Jonathan Knight: From Boy Band Heartthrob To HGTV Star

Before there was BTS, One Direction, or even NSYNC, it was the New Kids on the Block who had the love and adoration of millions of young fans. That's probably where a lot of people know Jonathan Knight best from, considering that he skyrocketed to fame with the group in the late 1980s before successfully reuniting with them in 2008. These days, however, you could say that Knight is just as famous for his role on HGTV. That's because he's not only hosted his own show "Farmhouse Fixer" since 2021 but also appeared on "Rock the Block" in 2023.

It seems that "Farmhouse Fixer" in particular, is a perfect fit for Knight, despite his background in music. He explained to, "Restoring the American farmhouse is not just a hobby for me — it's my passion, my obsession and I've been doing it for more than 25 years." That doesn't mean that Knight will stop performing with NKOTB any time soon though, even with his busy schedule. "It's just been so perfect that I have two incredible — I don't even call them careers — just two incredible things that I get to do in life and enjoy," he gushed to

It's clear that Knight has come a long way over the years, overcoming many challenges in his personal life and career that even his biggest fans may not know about. So let's break down how Jonathan Knight transformed from a boy band heartthrob into the popular HGTV star he is today.

Jonathan Knight rose to fame with NKOTB

Jonathan Knight has been in show business for a long time, considering that he found fame when he was just 16 years old thanks to his boy band, New Kids on the Block. Knight joined the group after his brother, Jordan Knight, was recruited by Donny Wahlberg, who was the first to join the band when it was formed in 1984. While Jonathan wasn't necessarily the breakout star of NKOTB, he didn't mind not being centerstage. At the time, he told People, "I almost never sing lead vocals, and it doesn't bother me." It seemed more important to Knight to be able to work with his childhood buddies. "With us knowing each other so long, we're more a family than a business," he said. 

While NKOTB went on to sell millions of albums and go on several world tours, there were pitfalls of being in a popular boy band: For Knight, it was the frenzied fans. He recalled in a later interview with People, "Sometimes, back then, it got real scary. Especially at airports — the most I got were some scratches, but those crowds could get out of control."

Knight didn't necessarily enjoy that level of fame in general. "My life was so materialistic. Other people handled everything for me," he explained. His father, Allan Knight, agreed that it wasn't for him, adding, "He's told me that when he used to sing, he wasn't that happy. His life was hectic and crazy."

Jonathan Knight was the first to leave NKOTB

Many fans may not know that Jonathan Knight sort of initiated the New Kids on the Block breakup in 1994. He revealed to People, "I felt that we had done it long enough. I was the first to jump ship. The others were angry at first, but they understood." Knight left in the middle of the band's "Face The Music" tour but claimed that it was due to a back injury that he sustained from being thrown from a horse.

Knight later revealed on the Frosted Tips with Lance Bass podcast that leaving NKOTB just made sense at the time. "We went from arenas down to theaters and then, eventually, I left the New Kids, and they continued on and they were doing nightclubs. And it just kept going down and down," he said. There were other reasons too, like him being tired of feeling forced to do things. Being a young gay kid, I was frustrated and wanted to get on with my own life," he said. "It just felt like it was not going anywhere and I just wanted to be home."

After Knight left the group, he wasn't in a hurry to reunite with NKOTB despite MTV's efforts to bring them back together for the 1999 VMAs. While the other four members had agreed, it didn't end up happening because Knight was against the idea. He told the Boston Globe (via VH1), "It was just too hard."

The former New Kid became a real estate developer

Once Jonathan Knight's first stint on New Kids on the Block came to an end, he was apparently ready for a change. He explained to Architectural Digest, "I was 25 years old and my career was over. Stumped, I thought, How do I reinvent my life?" He continued, "The flipping craze had started and a friend asked if I'd flip a house with him." From there, Knight became a professional real estate developer, launching a firm with a friend in his native Massachusetts. "It was so cool to be in Boston neighborhoods renovating houses that were falling down," he said. "We ended up going from house to house, then doing subdivisions and condos." 

It was important for Knight to prove that he was more than a washed-up boy band singer. At the time, he told People, "I can finally stand on my own two feet." His NKOTB days weren't too far behind him though, with his then-partner, Jim Cullity, dishing, "Sometimes when we're at a closing the lawyer or client will realize who he is. They'll ask for his autograph or posters."

At some point, Knight realized that he wasn't fulfilled with the restorations that he was doing, so he shifted gears to work on historic houses instead. He shared with, "It just got to a point where I was done with doing new construction and really wanted to get back to where my heart was, with the older houses."

Jonathan Knight reunited with NKOTB in 2008

It apparently took Jonathan Knight about 14 years to want to reunite with New Kids on the Block since the group finally got back together in 2008. The boy band — or, man band at that point — made an official announcement on the "Today" show after rumors of them reuniting leaked online. Knight's bandmate, Donny Wahlberg, revealed, "We've got some new material. ... We're going to dance, we're going to sing, we're going to do it all."

Knight did have some concerns about being a "New Kid" again though. He explained to ET, "I went into a whole different career after leaving the group and that was my life, so going back into rehearsals, living on a bus and being in front of an audience had become foreign to me." However, he wasn't the only one who felt that way. He added, "We all had different reservations, but we were able to express them... and make it work so that it was a phenomenal time again."

Knight continued to perform with NKOTB, even with his busy HGTV schedule. Yet there have been times when doing both has been a challenge, like during the 2022 "Mixtape Tour." He dished to People, "There would be days when I would get off the stage at 11 at night, jump on a plane right after the show, fly all night, film all day, and then get back on a plane and go perform the next show."

The boy bander was outed by others

Jonathan Knight may be happily married to his husband, Harley Rodriguez, but there was a point in his life where he felt he couldn't even share that he was gay. That was during his New Kids on the Block days, since their manager had insisted he kept his sexuality a secret. He recalled on Frosted Tips with Lance Bass, "He pulled me aside and he was like, 'If anybody finds out, then your career is over. The New Kids' career is over.'"

The pressure of keeping his sexuality under wraps was one of the reasons that Knight was hesitant to reunite with NKOTB in 2008. He revealed to ET, "It was scary for me to go back into the spotlight knowing that I hadn't officially come out yet." Unfortunately, Knight didn't even get to come out on his own terms since an ex had sold photos of them together to the National Enquirer that next year.

However, you could say it was pop singer Tiffany who caused Knight's sexuality to go viral when she talked about him being gay on "Watch What Happens Live" in 2011. Yet Knight wasn't upset because he insisted he was no longer hiding anything. He explained to Towleroad (via The Hollywood Reporter), "I have lived my life very openly and have never hidden the fact that I am gay!"

The Farmhouse Fixer opened up about his anxiety

Jonathan Knight had a lot to deal with during his early days with New Kids on the Block. Besides having to hide his sexuality, he also struggled with a panic disorder. Knight first revealed that he had anxiety on a 2001 episode of "Oprah," saying "I just always had this feeling inside me and just always being nervous and afraid of situations." He even admitted that it contributed to his decision to quit the group. "I was like... 'I don't want to be around this situation anymore. It's causing me so much stress and so much anxiety," he recalled.

Unsurprisingly, having to hide that he was gay while in NKOTB made Knight's anxiety even worse. He explained on Frosted Tips with Lance Bass, "That was a lot of pressure to put on somebody... As it went along, the stress built up."

Knight went on to spread awareness about panic disorders and even helped others who struggled with it too. In 2011, he appeared on MTV's "True Life" after he reached out to a fan who had anxiety with advice on how to cope. That fan later told MTV, "Jon is one the nicest guys I've met and I appreciate all he's done to help me out." Of course, Knight still has his setbacks, like when he walked off stage during a 2013 NKOTB concert. Yet his bandmates had his back, tweeting, "Not 2 worry BHs, all is well w Jon!"

Jonathan Knight competed on The Amazing Race

Some of Jonathan Knight's "Farmhouse Fixer" fans might be surprised to learn that he was once a part of another popular TV show. In 2015, he and his now-husband, Harley Rodriguez, competed on Season 26 of "The Amazing Race." It was apparently Knight's idea since he is a huge fan of the show. He revealed to Canada's CTV (via NKOTB News), "I kept calling the casting agent asking them if I could be on the show and my schedule never matched up with the taping schedule until this year."

It appears Knight's New Kids on the Block band members weren't expecting him to do that kind of show. He told E! News, "They were shocked! ... I'm the one who sometimes doesn't like being on stage... And now all of a sudden I'm being thrown into a race and all these crazy challenges." Knight didn't just call it "a growing experience," but also told ET that it helped his anxiety because he finally stepped into the spotlight. "Being in a group with five guys, it was always easy for me to fall behind," he said.

While Knight and Rodriguez became the third team to get eliminated, he doesn't regret doing the show. He gushed, "It was probably one of the best experiences of my life," even adding, "[I]t was something that was definitely outside of my comfort zone and the fact that I did it makes me feel proud of myself."

The HGTV star bought his own historic farm

Jonathan Knights' love for old farmhouses isn't just for show. He and his husband Harley Rodriguez own their own historic home in his native Massachusetts. Knight revealed to Architectural Digest how that came about. "My mom had a two-bedroom farmhouse and couldn't care for all the land anymore, so we snatched up her house then bought two across the street," he said. Knight's mother now lives in one of the homes and his sister in another, making what Knight calls a "family compound." 

Knight had been living in another old house in a different town when he saw that his now-home was for sale. He told The New York Times, "I was like, 'I have to buy it'... I didn't want somebody moving across the street." Knight now not only has a barn that was built in the 1700s but a garden and greenhouse too. He also has goats, ducks, horses, and chickens that he often posts about on Instagram. He shared in one post, "It's not for the faint of heart to care for so many animals on the farm. So many ups and downs."

Outside of the challenges that running a farm brings, Knight also has issues with the Trustees of Reservations, a conservation group that sued him for violating restrictions on his land. Knight denied any wrongdoing, telling Boston Magazine, "I just hope people see the ludicrousness of this."

Jonathan Knight got his own show, 'Farmhouse Fixer'

Jonathan Knight's career got a major boost in 2021 when his show "Farmhouse Fixer" premiered on HGTV. The series had been in the works since 2018 and follows Knight and his friend Kristina Crestin as they renovate historic farms. Doing the show was apparently the natural next step for the "Step By Step" singer, who told, "To me, being on a farm is a way of life." Knight's now on a mission to make sure that old farmhouses don't become abandoned or torn down. "These are American treasures that should be saved," he said.

While Knight had been renovating houses for years, he was still pleasantly surprised that he ended up on HGTV. He gushed to Heavy, "It's been amazing... I never thought it would even come on air." What probably makes Knight getting his own show even more surprising though, is that he had always been known as "the quiet one" in New Kids on the Block. He told People that fans were probably shocked to see him so chatty, adding, "It's really exciting for me for fans to finally be able to see me doing my day-to-day thing off the road."

Yet Knight said that hosting "Farmhouse Fixer" and performing with NKOTB do share similarities. He explained to Architectural Digest, "Seeing the look of sheer joy on homeowners' faces when they walk in is like walking out on stage to a crowd that's just so happy to see you."

Jonathan Knight married longtime love Harley Rodriguez

Jonathan Knight wasn't just thriving professionally with a hit HGTV show in 2022, but personally as well. That's when he confirmed that he'd married his longtime love, Harley Rodriguez. The two had been together since 2008 after meeting when Knight reunited with New Kids on the Block. Knight recalled to ET, "He's a trainer at Barry's Bootcamp, so I would be with the band all day, then the only time I got to see him was to go take his class."

The couple went on to date for several years and compete on "The Amazing Race" before Knight proposed while on a trip to Africa with their mothers in 2016. He revealed on "The Jenny McCarthy Show," "We took a nighttime raft dinner, just the four of us on the river, there was like a hippopotamus in the background... It was just absolutely beautiful." They planned to wed on their farm in 2021, yet changed their plans because of the pandemic. "We had everything lined up: the caterers, the entertainment. We were going to get married under candlelight. And then that all just stopped," Knight told People.

Knight later told ET that he and Rodriguez went on to elope in secret. "Everybody just assumed we're married, so, I never say yes or no 'cause I don't wanna lie," Knight said. While they still plan on having a celebration in the future, Knight wasted no time changing his name on Instagram to Jonathan Knight-Rodriguez.

Jonathan Knight joined Rock the Block

"Farmhouse Fixer" isn't Jonathan Knight's only claim to HGTV fame. He also appeared on "Rock the Block" in 2023, a show where he competed against other HGTV stars in renovating similar houses to see who gets the highest price. The former "Fuller House" actor had first joined the series as a guest judge during its third season but told Distractify that it wasn't the best experience. "When I was judging, like everybody was beat down and I was like, 'You know, this does not look pleasant,'" he said.

That, however, didn't stop Knight from participating as a competitor on "Rock the Block." He even did so after telling Showbiz CheatSheet, "I called a lot of the past contestants and asked them, like, what am I getting into?" He continued, "They were saying, 'Run, don't do it.'" Knight apparently learned why they felt that way. He took to Instagram in November 2022 to share his feelings: "These past 6 weeks have been the hardest thing I've ever done in my career!" he said, adding, "Tired and sick, beyond belief, but so incredibly happy to be here!"

It seems that through it all, Knight has remained grateful for where his career has taken him. He even gushed to ET, "I would have never thought in my 20s that, at 54, I'd still be touring with the New Kids, and I would have a hit TV show on HGTV."