Joe Jonas, now 24, recounts his time as a band member of the Jonas Brothers and his life under the shadow of Disney teen idol-dom.
Being a part of a company like that comes with certain expectations. Not overtly, but there was a subtle vibe. 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. We’d hear execs talking about it, and they would tell us that they were so proud of us for not making the same mistakes, which made us feel like we couldn’t ever mess up. 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.
We were just kids. That’s the reality. We were frightened little kids. So you got all this responsibility that’s foisted upon you and you’re expected to be perfect. I went through media training, and I hated it. They’d teach you how to change the subject, whenever you were asked an uncomfortable question, by saying something like, “Oh, that reminds me of my dog! I have a great story about my dog!” Playing dumb is the best way of getting out of anything. We also had a strategy for who would take which kinds of questions. If it was a serious question, Nick would answer it. If it was lighthearted, Kevin would. Nick and I took questions related to our music and explaining what certain songs meant. We even did a Good Housekeeping story with our mom where we were wearing these horrible pastels. It makes me cringe just to think about it.
Disney made us more famous than we ever knew we could be. During concerts, when we’d want to play a new song or have an intimate moment, the screaming could be so overwhelming that we’d have to tell the crowd to calm down and enjoy the moment. It could get scary, too: We did a meet-and-greet in Spain, and like 100,000 people showed up and we ended up being chased through a shopping mall. It felt like a zombie apocalypse.
There were the moments when I’d walk into my hotel room only to find a girl I didn’t know standing there. For the record, we didn’t have the traditional rock-and-roll experience. We were kids working with Disney, so finding a girl in our hotel room didn’t feel like an open invitation. This isn’t 1986, and I’m not in a hair-metal band. It felt like a problem we had to solve without it getting us into trouble. There was this time in South America where a hotel staff member snuck his kid into my room. I don’t know what they were hoping would happen, but security showed her out.
Really interesting account and revealing glimpse of what life is like for Disney stars behind-the-curtain.