Lance Bass on Hiding Behind Baggy Clothes Before Coming Out: “I Just Wanted to Disappear”
The former boy band star opened up about his personal and professional journey, and how he has expressed himself through style along the way.
Lance Bass is many things: Former boy-bander. Filmmaker. Space exploration advocate. Devoted husband. Southern gentleman. Kardashian confidant. Really, the list goes on and on. But ever the over-achiever, Bass has decided to add two new titles to his résumé: stylist and life coach. Well, kinda.
For his latest endeavor, the *NSYNC member has teamed up with T.J. Maxx for the company’s Maxx You Project, which aims to help women embrace their individuality and the changes that come with different stages of life. Bass was on hand in New York City to celebrate the mission’s newest launch, a styling and life-coaching service called the Changing Room Experience (it will tour eight U.S. cities from now through October; for more info, visit maxxyouproject.com).
I stopped by the store to experience the magic for myself with my colleague, Jen — and Bass was up to the challenge of styling not one but two InStyle editors. After asking about our fashion preferences (no major trends, a shared penchant for wearing all black, and a love of outerwear) he browsed a rack stocked with fall staples. “Our goal today is to send you both home with something that has color,” he said. “Pops of color are my favorite — they’re kind of my thing. So we’re gonna go out on a limb here and find something that you’re not totally used to!’
After assessing each of our personal styles, Bass proceeded to pick out a few of his favorite pieces for us. “I’m telling you, animal print is so trendy right now,” he said, handing Jen a cheetah-print sweater. Then, holding a black star-patterned jacket toward me, he said, “Everyone needs a nice leather bomber, and this one’s good — it’s very rocker. You can wear it with some ripped jeans and a cute crop top.” I do love a good star-themed piece, if I must say so myself.
After setting aside our finds, Bass switched into life-coaching mode. His top tips for living a balanced life include but are not limited to drinking a full glass of water right when he wakes up, stretching “like a cat” to get your blood flowing in the morning, and finding a meditation method that works. (“I visualize this little town made of ice and every time I go back there, I add a little something,” he said. “I started doing it when Frozen came out.”)
Though he was the one asking the questions for most of our time together, we were able to turn the tables on Bass and ask him a few. The candid star opened up about way more than just his style journey. Keep reading for our full chat with Bass, which includes the revelation that he ignored his interest in fashion to hide his sexuality during *NSYNC’s heyday as well as the latest update on his journey to fatherhood (which he says is happening soon!).
We loved your look at the VMAs, with the T-shirt that said “Tearin’ Up My Heart.” How did that come about?
Thanks! It was fun. I asked fans to help pick my outfit, because I don’t have the best fashion sometimes. So they picked the pink Mr. Turk suit. I had a nice black shirt underneath, but people told me to try a white one. I didn’t have anything white with me, but then my husband said, “Oh I bought this Tearin’ Up My Heart T-shirt.” He loves wearing *NSYNC merchandise out to embarrass me. But this was the 25th anniversary of our performance of the song, so it was meant to be.
Did you keep any costumes or anything from the early days of *NSYNC?
Yes! Just a few years ago, we had the *NSYNC warehouse where we stored—
Wait. There’s an *NSYNC warehouse?!
Yeah! No one knew about it, but it’s in Orlando and it’s huge. We have a lot of stage equipment in there, like our mechanical bulls from the PopOdyssey tour. Just weird stuff. A few years ago, we were like, “Guys we gotta clear this out. This is stupid. We’re never going to use this stuff.” So we all went in and divvied up a lot of the outfits. My mom has pretty much everything. I loved these vaudeville type outfits that we wore for our opening on the No Strings Attached tour, but I think Joey [Fatone] took all those [laughs].
That is amazing. Do you have any fashion regrets?
I do regret a lot of the ‘90s stuff. There was this one outfit I wore for the American Music Awards — all the guys wore the same type of outfit, so I’m not in the boat by myself — but we were like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man in different colors. It was so bad that Joan Rivers gave us an award. It was when she used to do those E! Fashion Awards, and I can’t believe she had this ready to go on the red carpet, but she gave us “most waterproof.” When you get awarded “most waterproof” for your fashion style, it’s not good. It’s not good.
Did you care at the time?
No. I was just this teenager from Mississippi who didn’t care. I really didn’t even think about fashion when I was with *NSYNC. There was this layer of, “Are people gonna think I think I’m gay if I care too much?” I felt like I was hiding a big piece about myself, and it’s so sad, because I could’ve had so much fun. I [recently] looked at all my interviews with *NSYNC, and I was like, “That is not me.” I don’t talk. I’m pretty shy, and I wear baggy clothes and really dark colors. I just wanted to disappear. But then when I was able to become myself, I was like “Okay, I’m not afraid to let people know I’m gay. I don’t care what you think anymore.” That’s when I started wearing more form-fitting clothes and bright colors and put color in my hair.
Your hair is fun, by the way.
Thanks! Yeah it’s fun. I like Hunger Games, and I’m very inspired by it. A lot of people think K-pop is the inspo for my hair, but I’m like “No. It’s Hunger Games.”
So today you’re the one doling out fashion advice. What has made you feel confident enough to do that?
It’s ironic, huh? Well, I feel like my past mistakes can help other people in the future. It wasn’t until I moved to New York that I started learning more about fashion and was dating people in the fashion industry. In L.A., you can go to a club in a bathing suit and no one will care. In New York, people care a lot more. When I lived here, everyone was always making fun of me for wearing crazy colors. They were like, “You are so from California.” But living in New York, I started really watching the trends. There were a lot of things that I thought would come in style that didn’t, and I was like, “No, it’s still good.” I don’t know why, but for some reason, I still think capes for guys are gonna happen.
What was it that made you want to get involved with the Maxx You Project?
Well I’m a huge fan of T.J.Maxx. I used to live a block away from this store, which is the best and biggest. I could spend five hours in here. Anyway, T.J.Maxx started this program a couple years ago about how women’s individuality is always changing and evolving. They wanted to do something to celebrate that and for women to have someone to talk to about life changes. It’s nice to have a sounding board who’s not your close friend or family member. You’ll make mistakes — especially fashion ones! — but at least you tried.
You recently turned 40. What did you learn in your 30s?
How to relax. I was the type of person who needed every hour booked. I didn’t feel like I was productive if I wasn’t just constantly busy. I would be out every single night, drinking too much. Then I met my husband 10 years ago, and he loves to sleep and be lazy. So I learned to do that, and it’s changed my life. I also realized that you don’t have to please other people.
How did you and your husband meet?
I had been going from relationship to relationship to relationship — it was horrible. So I gave up and decided to be single. I went a good year and a half, two years without looking at all, and then we met in Palm Springs at a birthday party. I thought he was the only straight guy there, and I was like, “Of course.” But then he hit me up on Facebook, and Facebook “poked” me. We were best friends for a month before we really liked each other. Really, I was trying to put him in the friendzone, so I’d get over the attraction I had to him. But then a month later, I was like, “Oh wait, he likes me?! This is cool.”
What’s the next big life change in store for you?
I’m becoming a dad! Yeah! We’ve been working on it for a long time, and it’s finally happening. We’ve gone through seven donors, but it looks like this one’s going to work. So hopefully in 2020 we will be dads. I just turned 40, but I want to be a cool dad. I’m trying to walk that fine line of being age-appropriate but yet still looking fashionable.
Have you asked any of your former *NSYNC bandmates for parenting advice?
They’re all really great dads. Of course I’ve been talking to the guys about raising a family, and they were so excited that we’re having kids. Chris Kirkpatrick’s been really great. He is so good with his kid and so present, and they’re so funny together. I’m super impressed with the dad he’s been.
You need to get all of the kids together!
We’re gonna start our own band! Oh my god, no. I would not encourage my kids to go in that direction. I mean, they can do whatever they want but ehh. You don’t want your kids to go through that rejection. Thank goodness there wasn’t social media during *NSYNC. I would’ve gotten in a lot of trouble! Really Joey would’ve gotten in a lot of trouble. He would’ve ruined our group by doing stupid things on social media [laughs].