AJ McLean

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AJ McLean
AJ Malibu 003.jpg
McLean in Malibu in February 2008
Born (1978-01-09) January 9, 1978 (age 43)
Other names
  • Mean McLean
  • Bone Daddy
  • Johnny No Name
  • Mr. Cool
Alma materOsceola High School
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
  • dancer
  • model
Years active1986–present
Height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Rochelle Karidis
(m. 2011)
Musical career
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • bass guitar
  • drums
  • piano
  • saxophone
  • violin
Associated acts
Aj mclean signature.jpg

Alexander James McLean (born January 9, 1978)[1] is an American singer, songwriter, actor, dancer, and model. He is a member of the vocal group the Backstreet Boys.

Early life[edit]

Alexander James McLean was born on January 9, 1978, in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Denise (née Fernandez, now Solis) and Bob McLean. Denise is of Cuban-Puerto Rican and German ancestry and Bob is of Scots-Irish and English descent. A DNA test described his genetic ancestry as Iberian, Central and South American, North, West and East European, North African, Nigerian, Ashkenazi Jewish and Middle Eastern.[2][3] He is an only child.[4][5][6] He was raised solely by his mother and grandparents (Ursula and Adolph) as his parents divorced when he was two years old.[7] Although they haven't seen each other except when he was 10 and again at age 12, Mclean finally met his father in 1997, who had been following him through his career, and since then, the father-son duo has maintained to keep contact after 17-year estrangement.[8]


Early career[edit]

As a child, McLean had a speech impediment, which gave him a lisp and a tendency to stutter.

He discovered his love for performing and started to pursue a career in acting, dancing, and singing. When he was four, McLean began to focus on his love for dance, so his mother signed him up for dance lessons every day for two hours. He took ballet for four years, jazz, tap, hip hop, rhythm tap, rhythm hip-hop, contemporary, ballroom, salsa, merengue, and gymnastics. His mother then got him into modeling when he was around five for a few years, doing J.C. Penny's catalogs and runways. Aside from that, he took up fencing and he revealed that his grandmother taught him piano and has taken him to every audition growing up.[9][10] At age six, McLean was part of a school play, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in which he played Dopey, at Unity of Delray Beach church and school. He also appeared in more traditional musicals such as The Nutcracker, The King and I and Fiddler on the Roof before the age of 11. By the time he was 12, he had performed in 27 classic school plays.

In addition to singing and acting, he was a serious dance student learning everything from jazz to ballet to hip hop.[5] He stated in interviews that "Dancing was really my thing in the early days. i wanted to be a dancer way above an actor or a singer."[11] When he was 12, he actually started his first dance troupe and would go to dance competitions, which was a valuable experience even though they didn't win.[12]

In January 1986 at 8 years old, McLean acted in his first role as Little Mike in the 1986 film Truth or Dare?.[13] In 1990, McLean, his mother, and grandparents moved to Kissimmee, Florida, to pursue his acting and singing career. He attended a private acting school, the Florida Academy of Dramatic Arts, for four years, acted in the drama club and small plays, and modeled periodically. In 1991, McLean landed a role in the Nickelodeon comedy series Hi Honey, I'm Home! as Skunk. However, after the pilot, he was cut from the show due to being too tall.

When he was 13 years old, McLean tried out for Star Search, but never received a call back from the show. He later saw an ad in the newspaper for a Latin festival and since his grandfather has Latin roots, he decided to audition. He won first place and a $1,000 prize. The producer of the festival hired him to perform a 45-minute one-man show and he did a puppet show which also showcased his singing, acting, and dancing. At the Latin festival, he met a young 16-year-old Howie Dorough (Tony Donetti at the time) through a mutual vocal coach.[5]

In junior high, McLean won a part in Nickelodeon's series Welcome Freshmen, which began his ongoing work relationship with Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. He also appeared on the Nickelodeon show GUTS and a Muppets commercial. It was during one of his auditions for the former that he met Howie D. and Nick Carter, lacing together the roots of the group that was to become Backstreet Boys.

Alongside his career, due to his love of performing, he was bullied, called names like "gay", "fag", "queer" and was referred to as a "nerd". He revealed that it was very upsetting for him but figured it was probably due to jealously and that he was always different from other kids, including friends.[14]

Backstreet Boys[edit]

In March 1992, there was an ad in the newspaper seeking young men between the ages of 16-19 for an audition of a new music group. Despite being 14 years old, he auditioned for the group. By April 1992, McLean was officially the first member of the group that would become the Backstreet Boys. After 6 months at Osceola High School, he finished the remaining three years of high school through correspondence courses with a tutor on the road after joining the Backstreet Boys.[5] McLean, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell formed the vocal group Backstreet Boys in 1993. The group became very successful in the late 90s-early 2000s. In 2013, they celebrated their 20th anniversary and released a new album called In a World Like This.

Solo ventures[edit]

Johnny No Name (2000)[edit]

McLean created a character, whom he named "Johnny No Name", to use as his alter ego. He uses this as his name when not performing with other members of the Backstreet Boys.[15] The character has similarities to McLean; for instance, both had single mothers and lived with their grandparents from a young age. There are also differences – Johnny has been to prison[16] whereas McLean has not. McLean has occasionally performed in rock/metal clubs around New York as Johnny No Name. He established a foundation called the JNN Foundation to raise funds for diabetes research and other causes like keeping music programs in schools. McLean also did a nine-city tour to support VH1 Save the Music as Johnny No Name. It was said that he would release a solo album as Johnny No Name but it never happened.

Originally McLean's alter ego was named Johnny Suede. This shared a name with a character played by Brad Pitt, and when the studio threatened to sue McLean, he changed the name to Johnny No Name.[17][18]

Have It All (2010)[edit]

It was not until March 2008 when McLean finally started to perform his first two solo shows (as himself) at the Anaheim House of Blues and The Roxy in Los Angeles. The show consisted of his solo material and a solo version of the Backstreet Boys hit, "Incomplete". The solo tour continued through Europe in May and June, in parallel to Backstreet Boys tour. But his solo album Have It All would be released until January 20, 2010. It was said on the Backstreet Boys cruise in December 2010 that the US version would be released on February 8, 2011, but since then has not been released.[19] While creating his solo project, McLean worked with the OneRepublic vocalist Ryan Tedder, producers Dan Muckala and Kristian Lundin, plus the former NSYNC member, JC Chasez. AJ's album was a mix of pop, rock, and some r&b. The first and only single from the album Teenage Wildlife was a song co-written by former N Sync member JC Chasez. The album featured 10 songs co-written by AJ himself including a personal song about his father "Sincerely Yours". In 2011 AJ had said he would release the album in 2012 in the US and it would feature songs from his first solo album but eventually scrapped the idea.

As of June 2012, McLean was working on his second solo album that will now feature all-new music. He also posted two of his new songs on Socialcam on July 23, 2012, titled "Peach" and "P.L.A.R.S." The album would be released in 2012 but has since been pushed back.

Around early 2015, AJ has said he was working on his solo album with Jordan Omley who has worked on several Backstreet Boys songs from their albums This Is Us and In A World Like This. The first single "Live Together" is also the name of a foundation both AJ and Jordan Omley started where they will raise money for anyone who needed help. They filmed the music video for "Live Together" on March 7, 2015. Fans could take part in the music videos by donating to the charity. The money raised would be used to help Marshall Fundamental School in Pasadena, CA who had their music instruments stolen. The money raised also helped to renovate the band room. Mclean, along with singers Becky G, Jordan Omley, and Blake Lewis visited and some even performed at the school. The single "Live Together" premiered on People.com on May 12, 2015. The video was released on October 5, 2015. Meanwhile, his albums had a few delays. AJ has recorded newer tracks for the album which was part of the delay. Along with the Backstreet Boys preparation and promotion of their Las Vegas residency for March, April, June, and July 2017.

Collaborations (2013)[edit]

On May 22, 2013, a Finnish rapper Redrama released a single, "Clouds", featuring McLean. It peaked at No. 4 in Finland.[20]

Naked (2016)[edit]

McLean was set to release his second solo album titled Naked in September 2016, however it was delayed as he announced it is still under works.[21] The lead single, "Live Together" was released on September 4, 2015, on iTunes.[22]

Upcoming third solo album (2018-2019)[edit]

On April 15, 2018, at the 53rd annual Academy of Country Music Awards, during an interview with Billboard, McLean discussed his plans to "disrupt country music" for his next solo project. He also said that the collaboration with Florida Georgia Line's "God, Your Mama, and Me" inspired him to make a country album.[23] On June 4, 2018, McLean released the single "Back Porch Bottle Service" for the upcoming album.[24] McLean continued his foray into country-pop releasing the ballad "Boy And A Man" in March 2019 as a single from an upcoming album Long Road.[25] The video is directed by René Elizondo Jr., best known for his work with Janet Jackson.

Non-music works[edit]

On July 22, 2015, McLean launched Skulleeroz Vapor, a line of liquids for use with electronic cigarettes.[26]

During the pandemic of 2020, A.J. announced that he was launching his nail polish line Ava Dean Beauty. The line launched on Nov. 30, 2020. A.J. was inspired by his daughters Ava and Lyric.[2]

Television and film appearances[edit]

In 1992, McLean was a contestant in the real-life live-action game show, Nickelodeon Guts. In April 2002, McLean made a guest appearance in the second-season episode of Static Shock titled "Duped".[27]

McLean also appeared and performed with the Backstreet Boys on Arthur, Sesame Street, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Saturday Night Live. In 2013 the Backstreet Boys, including McLean, made their motion picture debut by appearing in the comedy This Is the End. In September 2018, McLean provided the voice of the golden mole Kuchimba on an episode of Disney's The Lion Guard. In 2016, McLean appeared in bandmate Nick Carter's music video for 19 in 99 as a pizza delivery man. In 2019, he voiced the character Lucy the Fairy in the episode "Cedric & the Fairies" of The Bravest Knight, an animated series.[28]

In August 2020, McLean was announced as one of the celebrities competing on season 29 of Dancing with the Stars.[29]

Personal life[edit]


After joining the Backstreet Boys in 1992, McLean began dating Marissa Jackson, daughter of former managers Donna Wright and stepdaughter of Johnny Wright for six years.[30] She is seen in "We've Got It Goin' On". After their breakup, they remained friends and she wrote the book Loving A.J.: My 6-Year Romance with a Backstreet Boy about their relationship featuring love letters and poems from him. McLean then started dating Amanda Latona of Innosense for 2 years,[31] one of the band's dancers, Kristin Denehy, for 3 months and was engaged to Sarah Martin before she broke it off in 2003.[32][33]

On his new podcast, Pretty Messed Up with Cheryl Burke and Rene Elizondo Jr. and on DWTS, McLean shared that he met Rochelle Deanna Karidis,[34] a model and makeup artist/hairstylist, in October 2001 at Choreographer's Carnival where she was a Halloween dancer before meeting up again at Saddleback Ranch in 2006 when she was a Hollywood waitress and "asked her out". But, instead of winning her over right then and there, she flatly rejected him and chose to go have fun with her friends instead until he tried again a year later and went out on March 22, 2009.[35] On January 9, 2010, for his birthday, McLean proposed to Rochelle at a club in Las Vegas. He credits Rochelle with motivating him to get sober and overcome his drug addiction for many years.[36] The couple got married on December 17, 2011, at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Beverly Hills, California with the rest of the Backstreet Boys in attendance.[37][38][39] They have two daughters together. After McLean's first daughter was born, she was dubbed the first Backstreet Girl, as she was the first daughter born to any of the Backstreet Boys members.[40][41]

Substance abuse[edit]

At the height of the Backstreet Boys career, McLean suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. He stated the first time he did cocaine was on the set of the video for "The Call" in 2000. During the US summer tour for their album Black & Blue in 2001, his band mates realized something was wrong. While the group was in Boston that July to do five sold-out shows, the problem finally hit McLean. Following an intervention by band mate Kevin, who confronted A.J. on his problems, A.J. was furious and wanted to quit the band. He later broke into tears and knew he was out of control. Within hours, he arranged a flight to head into rehab for depression, anxiety, and excessive consumption of alcohol. On July 9, 2001, a press release had been sent out, stating that the remainder of the dates in Boston were going to be canceled, due to Nick injuring his hand. Later that day, the rest of the group appeared on MTV's TRL to announce A.J. going into rehab. His problems affected his performance on stage. He left rehab in August 2001, and the group resumed their Black & Blue tour. He claimed that the cause of his addiction was probably due to his missing out on his childhood.[42][43]

His sobriety did not last long, and he entered rehab once again in 2002, which lasted from 2001 to 2007 as he stated he had regressed in his addiction.[44][45] On January 10, 2011, he checked into rehab for the third time stating it was for personal reasons.[46] In preparation for the NKOTB and Backstreet Boys tour, McLean said, "I want to be healthy and perform and sing for people at my very best and happiest." His time in rehab did not affect the tour.[47] Also, he stated he wanted to be healthy and be sober before getting married. He was originally planning on getting married in June 2011 but had pushed back the wedding due to the NKOTBSB tour. This stint in rehab would not affect the tour and it went on as planned. Since heading into rehab a third time, AJ has been sober, though he still struggles with alcohol. During an interview with New Zealand radio station ZM, McLean described addiction as the hardest thing he has ever had to go through, stating it is something he battles with every day.[48] McLean had recently revealed in an interview that he again relapsed and is now 9 months sober by doing his best to be a better husband and father to his family.[49]

In 2020, before his appearance on "Dancing with the Stars", McLean has stated that he's completely sober and follows a strict diet; grain-free, gluten-free, plant-based, sugar-free.[50]



Year Title Peak positions
Have It All 31



Year Single Album
2010 Teenage Wildlife Have It All
2015 Live Together N/A
2015 You
2018 Back Porch Bottle Service
Night Visions
2019 Boy and a Man
Give You Away
2020 Love on the Brain
2021 Love Song Love


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
2013 Clouds - By Redrama 4 Reflection (Redrama Album)


TV series and films
Year Film Role Notes
1986 Truth or Dare? Little Mike
1991 Hi Honey, I'm Home! Skunk
1990 Welcome Freshmen Puppetear
1992 Nickelodeon Guts Himself Known as AJ "Mean" McLean
1998 Sabrina the Teenage Witch Himself Episode: "Battle of the Bands"
1998–1999 Saturday Night Live Himself (musical guest) "Julianne Moore/Backstreet Boys" (Season 23: episode 16)
"Sarah Michelle Gellar/Backstreet Boys" (Season 24: episode 19)
2002 Static Shock Himself Episode "Duped" guest voice
2002 Arthur Himself Episode: "Arthur, It's Only Rock and Roll" guest voice
2002 Sesame Street Himself
2005 The Ellen DeGeneres Show Himself Musical Guest with the Backstreet Boys
2009 El Hormiguero Himself Musical Guest With The Backstreet Boys
2012 Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Himself Musical Guest with the Backstreet Boys
2013 This Is the End Himself With the Backstreet Boys, performing "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
2013 El Hormiguero Himself Musical Guest With The Backstreet Boys
2014 I Heart Nick Carter Himself minor
2016 Dead 7 Johnny Vermillion
2018 The Lion Guard Kuchimba (voice) Episode: "The Underground Adventure"
2020 Dancing with the Stars Himself (contestant) Season 29

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Netter, Matt (January 1999). Backstreet Boys * Aaron Carter. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-671-03539-6.
  2. ^ "Which Backstreet Boy is Jewish? - World News - Jerusalem Post". www.jpost.com.
  3. ^ September 1, Diane Jameson (August 28, 2019). "The Backstreet Boys' MyHeritage DNA Results Are Back!". MyHeritage Blog.
  4. ^ McLean, Denise; Gotlin, Nicole (2009). Backstreet Mom: A Mother's Tale of Backstreet Boy AJ McLean's Rise to Fame, Struggle with Addiction, and Ultimate Triumph. BenBella Books, Inc. ISBN 978-1-935251-43-9.
  5. ^ a b c d McLean, Denise I. (June 22, 2009). Backstreet Mom: A Mother's Tale of Backstreet Boy AJ McLean's Rise to Fame, Struggle with Addiction, and Ultimate Tr. BenBella Books, Inc. ISBN 9781935251439.
  6. ^ "Denise". The N.O.W. Matters More Foundation.
  7. ^ McLean, Denise; Gotlin, Nicole (2009). Backstreet Mom: A Mother's Tale of Backstreet Boy AJ McLean's Rise to Fame, Struggle with Addiction, and Ultimate Triumph. BenBella Books, Inc. p. 13. ISBN 9781935251439.
  8. ^ McGibbon, Rob (1997). The Backstreet Boys : official biography. London: BoxTree/Macmillan Publishers. p. 12. ISBN 0-7522-2406-9.
  9. ^ "'Dancing with the Stars': AJ McLean's score stresses fans out as he forgets 'Somebody to Love' choreography". meaww.com.
  10. ^ Heyn, Beth (November 10, 2020). "Cheryl Burke Sounds Off After 'Dancing With the Stars' Elimination". Heavy.com.
  11. ^ McGibbon, Rob (1997). The Backstreet Boys : official biography. London: BoxTree/Macmillan Publishers. p. 15. ISBN 0-7522-2406-9.
  12. ^ McGibbon, Rob (1997). The Backstreet Boys : official biography. London: BoxTree/Macmillan Publishers. p. 17. ISBN 0-7522-2406-9.
  13. ^ "Truth or Dare?: A Critical Madness (1986)". IMDb.com. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  14. ^ McGibbon, Rob (1997). The Backstreet Boys: official biography. London: BoxTree/Macmillan Publishers. pp. 15–17. ISBN 0-7522-2406-9.
  15. ^ "A.J. McLean talks about "Johnny No Name"". Canoe.ca. March 29, 2000. Archived from the original on August 6, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  16. ^ [1] Archived February 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "A Boy Out on His Own". LA Times. March 29, 2000. Archived from the original on October 16, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  18. ^ "Transcript of A.J. McLean – Yahoo! Chat". March 22, 2000. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  19. ^ "NKOTBSB Song preview and song from 'Have It All', "Mr. A"". YouTube. December 14, 2010. Retrieved October 18, 2011.
  20. ^ "Redrama feat. AJ McLean – Clouds". finnishcharts.com. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  21. ^ Carter, Brooke (November 24, 2016). "What Happened to A.J. McLean - News & Updates - Gazette Review". Gazette Review. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
  22. ^ "Live Together (feat. Jordan James) – Single by AJ McLean". iTunes. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
  23. ^ "A.J. McLean Tells the ACM Awards: 'I'm Coming In to Disrupt Country Music'". Billboard. April 16, 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  24. ^ "AJ McLean Goes Country With Upbeat New Song 'Back Porch Bottle Service': Premiere". Billboard. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  25. ^ "Backstreet Boy AJ McLean's 'Boy and a Man' Will Introduce His First Country Album". TasteOfCountry.com. Retrieved March 31, 2019.
  26. ^ "Welcome! Two New Flavors Launched – Skulleeroz". Skulleerozvapor.com. July 22, 2015. Archived from the original on January 7, 2016. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  27. ^ ""Static Shock" Duped (2002)". IMDb.com. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  28. ^ "The Bravest Knight". Hulu Press. 2020. Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  29. ^ Burnabe, Angelina J. (August 27, 2020). "Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean joins season 29 of Dancing with the Stars". Good Morning America. Retrieved September 14, 2020.
  30. ^ McLean, Denise; Gotlin, Nicole (2009). Backstreet Mom: A Mother's Tale of Backstreet Boy AJ McLean's Rise to Fame, Struggle with Addiction, and Ultimate Triumph. BenBella Books, Inc. p. 80. ISBN 9781935251439. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  31. ^ Doolittle, Leslie. "AGE OF INNOSENSE: A.J., AMANDA JUST DATING". OrlandoSentinel.com.
  32. ^ "He Wants It That Way: A.J. Engaged". E! Online. 2002.
  33. ^ "Backstreet Boys: Inside Their Lives". PEOPLE.com.
  34. ^ "Recovering From Reality: Ep. 3 Variations of Normal - Recovering From Reality". recoveringfromreality.libsyn.com.
  35. ^ "AJ McLean emotionally dedicates 'DWTS' performance to wife Rochelle - Music News - ABC News Radio". abcnewsradioonline.com.
  36. ^ Union, Wonderful. "Backstreet Boys - Official Site". Backstreet Boys.
  37. ^ "A.J. McLean and Rochelle Deanna Karidis to Marry" Archived September 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, AOL Music, September 7, 2011
  38. ^ "Celebrity Wedding Planner Mindy Weiss on Who's Tying the Knot Next!" Archived September 24, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, OK! Magazine, October 18, 2011
  39. ^ "A.J. Mclean And Rochelle Deanna Karidis To Have 'Craziest' Celebrity Wedding Ever" Archived October 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Radar Online, September 7, 2011
  40. ^ * "AJ & Rochelle Have Some News!". Retrieved July 4, 2012.. YouTube. Retrieved on July 4, 2012.
  41. ^ Union, Wonderful. "Official Site". Nick Carter.
  42. ^ "AJ McLean Talks Finally 'Growing Up' Amid Fatherhood and Addiction". Entertainment Tonight.
  43. ^ "Backstreet Boys Celebrate AJ McLean's 40th Birthday With Epic Surprise Prom Party -- See the Pics". Entertainment Tonight.
  44. ^ "AJ McLean Says He's a 'Chronic Relapser' as He Celebrates a Year of Sobriety: 'You Gotta Keep Going'". PEOPLE.com.
  45. ^ "Ep. 106 Behind the Backstreet Boy with AJ McLean". Recovering From Reality | A Podcast by Alexis Haines.
  46. ^ "Backstreet Boys' A.J. McLean Back In Rehab". MTV. January 13, 2011. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  47. ^ Garvey, Marianne; Baker, Ken (January 13, 2011). "A.J. McLean Returns to Rehab—Will It Interfere With Backstreet-New Kids Tour?". E! Online. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  48. ^ "Interview with Polly Gillespie on ZM". Archived from the original on December 22, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  49. ^ "AJ McLean Raves Over Wife: 'She's Been Through Hell and Back With Me'". Us Weekly. September 23, 2020.
  50. ^ "AJ McLean Shows Off 15-Lb Weight Loss Ahead of 'Dancing With the Stars'". Us Weekly. September 9, 2020. Retrieved March 3, 2021.

External links[edit]

Official website