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Alexander James McLean, known as "AJ", was born on January 9, 1978, in West Palm Beach, Florida, to Denise (Fernandez, now Solis) and Bob McLean. He is of Puerto Rican and German descent on his mother's side and Scotch-Irish and English on his father's side. He is an only child because his twin sisters died during childbirth. He was raised by his mother and grandparents (Úrsula and Adolfo) since his parents divorced when he was four years old.

As a child, AJ had a speech impediment, which caused him to stutter. To help him, Denise enrolled him in theater and discovered her love of acting and began pursuing a career in acting, dancing, and singing. 

It was during one of his auditions for the first that he met Howie D. and Nick Carter, bonding the roots of the group that would become the Backstreet Boys.

In March 1992, he saw another newspaper ad looking for young boys between the ages of 16 and 19 to audition for a new music group. Despite being 14 years old, she auditioned for the group. In April 1992, AJ was officially the first member of the group that would become the Backstreet Boys.

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AJ suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. He went to rehab in 2001 and 2002 thanks to interventions by Kevin Richardson. During an interview with New Zealand radio station ZM, AJ described addiction as the hardest thing he has ever had to deal with, stating that it is something he struggles with every day. Entering rehab for the third time on January 10, 2011, citing "personal reasons" and in preparation for the NKOTB and Backstreet Boys tour, AJ said, "I want to be healthy, play and sing for people, give my best and be happier". His time in rehab did not affect the tour.

AJ married Rochelle Deanna Karidis, a makeup stylist whom he credits for helping him overcome his addiction, on December 17, 2011, in Beverly Hills, California. The rest of the Backstreet Boys, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, and Kevin Richardson were in attendance at the ceremony. On November 27, 2012, the couple had their first daughter named Ava Jaymes. and on September 5, 2016, AJ announced on Instagram that his wife was once again pregnant with their second child. On March 19, 2017, the girl named Lyric Dean was born in Los Angeles.

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