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Bass, Lance (b. 1979)  
 
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Singer Lance Bass gained fame as a member of the popular boy band *NSync. In more recent years he has also become an actor and producer. Since coming out in 2006, he has spoken on behalf of glbtq rights.

A native of Mississippi, born May 4, 1979 in Laurel, Bass spent his earliest years in nearby Ellisville before the family settled in the town of Clinton. Bass called his family "a completely traditional Southern" one. They were active members of the Southern Baptist Church. Leisure activities included pheasant-hunting with his father and grandfather.

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Bass's childhood had a touch of the exotic as well: at the age of nine, on a family trip to visit a great-uncle who lives near Cape Canaveral, Florida, he witnessed a space launch and immediately began to dream of becoming an astronaut. He has never lost his fascination with space flight nor his hope that he may someday experience it himself.

In his memoir, Out of Sync (2007), Bass described his childhood as "extremely happy." Nevertheless, he also stated that he recognized that he was "different" at around the age of five but that he knew his attraction to other males was considered wrong and even evil by his family, his church, and his community.

The fear of hurting his beloved parents and grandparents prevented him from coming out as a teenager. "I understood in my heart it wasn't wrong to be gay," he wrote. "But I also knew instinctively that I had to play the game in order to live in the world I was born into . . . . As for dating guys, it never even entered my thinking that such a thing was possible. At least not in Mississippi."

In Clinton, Bass sang in the Baptist church choir but also began to explore other musical horizons. He successfully auditioned for the Mississippi Showstoppers, a musical group sponsored by the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum that toured to state fairs and political fund-raisers. Bass and six of his fellow Showstoppers eventually formed a spin-off group called Seven Card Stud that performed at venues as far away as Washington, D.C. and New York City.

On his tours with Seven Card Stud, Bass "got [his] first exposure to the phenomenon of screaming girls." While he "loved the energy that was behind it," he did not experience the same sense of titillation as his band-mates, but he kept his feelings of difference to himself.

In his freshman year at Clinton High School, Bass was chosen to be a member of a prestigious show choir called Attaché. The young singers traveled to other states in the American South and Midwest for competitions with other Attaché choirs.

Despite spending time on the road, Bass was actively involved in school activities and was elected vice-president of his junior class.

During his junior year, Bass was invited to join a professional pop group called *NSync after Bob Westbrook, his vocal coach from the Showstoppers, recommended him when Justin Timberlake, another of Westbrook's former students, sought his help in finding a bass to complete the fledgling ensemble.

Bass's audition was successful, and he joined the band, which was centered in Orlando, Florida. His father, a medical technologist, took a job in that city while his mother and sister remained in Mississippi. The family had to sell their home in order to afford apartments in both states.

*NSync first made a name for themselves in Europe. Bass got on well with his band-mates, but two weeks into the tour, the homesick teenager asked his mother to come to his side. Without hesitation she quit her job and joined him.

The tour began in Stockholm, where *NSync recorded their first two singles, "I Want You Back" and "Tearin' Up My Heart." The band kept up a frenetic round of concerts, radio and television shows, and interviews with European teen magazines. They released their first album, *NSync, in Germany in 1997, and it immediately went to the top of the chart there.

*NSync's songs were beginning to get some play on American airwaves, and the band began touring in the United States. They did a one-hour special for the Disney Channel that featured both performances and interviews. The show was such a hit with the channel's young viewers that Disney ran it frequently for some six months.

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Lance Bass at a book signing in New York City in 2007.
  
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