out, if anyone knew you were gay, it was a disaster and people really flipped out,” he said. “I felt like if anyone found out that I was gay, the record label would immediately drop us and the fans would hate us ― these were all the crazy things that went through my head as a teenager.”
For the entire six year run of N’SYNC, Bass didn’t even tell his band mates his secret. “I knew that they wouldn’t be able to keep their mouths shut,” he says.
“I just thought if I even told just one single person it would get out, which it would have. So that secret stayed with me and me only.”
It wasn’t until 2006 that Bass come out to the world in an interview with People.
Years past those pressures, today the former teen pop star is has now been married for almost four years to actor/artist, Michael Turchin.
The couple recently shared that they are in the early stages of planning a family. He told ET that he and hubby Michael have begun interviewing surrogates.
And looking back, the 39-year-old clearly expresses his gratitude for the ride that was N'SYNC.
“I had one of the best experiences that you could give anyone on this planet. I’m lucky,” he said. “The rest of my life I get to just enjoy with my family and creative family.”