by Maddy Zollo Rusbosin | May 16, 2022

Catching Up with AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys

Flamingo sat down with the Palm Beach native to talk fashion, golf and going solo.

AJ McLean shows off Ro Ro Red from his nail polish collection. Photography by Andy Keilen/Ava Dean Beauty.

Throughout his nearly three-decades-long career with the Backstreet Boys, AJ McLean has been known for his soulful voice, boundary-pushing style, and outspoken advocacy for mental health, substance abuse, LGBTQ+ rights and more. We caught up with the 44-year-old Palm Beach native about his latest solo endeavors proving that he’s way more than just the group’s resident “bad boy.” 

Over the years, you’ve always had such a flair for fashion, so we were excited to hear about your latest apparel line, GOAT (Golf Over All Things). What was the impetus for it? 

AJ McLean: I’ve been farting around with this idea to do a golf clothing line for quite some time. I was in Osaka, Japan, two years ago, and I was with my security. We were waiting outside of the Supreme store, and it just hit me like a freaking tornado. I was like, “Oh my god, I have the name for my golf line.” As an amateur golfer—and I have a lot of friends that are amateur golfers—golf is life. It’s golf over all things. For me, that’s how it feels. Over any other sport, over anything in my life that I’ve dabbled in here and there, it’s always gone back to golf.

What sets GOAT apart from other golf lines? 

AJ McLean: To me, it’s not only a golf brand, but it’s also active leisure wear, because you usually wear these shirts with a nice pair of Jordans. You could literally wear it to the office, and you can wear it straight out on the golf course and right to dinner. The other thing that I take pride in with this particular brand is that—and I’ve been told by all my friends that are avid golfers both pro and non-pro—it’s the most comfortable clothing worn. It breathes. It doesn’t sweat. It stretches. It’s so comfortable and soft as a baby’s bottom. We’ve launched our first round, which is our signature three shirts. We’re going to finally introduce the women’s line as well as some long-sleeve options for the fall and winter. Also something I’m really proud of is, I want to bring back knickers. Back when golf originated in Scotland, knickers were the only thing that golfers wore. So we’re going to bring back knickers. 

Co-owners Josh Naranjo, left, and AJ McLean, right, with products from their brand Ava Dean.
I also know you have a nail polish line inspired by your daughters, tell me a little about that.

AJ McLean: I’ve been wearing polish for years. This particular brand, Ava Dean, this is for everybody. It’s for all genders, all races, all ages. Because this is inspired by my girls, this is a very family-based colorway. I’ve got my color. My wife has Ro Ro Red. My daughters have their colors, and we just released Ursula, which is named after my grandmother. Her favorite color was turquoise. The plan is to eventually build this into a complete beauty line. I’m talking about everything from eyeliner, mascara, foundation, lip glosses, lipstick shades, all of it. But the one thing that we really want to try to find that no one has been able to do is to make a foundation for both, that is unisex. 

Do you have any other solo projects in the works other than your recent single “Love Song Love”? 

AJ McLean: Yes. I am doing something very special in the form of an EP. It’s very much close to the chest. It’s under wraps right now, but I will say this much: I’m doing it for the fans. This is going to be something that they are going to lose their minds over, as well as talking about doing something special in the NFT space as well.  

I actually went to your very first solo venture, the Johnny No Name show at Orlando’s House Of Blues [Johnny No Name was McLean’s alter ego that he performed under when he wasn’t touring with the Backstreet Boys in the early 2000s].

AJ McLean: That was my 22nd birthday. There also might be something in that world coming back around. We might need to revitalize Johnny No Name.  

Click here to read more about how Orlando became the world’s boy-band epicenter