Also Credited As:James Lance Bass
|Actor, Producer, Music|
|James Lance Bass on May 4, 1979 in Laurel, Mississippi, USA|
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James Lance Bass was born on May 4, 1979 in Laure, MS. Bass and his older sister Stacy were raised Southern Baptist in the town of Ellisville by their devout Christian and conservative parents. His father, James Irvin Bass, Jr., was a medical technologist, and his mother Diane (nee Haddock) taught mathematics at a middle school. Although Bass would spend most of his life as an entertainer, it was a love for space travel that appealed to him as a young boy, even traveling to Cape Canaveral in Florida with his father at the age of nine to watch his first live space shuttle launch. This led to attending Space Camp in Titusville, FL, and the beginning of the star's dream to study engineering in college and pursue a career with NASA.
Bass' life took a different turn when he was 10 years old and his family moved to Clinton, MS, due to his father's work. It was at the family's Baptist church in Clinton where the aspiring astronaut began singing for the choir and it was not long before Bass started reaching for the stars in a whole new way. He joined local performance groups, including the show choir group at Clinton High School, as well as a seven-member vocal group called Seven Card Stud. Bass was an active leader at Clinton High, even getting voted class vice president during his junior year, as well as naturally excelling in math and science. But singing enveloped the young man's life at this time. Bass would later say that high school seemed like a blur to him, except for the singing, which would soon change his life and career plans forever.
The shift began in 1995 with a call during his junior year of high school from another aspiring singer named Justin Timberlake and his mother, Lynn Harless. Timberlake was part of a vocal group that needed a deep-voiced singer after one of their members, Jason Galasso, had dropped out. It just so happened that Timberlake and Bass shared the same vocal coach at one point, and it was that teacher who had recommended the Mississippi native to audition for the group. Bass auditioned in front of Timberlake and fellow bandmates JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick, and Joey Fatone. Manager Lou Pearlman also sat in on the audition, and immediately after hearing the young man sing, accepted Bass into the group.
With their fifth member intact, the boys named themselves 'N Sync and started work on their music and choreography. While he had been an established vocalist, Bass admitted he did not know how to dance before joining 'N Sync. Jan Boltz, the president of BMG's German division was ready to offer them a recording contract under one condition - they had to replace Bass because he struggled with the choreography. The other four members refused to let Bass go, and, along with their other manager Johnny Wright, convinced Boltz that the Mississippi singer would catch on quickly with his dancing. With Bass' dance moves improving by the minute, 'N Sync packed their bags and moved to Munich, Germany to record their first album with BMG. They toured Europe, not only to promote their group, but also to finesse their vocal and performing skills. Because Bass was still a minor during their European trek, his mother joined them as his legal guardian.
Two years after Bass got the call from Timberlake, 'N Sync was signed to American record label RCA. The group had garnered a European fan base and was ready to take the U.S. by storm. Their first single "I Want You Back," released in January 1998, was a slice of pure pop heaven after years of grunge rock and hip-hop had dominated the music scene. Their debut album started off slow in the Billboard 200 chart, but a concert aired on the Disney Channel in July 1998 helped boost sales and turned 'N Sync into teen heartthrobs virtually overnight. With their album reaching #9 on Billboard, the second single "Tearin' Up My Heart" was released. MTV's "Total Request Live" gave 'N Sync even more boost after the group's videos got regular airplay on the countdown show. After constant touring, including an opening spot in Janet Jackson's "Velvet Rope Tour" in 1998, 'N Sync's debut album sold over 11 million copies and was certified platinum by the RIAA.
After a guest appearance on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (ABC, 1996-2003) and a collaboration with Gloria Estefan on the song "Music of My Heart" for the 1999 film of the same name, Bass and his bandmates became poster boys for pop music's strong emergence in the late nineties, along with the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera. Even at the height of their popularity, 'N Sync went through a highly publicized legal battle with Pearlman, after the group claimed his record company, Trans Continental, defrauded them of over 50 percent of their earnings. 'N Sync took the media mogul to court and threatened to leave and sign a new contract with Jive Records. Pearlman countersued the band for breach of contract, although the injunction was thrown out of court, and 'N Sync won back their earnings. Bass later described the experience of being an overnight sensation while going through legal problems as "the death of my own innocence" in his autobiography, Out Of Sync.
Moving to Jive Records gave the group the creative and financial freedom to go full force with their music. In March 2000, the group released No Strings Attached, which sold an impressive 1.1 million copies its first day of release, and became the fastest-selling record of all time, thanks to infectious singles and clever music videos like "Bye, Bye, Bye" - a tongue-in-cheek reference to leaving Pearlman. Their next album, Celebrity, released in 2001, gave 'N Sync the second highest first-week album sales ever, with their previous album holding the top spot, and made them an unstoppable force in music, eliciting ear-piercing screams from teenage fans everywhere they went. Rolling Stone magazine even went so far as to label 'N Sync "the biggest band in the world" in 2001, fueled by their mega-selling, high-energy "Pop Odyssey Tour."
Celebrity went on to sell over 56 million albums worldwide, a sure sign that 'N Sync's train was unstoppable. However, in 2002 - less than a year after their stellar success on the charts - the teen dream quintet announced they were taking a hiatus - during which Timberlake, the curly-haired, falsetto-voiced front man, started work on a solo album. Bass felt betrayed by Timberlake's decision to pursue a solo career, relinquishing all hope of a reunion. "I felt heartbroken," he said. The Mississippi native, however, was not resting on 'N Sync's success; choosing to pursue his own projects, starting with Free Lance Entertainment, a music management company he founded in 2000. Bass kept his company small, employing his parents and sister as talent scouts. He also worked on childhood friend Meredith Edwards' album as the company's first release.
Bass surprised even his most loyal fans when he pursued an acting career. He guest-starred on "7th Heaven" (WB/CW, 1996-2007) in 2000 as a love interest for the character Lucy, played by Beverly Mitchell. A year later, he was cast in the leading role for the film "On The Line," a 2001 romantic comedy that starred Emmanuelle Chriqui and his 'N Sync bandmate, Fatone. Even though it relied on 'N Sync's teen fanbase for ticket sales, the movie only grossed $4.3 million domestically and was considered a flop. Film critic Roger Ebert said the plot was contrived, although he did praise Bass and Chriqui's onscreen chemistry. In his autobiography, Bass later expressed his believe that because the film was released a week after the September 11th terrorist attacks, there was no way the country would have gone out to see the movie after the devastating event.
After a successful run as one fifth of one of modern music's biggest pop groups, Bass decided it was time to fulfill his childhood dream of going to outer space. In August 2002, he started cosmonaut training in Star City, Russia after he was offered to host a competition show titled "The Big Mission," where contestants battled to win a seat on a Russian Soyuz space capsule. Production of the show fell apart and the creators thought shooting a documentary about a celebrity going through space training was a better idea. Bass became the primary candidate for the project after producers learned about his childhood dream of space travel. He trained for several months and even underwent heart surgery to correct cardiac arrhythmia - a condition discovered after the singer collapsed after a 1999 'N Sync concert - to receive his cosmonaut certification. On Oct. 30, 2002, the pop star was scheduled to board the Soyuz TMA-1 mission to fly to the International Space Station. Unfortunately, financial sponsorship fell through; first by the original creators of the game show, then by MTV, who initially agreed but then backed out due to "payment, insurance and indemnification issues." Other sponsors followed MTV's lead and backed out as well, including one brand that worried their image would be tarnished if Bass possibly died during the mission. The singer's dream was shattered when he was rejected from the program and was replaced on the flight by Russian cosmonauts. Even though his own space mission did not come to fruition, Bass used his star status to inspire children about reaching for the stars. In 2003, the singer joined World Space Week as their Youth Spokesman, where he visited high schools to talk about space exploration and the importance of math and science. He also joined the National Space Society, a non-profit advocacy group, serving as one of its Board of Governors. In 2007, Bass told GQ magazine that he would never give up his dream of going to space.
Hollywood took more notice of Bass after he made headlines with his space mission. He acted in a few more projects, including the comedies "Zoolander" (2001) and "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" (2007), as well as the Wes Craven thriller "Cursed" (2005). He also did voice work in tween programs such as "Kim Possible" (Disney Channel, 2002-07) and "Higglytown Heroes" (Disney Channel, 2004- ). His singing and acting skills led him to a starring role in the Broadway production of "Hairspray," where he played the charming TV host Corny Collins from August 2007 to January 2008. His music company folded after a few years, but Bass had other production endeavors in mind. He formed his first film production company in 2001 called "A Happy Place," which then changed its name to "Bacon & Eggs" and produced the TV movie "Lovewrecked" (ABC Family, 2007), starring Amanda Bynes.
The question of Bass' sexuality loomed over everyone's minds for most of his career, but no one dealt with the issue more than the singer himself. He dated women until he was 22, including "Boy Meets World" (ABC, 1993-2000) actress Danielle Fishel, but kept his personal relationships out of the spotlight for several years. Tabloids and celebrity bloggers like Perez Hilton blasted Bass for staying "in the closet," saying he was doing a disservice to the LGBT community for hiding his true colors. In July 2006, Bass appeared on the cover of People magazine - smiling next to the headline "I'm Gay." The singer finally spoke out about his sexuality, silencing his biggest critics and giving a face to the issue of coming out. "I'm not ashamed," Bass said. "The main reason I wanted to speak my mind was that (the rumors) really were starting to affect my daily life. Now it feels like it's on my terms." The response to Bass' announcement was beyond positive. Though his family was shocked initially (he told them in private first), his friends - including his 'N Sync bandmates - supported him 110 percent. Months before he came out, Bass' courtship with model and "Amazing Race" (CBS, 2001- ) winner Reichen Lehmkuhl was followed by the press, and the couple revealed their relationship after the People article. They split several months later, and Bass briefly dated Brazilian model Pedro Andrade, then New York hair stylist Ben Thigpen.
The details of Bass' private life finally unfolded in the pages of his 2007 autobiography, Out of Sync, including two other relationships with men that he was able to hide from everyone. He also spoke out about his 'N Sync years and the agony of going through the group's legal battles with Pearlman, as well as their unspoken split during the height of their popularity. The People article also helped Bass move up to Hollywood's A-list, with invitations to appear as himself on TV shows like "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List" (Bravo, 2205- ), magazine covers, and even becoming a modern LGBT icon and advocate. In 2007, he formed a new production company named Lance Bass Productions, and pitched a reality television show to the LOGO network about forming and developing an all-gay boy band.
Bass' star status was fully cemented with a cameo appearance as himself in the blockbuster comedy "Tropic Thunder" (2008). After cheering on former bandmate Joey Fatone in season five, Bass threw his hat in the dance ring when he competed in season seven of ABC's megahit, "Dancing With the Stars." Rumors swirled before the season began that Bass was going to partner up with a professional male dancer - it would have been a first for the show - but the honor eventually went to "So You Think You Can Dance" (FOX, 2005- ) finalist and swing dance champion, Lacey Schwimmer.