These days, it’s not uncommon for out and proud musicians to score big hits and to speak openly about who they are. But it wasn’t so long ago that not only did many artists keep their private lives to themselves, they were actively encouraged to do so by those around them for fear it would damage their careers.
New Kids on the Block singer Jonathan Knight shared recently that during the boy band’s heyday, he was instructed to remain in the closet for the sake of his musical career and the group’s success.
During an appearance on the podcast Frosted Tips – hosted by fellow boy band star Lance Bass of NSYNC fame – Knight opened up and detailed some pretty dark stories from the early days of New Kids on the Block.
“He pulled me aside, and he was like. ‘If anybody finds out, then your career is over, the New Kids’ career is over,'” Knight says his manager at the time told him.
Apparently, that person was worried that Knight’s coming out would damage the boy band’s brand and might lead to their record label losing money, which would have been a death knell for the outfit.
“It was just so much pressure,” Knight continued. “Looking back, that’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody who is just trying to figure out the world.”
Knight went on to describe leaving the boy band as he saw their popularity dwindling. He also wanted to move on with his life and be freer to be who he really is.
The singer explained that even when the group reunited in 2008 after several years apart, he still wasn’t open about his sexuality with everyone. Sadly, he was forced to speak publicly about his orientation when an ex sold pictures to a tabloid, thus outing him to the whole world.
Now, Knight is back with the band, who perform regularly and release new music on occasion. He announced last year that he and his longtime boyfriend, Harley Rodriguez, had tied the knot.
New Kids on the Block became the hottest new vocal group in the late-’80s, and they enjoyed a run of smash hits and top-selling albums for several years before the tides began to change and the band broke up for a period.
During their initial run, the quintet scored a pair of No. 1 albums and nine top 10 hits on the Hot 100, including a trio of leaders – “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” “Hangin’ Tough,” and “Step by Step.”
Jonathan Knight’s story likely resonated with podcast host Bass, who went through a similar experience. NSYNC was one of the bestselling groups of its day, and all five men in the band were regarded as sex symbols in their own right.
Bass didn’t come out as gay until 2006 via a People magazine cover story. By then, the boy band had been defunct for several years, as the five men pursued various solo endeavors starting in 2002.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!