The Backstreet Boys are starring in two holiday offerings this season – their JCP Live Holiday Spectacularwhich is available to view on demand on the JCPenney Facebook page, and A very Backstreet vacationcoming to ABC and Disney+ on December 14th – coinciding with the release of their first holiday album, A very Backstreet Christmas. But they have another reason to celebrate, thanks to a very different TV show: RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race. Hats off to BSB’s own AJ McLean, who surprisingly won the show as her glamorous alter ego, drag queen Poppy Love.
A kind of drag twist on The Masked Singers concept, season 2 of Secret celebrity drag race featured famous people like Tatyana Ali, Taylor Dayne, Loretta Devine and Glee‘s Jenna Ushkowitz and Kevin McHale in drag disguises. But winnah, baby, was “Queen Supreme” McLean. Almost no one guessed Poppy Love’s true identity: fans were shocked by the boy band star’s big Ru calf, and even his own family didn’t know he was competing. But McLean says when he was approached to be on the show, he snapped — and it turns out the RuPaul/Backstreet connection goes way back, making this a full-circle moment for the now 44-year-old singer.
“When we first broke in the US, RuPaul had his talk show back then and he was one of the first people to get us on TV in the US,” the group’s Kevin Richardson tells Yahoo Entertainment while sitting down with McLean and bandmates Nick Carter, Howie Dorough and Brian Littrell on the set of the film JCP Live Holiday Spectacular. “So we never forgot him for that.”
McLean, now a father of two, is amused that his daughters – with all that BSB is going on at the moment – are most “excited about the fact that at some point I actually get to send my crown and scepter to my house, so they want to play with that. But they don’t realize that the scepter weighs about 10 pounds!” He also chuckles as he remembers how to keep his Secret celebrity drag race stint really secret from his family.
“What’s fun is my wife and my daughters hate when I shave; they think I look really weird without my beard. And I do look weird!” he says. “So when I shaved [for Drag Race]they didn’t know what I was doing – and why me held shaving. And I kept coming up with excuses that Dad’s face needed to breathe, to get some sun. And then finally I came home from practice one night in a pair of six-inch heels and they said, ‘OK, what’s going on on here?'”
“They thought he was moonlighting as a stripper,” Richardson says.
Since Drag race franchise typically shoots multiple finale endings to avoid leaks and spoilers, McLean didn’t know he had actually won Secret celebrity trait Race until the finale aired. He had predicted that Ali, aka Chakra 7, would win and was “blown away” when he watched the results with his children while on tour with BSB.
“I’m honored to have taken the crown,” says the singer, who won a $100,000 cash prize for her favorite charity, Trans Lifeline, a grassroots non-profit that offers emotional and financial support to transgender people in crisis. “I’m a huge advocate for the LGBTQ+ community — I have been for over 30 years, and I will remain strong in that community — and I was honored to be asked to do that. … It was an honor to be in such good company and playing for a great charity and I would do it again. Poppy Love is here to stay.”
Watch Yahoo Entertainment’s full extended interview with the Backstreet Boys about their holiday album and two holiday specials, the rumor that John Mellencamp objected to being on the same label as BSB, and Nick Carter’s sweet memory of Christmas with his late brother, Aaron:
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