Lance Bass was my eighth grade crush. In the grand, sweeping boy band pop scene that dominated the late ’90s and early ’00s, and when most adolescents gravitated toward the era’s heartthrob frontmen (think: Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez, and BSB’s Nick Carter), I felt drawn to the nicer-looking boy band members (think: Lance and Howie Dorough). I liked the boys who stood humbly in the background, and seemed content to let the Justin Timberlakes of the world take center stage. In my 13-year-old eyes, guys like Lance (and Howie — hi, Howie) had a quiet, humble, adorable power.

*NSYNC-era Lance represented the guys who didn’t just talk about themselves — they wanted to know about you. They’d listen attentively, they’d never stand you up for a date — in short, they were not the so-called “nice guys” who’d pay for dinner, then expect you to take off your pants in gratitude. (Maybe I’m projecting here, but bear with me.) And, 14 years later, they’d laugh kindly and appreciatively when you got the guts to tell them that you’d wallpapered your locker with their picture, which is exactly what Lance Bass, my eighth grade crush, did when I called him up to talk about his weekly Pop2Kountdown on SiriusXM Pop2K. (Thank you, Lance, for being such a mensch.)

During our chat (and when I wasn’t fangirling), Lance and I rehashed the year 2000, which was arguably *NSYNC’s most high-profile year. We talked about the time he met Mandy Moore, Jessica Simpson, how Destiny’s Child helped him pick out a ring, what it was like to tour with Janet Jackson, how Pink straight-up acknowledged Lance’s hidden sexuality, and most recently, his experience reuniting with *NSYNC at last year’s MTV VMAs.

Check out the highlights:

“Thank goodness Mandy Moore escaped Lou Pearlman”
“Mandy Moore was one of my opening acts. I loved her. When I first met Mandy, she was in Orlando and she was gonna be recording out of our record label with Lou Pearlman. She was kind of the new pop act over there, and I immediately thought she was the sweetest girl, and I loved her songs, and we immediately knew that we wanted her to go on tour with us. And thank goodness she escaped Lou Pearlman.”

“It really helped make our group even bigger, that Eminem hated us so much”
“Eminem was a big part of us, because we came out at a similar time he did. Our markets could not be more different, but because of Eminem name-checking us a lot of times, it really helped make our group even bigger, that he hated us so much. So we loved it — of course we’re huge Eminem fans. Every time he would name-check us, we were like YEAH”

“But what’s really funny is, he said in some interview that Hailie, his daughter, he would kill her if she ever had a poster of *NSYNC on her wall. At the time it was MTV Spring Break, I think we were all performing down there. And one of Eminem’s friends was like, ‘Are you kidding me? Hailie DOES have an *NSYNC poster on her wall.’ So, it was just a publicity thing. It was at that point where I knew that his image was just that — an image he was creating.”

“Jessica Simpson auditioned for us in a parking lot”
“I remember when Jessica, when she didn’t have a record label or anything. We’d been out for a couple of years, but I remember she stopped me at the Beverly Center here in Los Angeles in a parking lot in the garage. And I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I know Jessica. She had auditioned for the Mickey Mouse Club, so we’d known of her. So we were in the parking garage, and she wanted help finding a label or a manager, so she auditioned for us right there in the parking lot. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this girl is really, really good.’ She was working hard to get something happening in this business.”

“Pink was one of the first people to confirm to me that she knew I was gay”
“It was the one-year anniversary of Teen People, and we were at that party, and Pink was there to perform. She was an up-and-coming act that no one had heard of yet. She goes up onstage and all of her tracks go out — all she had was a live mic and no music. And she did the whole set a Capella, and she KILLED it. I said, that girl’s going on tour with us. It as so fun to see her go from this girl who her music went out onstage to this superstar she was at the end of the tour.

And she was one of the first people to confirm to me that she knew I was gay. One of her dancers had a crush on me, so she came to me and secretly handed me a love letter. And it wasn’t a big deal to her, but she wanted to let me know that she knew. I just laughed it off, but it was her way of telling me, ‘I know, it’s OK, I’m here for you.’ I’d never kissed a guy at that point, so the first person I was gonna tell was not gonna be Pink. I’ve always loved that — that she was so OK with that. It was a different time then. You didn’t talk about gay people back then.”

“Janet Jackson really showed us how an act should treat their opening acts on tour”
Janet was the first tour we ever did in America. That’s what kinda gave us our footing in The States. The first time people heard about us was on the Velvet Rope tour. And the first time meeting her, that she knew my name, I was like, ‘Waaaat? Janet Jackson knows my name??’ I just love her. She treated us so great on that tour, and she really showed us how an act should treat their opening acts on tour.

“So, I was looking for a ring, and Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle came in…”
“One of my favorite Destiny’s Child memories is when I was in Jacob & Co. in New York, and I was going to buy a ring to commemorate our first platinum album. So I was in there looking for a ring, and Beyoncé, Kelly, and Michelle come in. And I was like, ‘Oh my god, I think those are that girl band.’ And so they helped me pick out the ring that I got. I became so close with them afterwards, but I’ll never forget that moment where we met in Jacob & Co. jewelry store, and they helped me pick out my ring.”

On Destiny’s Child’s Super Bowl 2013 reunion…
“It was great to see them for sure. I didn’t like the fact that they didn’t end with Destiny’s Child. It was a little awkward that they got pushed offstage toward the end of Halo. It was an anticlimactic ending, let’s put it that way. But oh my gosh, to see those girls back onstage again was amazing. And now that Beyoncé’s getting the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award this year [at this year’s VMAs], everyone’s gonna be expecting Destiny’s Child to be up there with them like we did with Justin last year. I’m hoping that happens. Maybe they’ll get more than 45 seconds…”

On today’s VMAs…
“I guess I’m not the MTV generation anymore. I just think the VMAs are going downhill. Even last year was so fun to be there, but the rest of the show was just, like, euuughhhh, almost embarrassing.”

What did you make of Miley Cyrus’ performance last year?
“At the time, we were all down in our dressing room hiding, and I remember all of us watching the television screen and all of our jaws were completely dropped. I love Miley. Her music is amazing, I think her voice is incredible. I love that she uses the shock. I actually felt more bad for him. I think that was the thing that was more out of place for me, was Robin Thicke with this, because I was kind of expecting her to do something crazy.. but he was so out of place that it was just awkward. That’s why my jaw was dropped — it was the awkwardness of Robin Thicke being a part of that.”

Listen to Lance Bass host The Pop2Kountdown Saturdays at 11 am ET On Pop2K, Ch. 10.

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