AJ McLean Says He Thought Taylor Swift Had a "Dark Side" Until the Singer Left His "Mind Blown"

"It’s like: ‘OK, something’s gotta be off about you.'"

AJ McLean hosts a one night only "& Juliet" sing-along performance at Stephen Sondheim Theatre on May 16, 2024 in New York City.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

AJ McLean had some doubts about Taylor Swift and how genuinely nice she is...until he met her.

In an interview for the latest episode for the Getting Grilled with Curtis Stone podcast, the Backstreet Boys member said The Tortured Poets Department singer is "by far, in my opinion, one of the most grounded, humble performers ever" and to the point that he questioned just how real her persona actually is.

“It’s like: ‘OK, something’s gotta be off about you. There’s gotta be, like, a dark side,'" she said. "And there isn’t.”

Swift's genuine kindness was on full display, McLean said, when she met his 11-year-old daughter not once, not twice but "three times."

"The last time she met her, she remembered her name, which that, as a dad alone, catapulted her into the stratosphere for me," he explained.

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McLean recalled the moment he was backstage with his oldest daughter, Elliot—who used to go by Ava—at one of Swift's concerts.

"You know, we were backstage," he said. "(Swift) came back...and she's like: ‘Ava.’ And I was just like: ‘What? Mind blown.’”

McLean went on to explain the reason behind his 11-year-old daughter's name change (not that it is anyone's business, of course).

"My daughter changed her name to Elliott now: It's been Elliott for almost four years," he said. "Nothing to do with sexual preference or anything. She felt like her name wasn't unique, and she was watching Pete's Dragon one day and Elliott is the...dragon, so she wanted that name but with two T's. God forbid I spell it with one T. And she's been Elliott ever since."

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McLean says that he did tell his daughter that "if you wanna keep it, it's great, I support it, but we legally have to go to the courthouse and change it."

"And when I said that, she's like: 'Well, maybe I'll keep it for a couple more years and then I'll go back to Ava."

In a 2022 interview with People, McLean affirmed his daughter's right to be called whatever name she likes most, telling the publication her decision is "a personal choice."

"It is her body, it's her name, it's her everything. And she's still Ava. She'll always be Ava to me," he told the publication at the time. "But at the same time, whatever reasoning it is, that's hers, and I'm going to support it a million percent, my wife will too."

McLean shares two daughters with his estranged wife, Rochelle.

Danielle Campoamor
Weekend Editor

Danielle Campoamor is Marie Claire's weekend editor covering all things news, celebrity, politics, culture, live events, and more. In addition, she is an award-winning freelance writer and former NBC journalist with over a decade of digital media experience covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mortality, gun violence, climate change, politics, celebrity news, culture, online trends, wellness, gender-based violence and other feminist issues. You can find her work in The New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, New York Magazine, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, TODAY, Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, Mother Jones, Prism, Newsweek, Slate, HuffPost and more. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their two feral sons. When she is not writing, editing or doom scrolling she enjoys reading, cooking, debating current events and politics, traveling to Seattle to see her dear friends and losing Pokémon battles against her ruthless offspring. You can find her on X, Instagram, Threads, Facebook and all the places.