When the Backstreet Boys were at the height of their fame, girls from all over the globe wanted to marry them. Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, Kevin Richardson and A.J. McLean were all teen idols of their era. And in the end, five lucky ladies actually did get to be their spouses. Not everyone knows the details of the Backstreet Wives, but here are their stories.
The Backstreet Boys were massively successful in the ’90s. Their rise to fame was meteoric and even now – 20 years down the line – they’re still huge. Worldwide, the group has shifted over 130 million records, which no other boy band has been able to achieve. Yet how did they go from this to devoted family men?
The Backstreet Boys seemingly lived a rock and roll lifestyle as young men. And that included dating. “I was 17 years old and had everything at my fingertips – all the girls I wanted,” Nick Carter reminisced in the 2015 documentary about the rise of the band, Show ’Em What You’re Made Of.
The Backstreet Boys had their images everywhere by the end of the ’90s. Fans could, if they so wished, purchase clothing, keychains, pillows and more featuring their favorite band members. But the Boys didn’t want to live out the rest of their youth as teen idols – they wanted to be taken seriously as a band.
As time went on, cracks began to show in the foundations of the Backstreet Boys. In October 1999 they left their record label, Jive. Not long after that, A.J. McLean checked into a rehab clinic and slowly the band began to split. First Carter embarked on a solo career and then Kevin Richardson left the group.
Yet nothing could keep the Backstreet Boys down in the end. They released their 2007 album Unbreakable without Richardson and it still sold some 81,000 copies in just its first week. Their next album, 2009’s This Is Us, was also a success, coming in at number 9 on the Billboard 200.
Richardson couldn’t stay away from the band for too long. In November 2008 he appeared on stage with the rest of the band at the Palladium in L.A. And two years later, in October 2010 he went on The Oprah Winfrey Show with his former bandmates and performed with them again.
By April 2012 Richardson had officially joined the band once more. And the following year the Backstreet Boys celebrated their 20th anniversary – and they did so in style. They got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and they even saw April 22 designated as Backstreet Boys Day.
In July 2013 the band released their eighth studio album, In a World Like This. It quickly shot to the top five in the U.S. and Canada. All in all, 2013 was a big year for the band, as they also appeared in the movie This Is the End and performed for President Barack Obama at Christmas.
And it seems that no matter what, the Backstreet Boys aren’t going away. In 2017 they began a residency in Las Vegas titled Backstreet Boys: Larger than Life. It’s an apt title, given that their lives have been utterly extraordinary ever since the band got started. But luckily, they all have their wives now to help keep them down to earth.
Leighanne Wallace, wife of Brian Littrell
Brian Litrell met Leighanne Wallace in 1997 when both were filming the video for “As Long as You Love Me.” She was an actress who had appeared in movies like Olive Juice and Megalodon and she had been asked to play Donna in the music video. It was apparently love at first sight and the pair were married in September 2000.
In the first years of their marriage, the pair experienced a near-miss. On the fateful day of September 11, 2001, Wallace had planned to fly back to Los Angeles along with the band’s set carpenter Daniel Lee. At the last minute, however, she cancelled in order to spend more time with Littrell. Lee and his fellow passengers were killed when their plane was sent crashing into the World Trade Center.
The event shook up Littrell tremendously. But the following day the Backstreet Boys continued touring and performed at the Air Canada Center in Toronto. There, Littrell gave a speech about what had happened and led the audience in a moment of silence for Lee and all the other victims of 9/11.
In November 2002 Littrell and Wallace had a son named Baylee. But unfortunately, life threw yet another obstacle in their path. As a child, Baylee was diagnosed with a rare condition known as Kawasaki Disease, which was terrifying for the new parents. Thankfully, the young boy made a full recovery.
Now Baylee is following in the footsteps of his dad and releasing his own music. And his parents appear to be more in love than ever. In September 2018 they celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary. And Littrell made a post on Instagram in dedication to his wife, writing, “This is 18 minutes late… but it’s also 18 years of greatness… love you.”
Lauren Kitt, wife of Nick Carter
Believe it or not, Nick Carter once dated famous socialite and reality star Paris Hilton. But she wasn’t the one for him. The love of his life turned out to be Lauren Kitt, a fitness instructor. In February 2013 he asked her to marry him and she said yes. They got hitched on April 12, 2014, in Santa Barbara.
Carter had been completely taken by surprise when he met Kitt. “I didn’t want to be in a relationship at all and then all of a sudden… smack, right in my face,” he told Rolling Stone in September 2014. “And six years later, now I have someone that I truly love and care about, that I want to be the best for.”
In October 2014 Fab Fit Fun magazine asked Kitt what it was like to be the spouse of a former teen idol. “I don’t look at Nick as ‘Nick Carter,’ the Backstreet Boy,” she answered. “I’m married to an incredibly kind, intelligent and talented loving man. He makes me laugh and we are best friends.”
In October 2015 the media discovered that Carter and Kitt were expecting their first baby. They were told the baby’s gender – it was a boy – live on the TV show Dancing with the Stars. In April 2016 Kitt gave birth to the child at her and Carter’s home and they named him Odin Reign.
Carter and Kitt have been through a lot together. In 2018 Kitt became pregnant with a second child but suffered a miscarriage. Carter revealed the news to his fans on Twitter. But they pulled through and they’re still happily married. Kitt’s Instagram is full of sweet pictures of her beloved husband and son.
Kirsten Willits, wife of Kevin Richardson
The story of Richardson and Willits is a very romantic one indeed. They first met when both of them worked at Disney World. There, Willits was an actress for Belle, the heroine of the famous love story Beauty and the Beast. Richardson did dinner theater and occasionally played Disney heroes. The two realized that they were meant to be.
Even Richardson finding fame and fortune with the Backstreet Boys didn’t split them apart. Willits appeared in the band’s video for “I’ll Never Break Your Heart” and was a dancer when they performed at the American Music Awards in 1999. She also joined well-known dance troupe the Rockettes during that time.
In February 2000 fans of the Backstreet Boys had their hearts shattered, because two of the bandmates announced then that they were getting married. Brian Litterell was marrying Leighanne Wallis and Richardson was marrying Willits. Media sources have theorized that Richardson had proposed to Willits on Valentine’s Day.
Richardson and Willits married in June 2000 and then they planned to start a family. But obstacles were placed in their way. “Me and Kristin had our firstborn, Mason, with no issues at all,” Richardson told Entertainment Tonight in 2016. “Then when we tried for our second, it just wasn’t happening.”
“We couldn’t believe it. It was like, ‘Wow. Okay, so this is isn’t going to be easy. Maybe it’s not in the cards for us to have another child,’” Richardson said. “That was a realization that smacked us in the face.” But the couple did eventually get the happy ending they wanted. In July 2013 they had their second baby, Maxwell.
Rochelle Karidis, wife of A.J. McLean
A.J. McLean married stylist Rochelle Karidis in December 2011. He was pretty excited about the wedding, too. Before it took place he wrote on his Twitter account, “I really miss and love @rochelle_deanna you are my whole world and I cannot wait to spend my life with you. [Without you] here I am lost!”
The wedding was reportedly Moulin Rouge-themed and all of McLean’s bandmates showed up for it. Not only that, but apparently the first dance was to the hit Backstreet Boys song “I Want It That Way.” Romantically, the song opens with the lyrics “You are my fire / The one desire / Believe me when I say / I want it that way.”
Karidis and McLean ended up having two children together, both of them little girls. In November 2012 they had their first, naming her Ava Jaymes. And in March 2017 – having announced the pregnancy via Instagram a few months prior – the couple welcomed a second daughter called Lyric Dean.
In January 2018 Karidis threw her husband an L.A.-based, prom-themed bash for his 40th birthday party. “I couldn’t have imagined this prom in my wildest dreams,” McLean gushed to People magazine. “My wife killed it. She knew I had never had a prom and wanted to give that to me.”
McLean credits his wife and family with keeping him away from the rockstar lifestyle. “Are my kids and my wife a huge support and a huge inspiration? Yes, a hundred percent,” he told People in November 2018. “Before I was a dad, I never really understood why Brian [Littrell] and Kevin [Richardson]… wanted to rush back home after a tour was done.”
Leigh Boniello, wife of Howie Dorough
In August 2007 Howie Dorough told People all about his new fiancée Leigh Boniello and how he had proposed to her. “She wasn’t expecting it and I was quite nervous,” he said. “More nervous about proposing to her in front of 40 family and friends than about performing in front of 40,000 people onstage.”
Boniello had worked as a film executive and a real estate broker in her early life. But when she met Dorough in 2000 she was actually the website manager of the Backstreet Boys. In a way she was living many little girls’ dream – running a website about a popular boy band and then marrying one of them!
“He decided to pull a practical joke on me in front of my whole family,” Boniello told People of the engagement. “He acted like he forgot to give me one present for Christmas – it was in a large box.” The ring was a brilliant-cut diamond put alongside two smaller diamonds and set in platinum. And Donough had even asked her family for permission to wed.
The pair married in a conventional Catholic service on December 8, 2007. Then they began settling down with a family. In January 2009 Dorough announced to People that a baby was on the way. “I know [Leigh’s] going to be a great mother,” he said. “If she can take care of me, the biggest baby in the entire world, I think she’s going to be okay with the little one coming along.”
The first child, James Hoke Dorough, came along in May 2009. He got his middle name from Dorough’s father, who passed away in 2008. A few years later, in August 2012 the singer announced on Twitter that he was about to become a dad for the second time. Their next child was born in February the following year and now they’re all a happy family together.
Even though all five of them are married now and have children to raise, the Backstreet Boys are still going strong. They never faded away like some of their contemporaries did. Thanks to their talent and the loyalty of their fans, they’re the first ever boy band to reach the top of the American music charts in three separate decades.
But their biggest fans of all are their wives. The Backstreet Boys want people to know that, too. In January 2019 they released a new track called “No Place” and all their wives and children featured in the video. The lyrics went, “There ain’t no place, ain’t no place like you,” as sweet footage from their lives was played.
And in February 2019 all members of the Backstreet Boys and their wives took an awesome group picture for Instagram before going to the Grammys. It ended up getting over 205,000 likes. And it was also touching proof that despite all the ups and downs of fame, the band members and the women they’d married had all remained friends.
The Backstreet Boys have described their own relationship as being like a marriage. “We go to counseling, we talk things out,” Carter told Entertainment Tonight in February 2017. “It’s so funny – as time goes on, the issues kind of add up. But it’s like family.” And Littrell added, “We talk it, we box it out, and whatever we got to do, we get it out.”
Perhaps their successful marriages can even be traced back to their success as a band and friendship group? Whatever the case is, it’s heartwarming to see them all settled down. And the fans who once screamed for them are perhaps now doing the same. Hopefully all of them – band, wives and fans – will get to grow old together.