AJ McLean will never forget the day his bandmate Brian Littrell’s son Baylee started wearing nail polish.
“Years ago, [Littrell’s wife] Leighanne came up to me and said, ‘See this? This is for you, ‘because Baylee was painting her nails black, ”recalls the Backstreet Boys singer. “I was like, ‘Yes!’ And Kevin’s kids, Mason and Max, are getting their nails done, which is amazing. “
Seeing the younger generation embrace what was once commonly considered a female beauty habit brings joy to McLean, given the resistance he often faced to nail polish in the late 1990s.
RELATED: AJ McLean Recalls Experience of Nearly Being ‘Brainwashed’ in Scientology
Today, he is delighted to be one of the few male celebrities with a nail polish line, Ava Dean Beautyand proud to raise their children (Ava, eight, and Lyric, four) in a home where gender knows no bounds when it comes to style, fashion, or anything else.
“It’s funny because Ava was very tomboyish when she was younger and now, she’s full of a princess, although she also likes cropped tops and baggy pants because she loves hip hop,” says McLean, 43. “And Lyric has always been a girly girl, but she just wants to be like her older sister. If one of them does their nails, the other has to do it … and I’m usually the one who does it! “
While manicures have become one of the musician’s favorite ways to bond with his daughters, his love for painted nails dates back to his youth and is symbolic of his lifelong efforts to express himself freely.
That’s exactly what McLean, a longtime ally of the LGBTQ community, does in the music video for his new single, “Love Song Love”. The video aims to support the trans community amid the struggles they continue to face, including proposals for US legislation that would allow discriminatory acts such as banning trans girls from women’s sports teams.
In the video, which McLean co-directed with René Elizondo, the musician enjoys costumes, manicures and bubble baths with models Nahla Wyld and Carmen Carrera, both trans.
The fun and freedom displayed in the video came naturally to McLean, who grew up surrounded by the LGBTQ community and was never fazed by gender or sexuality preferences.
“My first acting teacher when I was 6 or 7 years old, Nona Lloyd, was gay. I saw my first set of boobs when I was modeling at four. I was in love, but at the same time, there was this unity, so I never saw gender as a division. Even at the beginning of Backstreet’s career, there were transgender, gay, and lesbian people around. It never bothered me. “
“I don’t understand when people think it is sacrilegious or disgusting. That is ignorance and scared people. It’s like, ‘Do you really have a problem with that gay couple or is it your own shit that you’re uncomfortable with? If you never have to deal with that partner, why do you care? ‘”
RELATED: AJ McLean Hopes To ‘Inspire’ People By Sharing His Sobriety Journey On ‘Pretty Messed Up’ Podcast
Through his best friend Mark, McLean has seen how heartbreaking it can be to face such resistance. “He found out he was gay when he was 8 years old. Her first crush was Harrison Ford as Han Solo! He got acceptance from one side of the family and not the other. That was very difficult for him. “
Today Mark is happily married and Ava and Lyric don’t think that their loved ones “Guncle Mark” and “Guncle Tom” are “husband and husband.”
They also don’t care when McLean wears skirts or dresses. “I wore a dress for my wedding!” says McLean, who delivers his Instagram to transgender and non-binary personalities once a week, with Grey’s Anatomy star Alex Blue Davis taking over last Thursday. “The uncompromising Greek-Orthodox side of my wife’s family didn’t like that, but it’s okay. Everyone loves me now and understands that it is my artistic expression. People ask, ‘What about your wife?’ but she’s 100,000,000% behind me. She says, ‘You feel comfortable with this, so I support it.’
Meanwhile, McLean’s bandmates rarely raise an eyebrow. “The guys have always known that I am in my own lane. Nothing surprises them anymore. It is more shocking when I go the other way and I am more moderate or “normal”. Yes, I am not wearing nail polish, they say, ‘Are you okay?’ “
These days, McLean doesn’t feel like himself without painted nails, and he remembers how strange it felt to have nails without polish (to avoid distracting the judges) on “Dancing with the Stars.”. “The day after they pulled me out, I got my nails done. God, it felt good! “
So good that McLean teamed up with his friend Josh Naranjo to pitch Ava Dean Beauty. The vegan, cruelty free and 10 free range features four colors: ‘Ro Ro Red’, named after his wife Rochelle, a pink purple ‘Lyric Dean’, a periwinkle blue ‘Ava Jaymes’ and a black’ Alexander James’.
Launching a business isn’t the only way McLean’s has kept busy since the pandemic hit the Backstreet Boys. DNA world tour stop. Has launched podcast, “Pretty messy”, is working on a clothing line and will follow up “Love Song Love” with two EPs.
And while he’s not sure if the Backstreet Boys’ planned Canadian concerts will go ahead, the quintet will begin their first Christmas album in May. There is also talk of returning to Las Vegas for another residency. “I have suggested our 30th anniversary, which would allow time for life to return to normal, or the new normal.”
Every time the band takes the stage, McLean plans to be in incredible shape – the efforts he’s putting into his body are shown during the shirtless scenes of the “Love Song Love” video.
“The confinement has been great, first of all, because of my sobriety. I started AA Zoom meetings and haven’t missed a day. I also found a new passion for mountain biking. And I’ve been grain, gluten, and sugar free for six months. We are planning our first vacation in July and I want to be beach ready. When Backstreet gets back on the road, I’ll be in the most ridiculous shape of my life! “