Joe Jonas Exposes the Dark Side of Disney Fame

In a tell-all essay, the singer details all the ways the corporation controlled his life as a member of The Jonas Brothers

The Internet is dropping its collective jaw over Joe Jonas' tell-all Vulture article. Following the break-up of his band The Jonas Brothers, the 24-year-old musician decided to come clean about life in the Disney fame machine. Along the way, he dropped some serious bombshells about drugs, groupies and Demi Lovato.

The two juiciest revelations in Joe's essay are that he lost his virginity at age 20, and that he first tried smoking marijuana as a teenager under peer pressure from Lovato and Miley Cyrus. He also talks about Demi's drug abuse at the time of her 2010 breakdown, which is something the singer herself has admitted only recently. (Initially, she talked only about going to rehab for eating disorders and anxiety.)

So those are the things, obviously, that have grabbed the media's attention. But it's worth reading the essay in its entirety, because the bigger picture is much more shocking than one or two scandalous details.

Joe begins the essay by talking about how he and his brother Kevin started making music to back up their little brother Nick, a singing prodigy. They did it for the love of it, then were signed by a record exec who knew their father. Soon the teenagers were touring in a van with their dad, playing to audiences that were often tiny and hostile.

Then Disney entered the picture. They provided the Jonases with pre-written songs; they fed them cheesy dialogue for their sitcom; and they refused to allow them to be seen kissing girls or growing facial hair. In exchange for fame, the boys were locked into a permanent adolescence, and weren't allowed to make any decisions for themselves.

"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," Joe writes. "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."

Joe claims he did very little in the way of partying, and he was scared even to hook up with groupies, because the band was so frightened of their image being ruined. He does admit, however, to making out with fans a few times, as well as fellow Disney stars.

The most illuminating parts of the essay are about how the Jonas Brothers' "official story" didn't line up with reality. Take their infamous promise rings: they started wearing them at very young ages after a church event, and were unprepared for the media's interest in them. Those rings turned into a symbol of how the Jonases believed in abstinence before marriage, when in fact, the brothers simply hadn't thought that hard about it.

Another story was about a fan who semi-stalked the brothers, to the point where they had to occasionally say "please leave us alone." One of those brush-offs happened in a public place, the fan broke down in tears, and the press ran a story about how the Jonas Brothers despise their own fans. "The hard thing about dealing with out-of-control fans is that you don’t want to be the bad guy and you don’t want to disappoint them, but sometimes that ends up happening," Joe acknowledges.

Toward the end of the article, he talks about the long-simmering break-up of the band, and hints at the resentment he feels about letting his art be controlled by a corporation.

"Now that I’m 24 and have control of my life, I’m going back to the drawing board. ... I’m genuinely excited because now I can go back to the studio with those people who I used to work with," Jonas writes. "I don’t have to rely on anyone else’s opinion, whether good or bad, and hear them say, 'No, no, you can’t go write with them. That’s too weird for us.' Because weird works. Look at Lorde."

It's fascinating to think that the Jonas Brothers might have been making a completely different kind of music, were they not "discovered" by Disney. And it's heartbreaking to hear how confused, fearful and miserable the brothers were in the prime years of their career. Most of all, it's impressive that Joe Jonas is willing to kick away the PR machine so completely. If only he'd been brave enough to do it while the band was still together.

At least one other ex-Disney star admires his candor. Lovato tweeted this on Monday:

Donna Kaufman is a freelance writer and iVillage contributor. Find her on Twitter and Google+

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