Things are getting real for Joe Jonas, the recently-liberated leader of the oh-so-wholesome-but-now-defunct Jonas Brothers band. Along with the band’s breakup came the realization that their Disney-entrenched image was really just that: an image, created by executives to make the boys seem like a lily-white version of what they really were—kids growing up in the spotlight.
In a first-person story for New York Magazine’s December 9 issue, the sibling reveals juicy details on growing up Jonas, and here we’ve collected the most important points.
1. “My parents wanted me to be this role model that I didn’t always want to be. I preferred going to punk-rock shows.”
As the son of a pastor, Joe Jonas was pushed into a childhood of religion in the Assembly of God church. The family’s religious lifestyle came to a head when Joe was 14, and the family departed the congregation after a scandal involving stolen money tore the church apart. Joe says the concept of church “really upset me for a long time. I’m not religious in any way.”
2. “We weren’t put together by some Svengali but were definitely thrown into it.”
The band was born at their father’s suggestion after the boys wanted to help their brother Nick write songs for his own album. Their first name as a group, J3, was despised by all three brothers. They thought it sounded like a boy band.
3. “We got a sitcom called Jonas in which we played characters named Kevin, Joe, and Nick Lucas, members of an already-famous band. But the thing about the show was that some of the writing on it was terrible.”
In true Disney-fication form, the brothers Jonae were given a Disney sitcom once their young fan base exploded. Joe describes the show as “weird slapstick humor that only a 10-year-old would laugh at.” Joe was forced to shave every day to pretend he was a 16-year-old boy—when he was 20.
4. “We were working with Disney in 2007 when the Vanessa Hudgens nude-photo scandal happened. We heard that she had to be in the Disney offices for a whole day because they were trying to figure out how to keep her on lockdown.”
The brothers were told how proud everyone was of them for not making the same choices as the High School Musical star. “We didn’t want to disappoint anyone—our parents, our fans, our employers—so we put incredible pressure on ourselves, the kind of pressure that no teenager should be under,” he says.
5. “We were frightened little kids.”
The brothers underwent serious media training to prevent the press from touching on any issues that could cast them in a negative light and made family-friendly media appearances, like a Good Housekeeping story with their mother, which Joe remembers because “we were wearing these horrible pastels. It makes me cringe just to think about it.”
6. “People were coming up to us, saying, ‘Thank you so much, I’m waiting because you guys are, too!’ And we just thought, No! That’s not what we’re about.”
Around age 10 or 11, the brothers started wearing promise rings to symbolize abstinence until marriage, and it wasn’t long before religious parents around the world began pointing to the Jonas Brothers as a way to get their kids on board. Consequently, “if a lyric was slightly sexual, someone at the record company would tell us we had to change it,” Joe says. He ditched his promise ring at age 20, when he lost his virginity.
7. “The first time I smoked weed was with Demi and Miley.”
Jonas says his fellow Disney stars, Demi Lovato (whom he dated briefly) and Miley Cyrus, convinced him to smoke marijuana. “I gave it a shot, and it was all right,” but after falling down a flight of stairs, unconscious, he recalls, “My whole team was scared to death that somebody was going to get a picture.”
8. “The Jonas Brothers’ breakup was going on for a lot longer than a lot of people thought.”
The end of the band wasn’t the sudden death the media made it out to be; it was actually building for quite some time. The situation exploded when the brothers got into a screaming argument, and Nick Jonas suggested disbanding. Fans acted as if they deserved an apology. “Some of them were mad that this was happening, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to take care of ourselves as family. And that’s fine. And that should be fine.”
Read the complete story on Joe Jonas here.