AJ McLean took a nostalgic look back at his early days with Backstreet Boys and the edgy, distinctive look he created for himself.

In a recent interview with ET Canada promoting his upcoming Paramount+ reality competition “The Fashion Hero: A New Kind of Beautiful”, Cheryl Hickey asked him about his own fashion style within Backstreet Boys.

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“You always had your own definition of beauty, especially with the Backstreet Boys. You had the nail polish and you had your own distinct look,” she asked.


“My guy eyeliner days,” he quipped, revealing that once he circled in on a look, he had no choice but to completely commit to it.

“It was kind of a roller coaster because there were moments when I would be like, ‘You know what? I’m just going to rock this and I’m going to rock it to 110 per cent, even if I get shunned.’ And then there was days that I would dumb it down because I just felt like I don’t want to be critiqued, I don’t want external criticism,” he explained.

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Fashion, he revealed, was one piece of the puzzle that helped him battle low self-esteem.

“Living in the mindset, a piece of s*t-ism is what I’ve dealt with my whole life and being very insecure and having low self-esteem. And a lot of people would probably ask me, ‘How is that possible? Look at what you do’. Yeah, yeah, that’s what I do for a job,” he shared.


“But when I walk off that stage, I’m a normal guy just trying to survive. And I’m not okay all the time. I’m not comfortable with myself all the time. When I’m on stage, I’m impenetrable. That’s my little bubble. That’s my safe place. When I’m home with my family, that’s my safe place – when I’m on my own. Sometimes I get in my head, I get in my own way,” he continued, comparing his own experience to that of the people competing in “The Fashion Hero”, which aims to disrupt traditional paradigms of fashion and beauty and create new ones.

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“A lot of these people that were on the show, a lot of these amazing people have gotten in their own way or people have gotten in their way and have told them, ‘You’re not good enough, you will never amount to anything,'” McLean said.

“And when you get to a place in your life when you truly believe you’re no better and no worse than the person sitting next to you, will you truly find happiness,” he added, pointing to a tattoo he recently got that he said was an old Chinese proverb, translated to, “True victory is victory over one’s self.”


“And that is what I would hope people take from this show,” he added. “When you can overcome your own demons, your own fears, your own doubts, nobody can tear you down ever again.”

“The Fashion Hero: A New Kind of Beautiful” premieres Friday, March 31.