MIAMI – Girls were camping outside his hotel rooms, he was selling millions of albums and touring the world as part of 90s boy band 'N Sync.
But Lance Bass was also living on $35 a day thanks to a miserly contract with former manager Lou Pearlman and agonizing over how to hide his sexuality from bandmates and millions of teenage fans, according to his book "Out of Sync," released this week.
Oh and Justin Timberlake was responsible for breaking up the band, Bass says in the candid tell-all book.
The 28-year-old pop star raised in a strict Christian family says he knew he was gay at age 5 and recalls having innocent crushes on boys. He recounts the horror of his mom finding out he was gay after she read it on the Internet. And how his coming out on the cover of "People" magazine brought flowers and phone calls of support from Elton John and Jennifer Lopez.
But before he was embraced as a gay man, Bass says he spent years worrying about what his secret would do to the band.
"I really felt it was going to ruin our reputation, that was going to be the stigma of our group," he told The Associated Press in an interview Friday.
Bass struggled to fit in with the rest his bandmates, who had girlfriends. He faked it enough to get by and only once let a man back to his hotel room during the 2000 Celebrity tour.
No one found out about the hotel room, but Bass says bandmate Joey Fatone once walked in on him during a party at the height of the group's fame sitting close to another man.
"Later on he told me he knew right then and there I was gay, but that he really didn't care one way or the other," Bass writes.
The small-town boy from Clinton, Miss., says he liked Pearlman from the start, describing the now notorious boy-band mogul as "a large man" who "had a way of making you feel special."
"He had all these limos and Rolls-Royces and was always using them to take us to great dinners in upscale restaurants," according to the book.
Later they realized they were actually paying for the dinners and the clothes, all recoupable fees by "Papa Lou." The relationship ended in an ugly legal showdown after the band learned Pearlman had made himself an unofficial sixth member of 'N Sync, taking a sixth of all earnings on top of his fees for being their manager, record company and producer.
In 1998, the band had sold three million albums, but was "dirt poor." At 'N Sync's first check presentation years after the band had formed, Bass describes his shock as he was handed a check for a mere $25,000. He ripped up the check and left the room. The band eventually terminated their contract with Pearlman and signed with Jive Records.
Pearlman is now behind bars after being indicted on three counts of bank fraud and single counts of mail and wire fraud. His possessions, including platinum records and memorabilia from the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync, were hawked earlier this year. A judge recently approved the sale of Pearlman's $7.1 million Orlando home.
"He was too greedy, and in the end it destroyed him," says Bass.
Bass, who now stars in the Broadway show "Hairspray," says he naively missed warning signs that Timberlake was planning to abandon the group for a solo career. After months of waiting to record another album, Timberlake stunned the group at a charity basketball game in 2004, saying the group wasn't as focused as they had been and that no one was operating in the best interest of the band.
The rest of the group considered continuing without Timberlake, but eventually went their own way.
Even after the split, Bass tried to foster his hetero image for the sake of tween fans, but as his dating relationships with men became more serious, it was harder to duck the paparazzi.
As for the recent troubles of Britney Spears, who used to hang out on their tour bus in her pajamas while dating Timberlake, Bass says she has distanced herself from her former friends.
"I personally don't think she wanted anyone in her life that she knew previously that would be a good influence on her," he said. "I think she wanted to go through her rebellion stage."