Though Jonathan Knight loves his life today, working as an HGTV host and as a member of the reunited music group New Kids on the Block, he recalls his first years in the group were highly stressful — so much so that he was the first to leave the group in 1994. Interviewed by fellow boy band alum Lance Bass of NSync for his new podcast, the “Farmhouse Fixer” host opened up about how much pressure he was under in the 80s and early 90s to pretend he wasn’t gay, and how hiding his truth took its toll.
Jonathan Knight Says Band Manager Told Him He Couldn’t Reveal He Was Gay
On the new “Frosted Tips” podcast, hosted by Bass and released on January 15, 2023, Knight — who was a teen when the group started — revealed that despite the incredible success of NKOTB, he constantly had to deal with the pressure of not being allowed to reveal he was gay.
“My manager knew I was gay,” he said. “He pulled me aside and he was like, ‘If anybody finds out, then your career is over, the New Kids’ career is over.’ My manager said, ‘My career is over, Sony’s gonna lose money.’ It was just so much pressure. Looking back, that’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody who is just trying to figure out the world themselves.”
Knight added, “He would always conveniently have another kid that was gay around so, you know, a few I hooked up with (and) a few I was just like, ‘No, not my type, get away from me.'”
Though Knight hadn’t formally come out to his family and friends, he said they always just knew he was gay. But that made him even more worried that someone, somewhere would spill his secret. The stress of that built up over time, he said.
“I loved being on stage, I loved being in front of crowds, I loved doing TV shows and stuff like that” he said. “And I think just as it went along, the stress built up and built up and built up. It was crazy.”
Knight said he was the first member to leave the group in 1994.
“There were a few reasons,” he said. “Number one, being a young gay kid, I was frustrated and wanted to get on with my own life. The other reason, it just felt like (NKOTB) was not going anywhere and I just wanted to be home.”
When the group reunited in 2008, Knight was relieved when his bandmates said they’d figured out he was gay long before and that it wasn’t a big deal to them. He didn’t feel the need to hide his sexual identity anymore, but he also didn’t want to come out publicly and make a big deal out of it.
He said on the podcast, “I didn’t want to. I was just living my life. You know, my brothers and sister didn’t say ‘Hey, Mom and Dad, we’re straight.’ You didn’t have to announce it. It wasn’t something I was hiding, (but) then it was like, ‘No, you have to make a statement.’ And that whole process was horrible.”
Though many — including Bass — thought that 80s pop star Tiffany had outed Knight in a TV interview, he said it was actually when an ex-boyfriend sold photos of them together to a tabloid that he felt forced to make a statement on the band’s website in 2011.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, his statement read in part, “Apparently the pre requisite to being a gay public figure is to appear on the cover of a magazine with the caption ‘I am gay.’ I apologize for not doing so if this is what was expected! My belief is that you live your life by example, and not by a caption on a magazine! If there ever has been any confusion about my sexuality, then you are someone that doesn’t even know me!”
Today, Knight — who is married to his longtime love Harley Rodriguez — is amazed by how much things have changed, noting that people in the entertainment industry no longer need to worry about hiding who they are and who they love.
But he realizes that it’s still not quite so easy for some people, depending on where they live or how they were raised. On October 12, 2022, he penned a brief but powerful Instagram post for National Coming Out Day.
He wrote, “On this #nationalcomingoutday I head to bed knowing the struggles so many face. My life changed when I was able to live my authentic life! Come out when you feel you’re ready, and know life gets SO MUCH BETTER!! There is so much support and love out there. You are not alone!”
Jonathan Knight Reveals He & His Husband Tried to Start a Family
In the “Frosted Tips” podcast interview, Knight revealed that he and Rodriguez, whom he started dating in 2008, tried to start a family for several years, but the couple ran into too many roadblocks with donors and surrogates.
“We tried and we went through the journey for about five years and it just didn’t happen for us,” Knight said. “Going through the process is like ‘Today’s the day, the eggs are being implanted.’ You’re so excited and you’re so happy and then a week later it’s like no, you’re back to square one.”
Knight said that it was Latin pop star Ricky Martin, after he became a dad to twins in 2008, who inspired him to look into the possibility of having children as a gay couple.
“It’s funny because when Ricky Martin first had his twins…he wasn’t out, but there were rumors that he was gay,” he recalled. “And I was like, ‘Wait a minute, if he’s gay, how was he having these kids?’ And then it was just talking to all our good friends about ‘Yeah, well, you can go to an agency and you can get a surrogate and you can have eggs donated’ and all that stuff.”
Knight, 54, said he found it “really weird” to have to choose a woman to carry their child, but also “such a blessing” that IVF is a possibility for so many couples who can’t get pregnant. He is content, however, with the life they’ve created for themselves, including his hit HGTV show.
Knight and Rodriguez care for many animals on their Massachusetts property and are very close with Knight’s large family. In a 2018 Instagram post, Knight shared that they call it the “Gathering Farm” because so many loved ones gather and contribute to the goodness there.
He wrote, “Today my nephew bottled honey from the bees he’s been caring for these past 3 years…my sisters come up to raid the vegetable garden and help with weeding…My sister-in-law left her kids behind for a one night stay to help and recharge…Mom is always here taking care of her 3 horses and mowing… my nephews are always here to lend a hand…”
He concluded the post by writing, “Imperfect, yet very perfect for us to ‘gather’ and enjoy life together with family and friends.”