Lance Bass: 'I'm Gay'
07/27/2006 AT 12:00 AM EDT
"I knew that I was in this popular band, and I had four other guys' careers in my hand, and I knew that if I ever acted on it or even said [that I was gay], it would overpower everything," says Bass, confident and relaxed as he spoke about his sexual orientation for the first time in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE's Marisa Laudadio. "I didn't know: Could that be the end of 'N Sync? So I had that weight on me of like, 'Wow, if I ever let anyone know, it's bad.' So I just never did."
Now, after years of keeping his personal life private, the 27-year-old Bass – the son of Diane, 55, a middle-school teacher, and Jim, 56, who works in real estate – is publicly revealing what he first shared with his friends, then his shocked family. "He took years to really think about how he was going to tell everyone," says his close buddy Fatone, 29. "I back him up 100 percent." Adds Bass's longtime pal, actress Christina Applegate: "I've always accepted him as who he is. It's about his own serenity at this point."