You think you know…but you have no idea. Now that the Jonas Brothers are officially a thing of the past, Joe Jonas is shedding his squeaky-clean Disney image for good and telling all about what went down behind the scenes of his very public coming-of-age. In a new essay for the Dec. 9 issue of New York magazine, the 24-year-old singer opens up about losing his much-talked-about virginity at age 20, smoking weed with Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, and feeling trapped by his life as a Disney superstar. See other Disney stars transform from cute to sexy.
"Disney is great at creating fame," he writes in the essay. "They've done it with so many pop stars and young actors, from Hilary Duff to the High School Musical crew."
That fame came with strings attached, though. "I had to shave every day because they wanted me to pretend like I was 16 when I was 20 (when the show was done, I cut my hair off and grew as much of a beard as I could)," he recalls of filming the sitcom Jonas with brothers Kevin and Nick. "We went along with it at the time, because we thought Disney was our only real shot, and we were terrified that it could all be taken away from us at any moment."
They had reasons to be afraid. When Vanessa Hudgens found herself the subject of a nude photo scandal in 2007, Disney executives came up with a plan to "keep her on lockdown," Jonas writes. "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," he says. " 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."
Their immense fame compounded the problem. Personal decisions — like how and when they wanted to lose their virginity — became public fodder. "The topic that dominated news coverage of us for a long time was the whole promise-ring thing. We couldn't escape it," he tells the mag. "It started when I was really young — I must have been 10 or 11. There's a program people do in some churches called True Love Waits, where you wait for marriage to have sex. Kevin and I decided to join — Nick tried it later. Fast-forward a few years, we've started playing music and we're working with Disney and we have these rings."
He continues: "I remember this interview with this guy whose entire agenda was to focus on the rings. He kept pushing the subject, and when we insisted that we didn't want to talk about it, he told us, 'I can write whatever I want,' which terrified us. That's the thing: We didn't know any better, and we just wanted to make people happy. Now I know that I don't have to answer any questions I don't want to. Like, why do you even care about my 15-year-old brother's sex life?"
Jonas insists it was never his or his brothers' intention to be the poster boys for abstinence. So a few years ago, they decided to take their rings off. "I lost my virginity when I was 20," the star — whose exes include Ashley Greene, Demi Lovato, and Taylor Swift — writes. "I did other stuff before then, but I was sexually active at 20. I'm glad I waited for the right person, because you look back and you go, 'That girl was bats–t crazy. I'm glad I didn't go there.'"
Jonas declines to specify which of his former girlfriends falls into that "bats–t crazy" category. "I genuinely don't have any resentment against any of my exes. So I'm not going to disparage anyone I was in a relationship with — only I might put it in my music a little bit, and hint at it, and tease it here and there, just enough for the fans and the people who really know the story," he says. "But I'm not going to openly say, 'Yeah, actually, this person is a bitch, and she did this to me.' I don't feel the need to do that to sell records."
(That may be a veiled reference to ex-girlfriend Swift, whom he famously dumped in a brief phone call. The country-pop singer has written several songs about her ill-fated romance with the former Disney star, including "Forever and Always" and "You're Not Sorry.")
"One relationship that meant a lot to fans was the one I had with Demi Lovato, who I've known for years," Jonas writes. "We had been friends forever, we were both Disney kids, and because we played a couple in the Camp Rock Disney Channel specials — and fans liked seeing us together — we eventually dated for a month. I really got to know her and got to see the ins and outs of what she was struggling with, like drug abuse. I felt like I needed to take care of her, but at the same time I was living a lie, because I wasn't happy but felt like I had to stay in it for her, because she needed help. I couldn't express any of that, of course, because I had a brand to protect."
He goes on: "It was an insane situation to be in. Things kept building up, and Demi ended up punching a girl in the face on a plane, because she thought the girl was blaming her for something. Everybody gasped, and the girl just started bleeding. That's when her team and her family told her, 'You need to go into rehab.' I remember being in South America, and fans immediately jumped to the conclusion that we kicked her off the 2010 tour, and they just hated on us for it."
Lovato had a big impact on Jonas, in more ways than one. "The first time I smoked weed was with Demi and Miley," he reveals. "I must have been 17 or 18. They kept saying, 'Try it! Try it!' so I gave it a shot, and it was all right. I don't even smoke weed that often anymore. I was caught drinking when I was 16 or 17, and I thought the world was going to collapse. But I was in another country, and it was legal there. My 21st birthday, I fell down a flight of stairs. I was unconscious that time, and my whole team was scared to death that somebody was going to get a picture. Now I appreciate wine or a vodka-soda at the end of the day every once in a while."
Jonas also opens up about the Jonas Brothers' recent split. "There were days when I wanted to give up sometimes. When it all felt too overwhelming and exhausting," he says. "But my brothers helped me get through a lot."
That said, the trio clashed over a lot of things. "The Jonas Brothers' breakup was going on for a lot longer than a lot of people thought. We hit a place where we just weren't jelling on the same things, and we didn't want to become a band that was worried about the fact that people didn't understand how cool we were," he explains. "The whole situation was breaking us up as a family, and we ultimately felt like we were holding each other back. I wanted to go sexier with a video, for example, and Kevin wasn't comfortable with that, for his reasons. I mean, he's married, and I get that. Nick also had a louder voice than me and Kevin when it came to music and major decisions — he took a leadership role in the band, which got to us after a while."
Things came to a head a few months ago. "That was the first time we were really honest with one another about a lot of stuff we weren't happy with. The fight got loud. I was screaming," he shares. "When Nick presented the idea of closing a chapter and moving on, I freaked out. I didn't know whether to pick up and leave or just punch something, because I was furious. I'd spent so long working with my brothers on this band, and in my mind, it felt like we were just giving up. It didn't make sense to me."
These days, though, he feels free for the first time. "Now that I'm 24 and have control of my life, I'm going back to the drawing board," he writes. "I've been through a s–t-ton of stuff, but I'm genuinely excited because now I can go back to the studio with those people who I used to work with."
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