Dark secrets the Carter family tried to hide

The Carters were pop royalty in the late '90s. With heartthrob Nick Carter at the helm of the Backstreet Boys, and his baby brother Aaron earning the title of resident tween pop sensation, it seemed like nothing could stop them. But personal struggles, scandals, and family drama lurked just behind the glitz and glam, and tore this musical dynasty apart. Here are some of the dark secrets the Carter family tried to hide.

Two arrests hurt Nick's reputation

As the Backstreet Boys' youngest member, Nick's image as the cute boy next door was tarnished following two arrests in the mid-2000s.

In 2002, 21-year-old Nick found himself in a heated argument with a female as a brawl broke out at a Tampa nightclub. During an appearance on MTV's Total Request Live, the "I Want It That Way" singer claimed to be "in the wrong place at the wrong time" (via People). But after allegedly refusing repeated requests by the police to quiet his dispute and leave the bar, the pop star was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.

"I ain't a bad person. I've never been in trouble my whole life," Nick told host Carson Daly. "I was basically in tears almost. I can't get too into it, but basically I can tell you I did not do anything wrong, and I know that for a fact….If I disrespected a cop in any way, I, you know, apologize."

In 2005, the "Incomplete" singer was arrested again—this time for alleged DUI in Southern California. According to People, he failed a sobriety test after being pulled over. "Nick Carter deeply regrets the current situation," his rep released in a statement. "He is on doctor prescribed medication and was unaware of its interaction possibilities."

Aaron's debts led to bankruptcy

Aaron made headlines when he filed for bankruptcy in 2013. "This is not a negative thing," his publicist told CNN at the time. "It's actually very positive. It's him doing what he needs to do to move forward. The bulk of the debt is from over 10 years ago when he was a minor and not in control of his finances."

As the "Leave It Up To Me" singer clarified on Where Are They Now – Extra in 2016, "There was a lot of neglect on my parents' part. They didn't do a lot of things right" (via Huffington Post). "Under the Coogan Law, [my parents] were supposed to be putting 15 percent of my money into my Coogan Account," he explained. "I got $2 million when I turned 18 years old. I should have had at least $20 million in my account." At the time, Aaron realized he owed $4 million in tax liens.

But he doesn't hold any grudges. "I don't want people thinking my parents broke child-labor laws," Aaron told GQ. "So I was like, 'I can handle this.' I love my mom and dad, and they are responsible for giving me my career. And I still have one today. So I'll file for bankruptcy, and I'll pay 25 cents on the dollar for every cent I pay back."

Momager Jane was a nightmare

Jane Carter devoted her life to building her talented sons' careers, but her momager tendencies put even Kris Jenner to shame. "I sacrificed my whole entire life for that child and for the other child for the sake of that family," she said in the family's 2005 20/20 special. "I made sacrifices every day. I was willing to do it for them, for the family."  

But the Carter kids lost their mom in the process. "We were starved for that attention of a motherly figure," Nick said. Aaron agreed, adding, "I just want her to love me, you know? I just want her to be my mom. Is that too much to ask for?" And their sisters, B.J., Leslie, and Angel, grew resentful. As their dad, the late Bob Carter, explained, "The other kids used to call Nick the 'cash cow.' And when Nick grew up, Aaron was the cash cow. 'Oh, mom only likes the cash cow.'" 

To make matters worse, the Carter matriarch wrote tell-all books about her sons, and allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from their fortunes. "Every show we did, we would probably make about maybe $40,000, $50,000 a show," Aaron said. "And it was all gone."

Fame and fortune ultimately cost Jane her family. "It taught me a really big lesson," she admitted. "That all the material things in the world are not important compared to the amount of time that you can spend with your children." 

Jane's humiliating arrest

Tensions between Jane and her family came to a head in January 2004, when she was arrested after breaking into Bob's home. At the time, the two were in the midst of divorce. 

According to the Florida Monroe County Sheriff's Office report, she broke a window with a rock to enter her soon-to-be ex's house (via People). "[Bob] made me feel like he wanted us to get back together, and I was gonna surprise him," Jane told 20/20. "And I caught him in bed with a girl—in my bed. I said, 'Honey, it's time to go.' And she's like, 'Bob, do something!'"

The "girl" was Bob's fiancé, Ginger Elrod. Jane allegedly pulled her out of bed by the hair and hit her with a remote control. "I get there and glass is broken, there's blood dripping down the door, and I hear screaming," Aaron revealed. "I pinned my mom down on the bed, and she kicked me in the face and threw me off of her." The young pop star called the police. "I wanted it to stop," he said. 

Jane was arrested for battery, but Elrod ultimately decided to not press charges. However, as Bob told People, "restraining orders are in place." 

Nick's substance abuse led to a health scare

During the early 2000s, nothing could slow down Nick's spiraling drug and alcohol abuse. "There were things that were happening, proving that maybe what I was doing was out of control, all sorts of crazy stuff," he told People in 2009. "But every time those red flags would come up, I'd appease people in my inner circle and make them think everything was all right."

That changed in 2008, when the "Larger Than Life" singer felt a mild pain in his chest. After Nick visited a cardiologist for medical testing, he admitted, "I went out and I just went nuts. I drank so much and did a bunch of blow. I felt like I was trying to kill myself—because I didn't want to get the results."

Nick was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy. Due to years of abusing drugs and alcohol, toxins built up in his weakened heart, making it difficult to pump blood—a serious condition that could be fatal. "My doctor said, 'You need to change your lifestyle. I don't want you to end up like that,'" the pop star revealed. "I was like, 'I don't want to end up like that either.'" 

The boy band member focused on his health, lost nearly 50 pounds, and within a year, he was clean. "I'm trying to make myself better," Nick said. "But I don't regret anything that I've gone through, because it makes me who I am."

Aaron was arrested for marijuana possession

Nick wasn't the only Carter brother to find himself behind bars. In 2008, 20-year-old Aaron was arrested for marijuana possession. "On his way to Florida bringing his two dogs to live on a large ranch, Aaron Carter was detained today in Texas by a trooper for exceeding the speed limit by 5 mph," his manager said in a statement. "A search revealed a small amount of marijuana, a misdemeanor in this state… He sincerely regrets any embarrassment this caused to his family, friends, and fans."

As Bob told People, "I'm just totally floored by this. Other people suspected he had a problem, but I denied it and didn't believe it. But now I feel hurt and betrayed, because I see that everything wasn't what I thought it was." He continued, "Aaron has always thought he was invincible. Sometimes it takes a knock in the head to get people back on track. I hope that's what happens here."

But it wasn't. In July 2017, Aaron was arrested for alleged DUI and marijuana possession while driving in Georgia with then-girlfriend Madison Parker. The two were released on bail the following afternoon, and the "Sooner or Later" singer has since maintained his innocence. In a now-deleted tweet, he argued that his "celebrity" was targeted by police. As for the marijuana, Aaron said he had a medical license for it as it's used to treat his "long standing anxiety." 

The feuding Carter brothers

Even with eight years between them, Nick and Aaron have always made an adorable team—but things have not always been smooth sailing between the "Not Too Young, Not Too Old" brothers.

Fans first caught a glimpse of their rocky relationship when a heated argument between the two ended in a fistfight on their 2006 reality show, House of Carters. And in July 2017, their estrangement took another hit when Aaron was arrested for his alleged DUI

When Nick tweeted, "To my brother: I love u no matter what & if u feel the need to reach for help, I am here and willing to help you get better," Aaron questioned his brother's sincerity. "If my own blood truly cared about my well-being," he wrote. "Why wouldn't he call me directly and have a conversation instead of making this about him through a very public forum?"

In August, Aaron confirmed that the two were still on the outs. "You don't even know me, Nick. You don't even talk to me. We see each other once or twice a year," he said on Elvis Duran in the Morning. "I love my brother," Aaron added, "[but] I think he loves me conditionally."

Aaron was engaged...briefly

Aaron's engagement to Playboy model Kari Ann Peniche was as fleeting as it was random. According to People, an 18-year-old Aaron popped the question in front of an audience of 200 while on stage at the Playboy Comedy Tour in Las Vegas in 2006. Peniche, 22, who had previously dated Nick, was surprised, but said yes.

But the "I Want Candy" singer called it off only six days later. "He's really young and just needs to get his act together," Peniche told the publication. "I don't know what's going on right now. We're friends and maybe we'll get back together sometime. We haven't ruled out getting back together."

Aaron later opened up about the brief affair on E! News. "I made a mistake, and she made a mistake, too, so, we both did," he told Ryan Seacrest. "I was by myself, and all of a sudden, someone threw it out as a joke, and I said, 'Okay! Whatever, I'll do it.' And I did it on impulse. Is that a good excuse?"

Well, in Seacrest's words, "No."

Aaron struggled with addiction

Aaron's mental health began to spiral in his early 20s, and his struggle with anxiety and depression led to a dangerous addiction.

"When I was doing Dancing with the Stars [in 2009] I developed an addiction to Xanax, because of stage fright," the "Saturday Night" singer told Entertainment Tonight in 2014. "The depression was brought on because I loved my family being together," Aaron later confessed on Where Are They Now. "I did not want to see [my parents get] divorced. I couldn't dwell on it." 

Eventually, the "I'm All About You" singer began to self-medicate. In addition to the Xanax, "I started getting really heavy into drinking. I was telling people, 'I'm on a bad path right now, I need help,'" he told host Oprah Winfrey. "So, I called my mother, and I called my brother, and my mother came and picked me up, took me down to her house. The next day, I was at Betty Ford Center." He completed the one-month program in 2011.

In 2016, Aaron opened up about life after treatment. "I drink wine. I smoke weed. I have anxiety problems, I take medication for anxiety. I mean, it's just what it is," he admitted to Entertainment Tonight. "I'm not going to abuse things. It's just how I'm gonna do my life."

Aaron suffers from chronic health problems

Aaron's notably skinny appearance is due to his chronic health problems—namely, crippling anxiety and a condition called a hiatal hernia.

In 2015, the "That's How I Beat Shaq" rapper went on the defense in a Twitter rant, blaming his weight loss on a "sh*t ton of anxiety" after cyber-bullies accused him of using meth. "The way people talk about my weight is like high school times a million," he tweeted (via Entertainment Tonight). "Just so we are very clear I don't do drugs."

As Nicki Swift previously reported, the "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" rapper broke down while discussing the effects of his conditions in July 2017. "Unless you're in my body, you don't know. I'm sorry for the way that I look," he told Entertainment Tonight. "[I weigh] 135, 140. Yeah, and I'm 5'8. [Doctors] said avoid stress. Because I can develop cancer." 

He even admitted it's hard to look in the mirror sometimes. "Oh my God, it hurts so badly," Aaron continued. "It hurts so badly because there's like nothing I can do about it." However, he said that he does use Voluma to "fill [his] face," as well as JUVÉDERM and Restylane treatments.

Leslie tragically died of a drug overdose

On January 21, 2012, tragedy struck the Carter family when Leslie died of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 25.

The "Like Wow" singer had a long history of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and had been staying at her father's house with her 10-month-old daughter, Alyssa Jane. According to a police report, medication to treat her mental illnesses, as well as a muscle relaxant, were near her when she was found not breathing and unresponsive in bed. Bob attempted CPR and called 911, but Leslie was pronounced dead at the hospital.

"Our family is grieving right now and it's a private matter," the Carters released in a statement. "We are deeply saddened for the loss of our beloved sister, daughter and granddaughter, Leslie Carter. We request the utmost privacy during this difficult time."

Aaron opened up about his older sister's death on Where Are They Now. "My dad calls me and he said, 'Aaron, I have some really bad news… Leslie died,'" he said. "I hit the floor, I couldn't believe it." Apparently, Leslie was ready to get help. "I wasn't really making that much money. Fortunately, I had just hit my bonus. I got $10,000 the week before Leslie died, and I actually had reached out to her two weeks before that and said, 'I'm going to get you the money to go to rehab,'" Aaron revealed. "She wanted it."

Nick vs. the Carters

Leslie's untimely death exacerbated the growing rift between Nick and the rest of the Carter clan. Due to touring obligations with the Backstreet Boys, he was unable to attend her funeral. "I wanted to be at my sister's funeral," he told E! News. "But my family has always had a complicated dynamic… There are so many emotions for me surrounding the loss of my sister. I am trying to stay healthy, positive, and focused."

In 2013, Nick opened up to talk show host Dr. Phil about his "toxic" relationship with his family. "I started to get blamed by the rest of the family," who supposedly felt Leslie would still be alive if Nick "had been there" for her. "There's definitely a part of me that did blame myself," he continued. "I think that's because of the responsibility that I sort of took on as the oldest member in my family—[and] probably should not have been taken on."

In 2017, the "In a World Like This" singer told Entertainment Tonight that he was again in touch with his siblings, but "still a little estranged from [his] parents." As Nick continued, "It really is something that I deal with on a daily basis. I'm working on it internally and otherwise just really focusing on my family now and all the things that I can give and do better and get right with mine. Things that I didn't necessarily have with my own."

Aaron struggled to come out of the closet

Aaron made a major personal reveal in August 2017 when he came out as bisexual.

As Nicki Swift previously reported, the "Fool's Gold" singer took to Twitter to publicly make the announcement. "This doesn't bring me shame, just a weight and burden I have held onto for a long time that I would like lifted off of me," he wrote. "There were years that went by that I thought about it, but it wasn't until I was 17-years-old, after a few relationships with girls, I had an experience with a male that I had an attraction to who I also worked with and grew up with."

Sadly, Aaron's longtime girlfriend, Madison Parker, did not feel the same way, and the two called it quits. "I had to discuss [being bisexual] with my ex-girlfriend, and she didn't really understand it and she didn't want [to]," Aaron explained on The Bert Show. "And that was it. So we left it mutual and parted ways."

"To be honest, I've been thinking about it, for many years," he continued. "I just felt like it was something I needed to do. It was something that I just felt like was important and I needed to say. It was a part of a new chapter of turning 30." As the former child star added, he's "really looking forward to the future… be it with a man or a woman."