“If music be the food of love, play on,” Shakespeare wrote centuries ago. Pop superstar Lance Bass of the '90s boy band chart sensation NSYNC knows a thing or two about music, having crooned mega-hits like “This I Promise You” and “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You” to the tune of 50-million albums sold. But the L word – love – was a trickier proposition for the 35-year old Bass since he lived most of his life as a closeted gay man.
“The whole time I was in NSYNC, the one thing that was on my mind is, ‘I hope no one finds out who I really am.’ It’s a prison,” Bass says. “I knew the guys in the band would be fine with who I was – they’re some of my best friends in the world – but I was worried our audience wouldn’t accept it back in 2000, 2001, and I was also worried that a kid in a boy band coming out might harm the gay community in some way, too. I felt like everyone and everything I cared about would become an easy target, so I hid.”
In 2006, with the NSYNC chapter of his life presumably closed, Bass at last announced himself to the world as a gay man. On the eve of his wedding to longtime partner, pop artist Michael Turchin last December, Bass was “walking on air,” not coincidentally the name of his brand-new single. The couple's nuptials – featuring celebrity guests, supermodels, canine ring-bearers, and much more – were taped by E!. The 90-minute show, Lance Loves Michael: The Lance Bass Wedding, premieres tonight.
The last couple of years, you’ve been enjoying the kind of love story NSYNC used to make hit songs about. That’s a beautiful thing, yes?
A love story is a beautiful thing, for sure. Hopefully, our love story will inspire people to find their own big love.
Your husband is a very gifted artist. Was that part of the attraction for you?
Oh my gosh… (Laughs) I think it's everyone's dream to marry a hot artist. (Laughs) I'm obsessed with his work. I'm a pop artist and he's a pop artist. I’m so proud of him.
Like every great love story, this one was fraught with potential obstacles and conflict. For example, A) this is a same-sex wedding, which is something 42% of Americans still oppose, according to a Gallup poll conducted last spring, and B) you’re a Southern Baptist marrying a Jew. Were you gentlemen trying to make things impossible?
Well, we were just trying to write a sitcom, basically! (Laughs) Yeah, I'm Southern Baptist. I came from a very conservative family, and they are still very conservative. Michael came from the most liberal Jewish family you can imagine in Miami Beach. Somehow, it all works. It's so fun to see both sides of the family when we’re all together and they love each other so much. It’s so funny to see: sometimes opposites really do attract.
Sometimes, to borrow a phrase from The Beatles, love really is all you need. It sometimes builds these improbable bridges across ideological chasms.
Oh, it’s amazing. Love really can do that. I think another thing that’s really changing the ways that we connect with each other human beings and learn to grow and accept our differences is social media. The younger generation, especially, they spend so much time in that realm, and they’re connecting with people from all over the world. They’re becoming aware that the world is not just black and white. Most things are kind of gray. For all of the ways that people are the same, everyone is also unique, and it’s always better to find your own way to respect and celebrate that in other people. I think we’re coming to a time when we can finally celebrate everyone’s differences.
Growing up, did you have any ideas about what love would look like for you, or what a wedding might look like in your life?
Well, yeah. I knew I was gay since I was 5-years old. I knew my whole life that I liked guys, but there's no way I would be able to do that because that was wrong.
This is, of course, the story for millions of young people around the world. How did you handle that inner conflict?
As a kid, it was very confusing and sad, for sure. So I came up with ways to try to fit in or be “normal.” I always had this idea that I would get married to a girl and I would mimic exactly what my parents had in their marriage and mimic exactly what my friends had in their relationships and what I saw in the movies and television. That's how we're taught, right? You just mimic life as you have seen it and as you know it. That's why it was so confusing as a kid; I was doing everything I could to imitate the way we’re told things should be, but I knew in my heart I would never like girls, romantically.
How did you and Michael meet?
It was both kismet and “meet-cute” actually. Both of us were heading out to Palm Springs for a mutual friend’s birthday party. Michael and I hadn’t met at this point. We didn’t know each other at all. So I didn't see Michael at the birthday party. It was the next day, when we were all leaving back to Los Angeles, that I went by our friend’s house to say goodbye to the birthday boy. That's when I saw Michael for the first time. We talked for about 20 minutes and there was definitely a connection. I just thought it was a friendship connection, but not too long after that, Michael contacted me and we started hanging out. We became best friends. We hung out, basically, every single day for a whole month. Before we knew it, we discovered we liked each other in other ways, too. (Laughs) As more than friends.
Falling in love with your best friend is something a lot of marriage counselors would smile upon, right?
Right! It's been the best move because it's been the easiest thing. Before we realized we were in love, we really knew each other, inside and out. There were no walls. We had nothing to hide from each other. We knew each other, and we were in love.
Did a lot of the love songs you'd spent years singing to millions of fans around the world suddenly start resonating more truthfully for you at that point?
Yes, actually! I wish I would’ve had someone like Michael to sing those songs to back then in the NSYNC days. There were so many beautiful love songs that we did together. So yeah, it’s really nice to be able to put a face to the songs now. Really nice.
What kind of obstacles did the two of you face as a couple?
Really, this has been the easiest thing. We've had zero obstacles in our relationship over the 4 years we've been together. The only problem we had at the very beginning when we met is that I had just moved to New York and Michael lived in Los Angeles. That would have definitely hurt a lot of relationships, but in our case it made us get closer because we would spend a month apart and then a whole month together. You have to really know the person living on separate coasts. That was the only obstacle we had to overcome. It must have been right because we're still together.
Between the two of you then, it sounds like smooth sailing. But the backdrop to this love story is, of course, whether same-sex couples have the right to be legally married. This is something many Americans are still debating and grappling with.
That’s true, but Michael and I knew that we were going to get married no matter what. Our friends and our family fought so hard against Prop 8 and Michael and I really wanted to thank them for that, to honor them for that, to celebrate what that huge fight meant in a lot of the country, so we decided to throw a huge celebration in California. We filmed a lot of the wedding special in Mississippi, where I grew up, and same-sex marriage is not legal there just yet. But I say, “Yet.” It might pass in the next few weeks, and even a year ago, I couldn’t have imagined that would be the case. By the time the wedding special has aired a few times, we might be legal in my home state, too, which is so crazy to me.
What can you say about proposing to Michael?
We actually had two proposals! The first proposal was in New Orleans. It's my favorite city in the world, and Michael has family from New Orleans. We were down there with some best friends from Mississippi and some best friends from Los Angeles and it was just the perfect time to do it. Not planned at all. I ran out very spontaneously and got a ring and put it in my pocket and then I proposed to him one night in New Orleans. It was just really beautiful and sweet. It was so fun to celebrate our love with friends. Then a year later, I proposed to him again because I wanted to do it right. I wanted to actually plan the proposal and get a proper ring and have the flower petals and all of that. We were in Africa. So we got two proposals, which was really special.
What can audiences expect from the wedding special? I know we’ve got an NSYNC reunion and a fleet of dogs serving as ring-bearers and a bevy of supermodels as flower girls. You’re in the Park Plaza, one of the most beautiful hotels in the country.
Yeah. It sounds like a circus, but you'll see on the special. I was always borderline tacky in my personal taste, but I never go over that line. The wedding was way more emotional than I ever thought it would be. I just saw the first cut of the wedding special a few days ago and I was floored with how gorgeous it was. They really captured the love story that I wanted to film and I'm just so happy that people are going to get to see a story like this because I think a lot of people, especially kids out there who feel like there's no hope that they’ll find love and acceptance in their little towns, they’ll see this love story on television and maybe think to themselves, “Hey, there’s nothing wrong with me and maybe I can have that, too.” That’s why Michael and I wanted to do the special.
Tell me about the wedding vows.
The vows are definitely in the special and they are incredible. We wrote our own vows. Michael, he did a rhyming thing, which was really sweet. That's definitely where everyone just started bawling, was during his vows. My vows were very personal and humorous. The vows are definitely my favorite part of the whole wedding.
Wait a second: you're the multi-platinum songwriter and Michael’s doing the rhyming vows?
Oh trust me, I know. (Laughs) The only thing I got to know about his vows before the actual ceremony was that they were going to rhyme. I was like, “Wait, I was going to rhyme!” I was, like, “Dagnabbit, we can’t both rhyme.” That would be too cheesy, so I purposely didn’t rhyme.
You’ve been married now for about two months. All that’s left is the happily ever after, right?
Yes! Exactly! You’d better believe it! And now we’re ready to start a family. In the next 2 or 3 years, we want to start that process and we can't wait to welcome kids into this world and make them amazing citizens and put some more good out into the world.
For more information on Turchin’s artwork: www.michaelturchin.com
Lance Loves Michael: The Lance Bass Wedding special premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on E!