Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean and DWTS Partner Cheryl Burke to Launch New Podcast
Backstreet Boys' AJ McLean and his season 29 Dancing with the Stars partner Cheryl Burke are launching a podcast together!
On their new iHeartRadio podcast, Pretty Messed Up — which premieres Tuesday — McLean, 42, and Burke, 36, will candidly discuss their DWTS journey together, life, love, ups and downs, friends and frenemies, as well as mental health, alongside their fellow host Rene Elizondo Jr.
The new project will allow McLean, Burke and Elizondo Jr. the opportunity to give fans an intimate look at who they are outside of life in the spotlight.
The idea to start Pretty Messed Up was born after a Zoom call earlier this summer. McLean and Burke met in Germany over 20 years ago and have been friends since.
"Pretty Messed Up is about really getting to know who we are behind the glitz and glam, behind the ABC family oriented type show where I'm heavily edited," Burke told PEOPLE of the podcast.
"With this podcast, it's going to be so nice to just be who I am. I'm sure fans have definitely seen a little bit of this, a little bit of that or maybe read my book … but now you're really going to see me," she continued. "What you see is what you get with me. Whether you like it or not, that's who I am. I'm like an open book. I cannot lie. I cannot not talk."
McLean echoed similar sentiments, saying: "A lot has been said about me and my journey through recovery and sobriety, my ups and downs, my highs and lows, but there's still so much left that not a lot of people know about. I've compared myself to an onion — there are a lot more layers to me than anyone really knows about."
"My goal is, if I can help another person out there or inspire to help them feel comfortable to be themselves and to be raw, real and exposed, then I've done my job. You're going to hear from me, pretty much me walking around in my birthday suit level of honesty," McLean said.
Added Burke of mental health issues: "I think we can all say we have them. It's great that we can finally talk about it."
Elizondo Jr., who has collaborated with Janet Jackson, co-writing 37 songs on three albums over the years, shared that he too is hoping to inspire listeners through the podcast.
"We're born very pure and uncomplicated and somewhere through life we become complicated, and if we're lucky enough we learn to uncomplicate ourselves again," said Elizondo Jr., McLean’s longtime friend and life coach.
"My journey, and I know AJ's journey coincide where we really hit the skids emotionally, mentally, physically and have learned to get back on track and not over complicate life. Doing this podcast is being able to share our experience, strength and hope that others may be going through some of the same tough times and be inspired," he added.
While McLean is gearing up to share intimate parts of his life with fans, the former boy band member has long been open about his struggles.
Back in 2018, McLean opened up to PEOPLE about his battle with addiction and how he stays on track when it comes to his sobriety.
“You know, it’s interesting about sobriety with family and with kids — you still have to put yourself first, and that’s been a real big struggle for me,” McLean admitted. “Look, I have no shame in saying, I’ve relapsed over the past year. It’s no secret that this is a disease, and that it’s a daily struggle.”
“One of the best things I was told, from my sponsor, from my friends, is the only way around is through,” he told PEOPLE. “And sometimes, you’re just going to have the worst days possible. But if you surround yourself with a good support group, if you go to meetings, if you talk to other addicts … you have to make it a lifestyle, you truly do.”
The new project also comes after a milestone in Burke's life as the star tied the knot with her longtime boyfriend Matthew Lawrence last year. The couple married at the Fairmont Grand del Mar in San Diego, California, PEOPLE confirmed exclusively at the time.
"Matt brings out the best in me," Burke told PEOPLE. "He enjoys every moment and that helps me appreciate life even more."
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please contact the SAMHSA substance abuse helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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