Is This The Most Eligible Bachelor In Britain?

[Company Magazine - December 2000]

J Brown may be in boy band Five, but he's also successful, smart and so sexy you [yes you] voted him 8th sexiest man in the world last July And guess what? He's single, lonely and looking for a good woman...

There are some men you know deep down you really shouldn't have crushes on once you've left you teens. You know the types: your maths teacher, your cool grown-up cousin... and members of boy bands. The whole point of boy bands is that they're polished to the point of being plastic, immaculately groomed and, well, kind of sexless - and that's why they get squealed at by 13-year-old girls. So how come, when I mentioned to my twenty-something friends that I was going to interview J from Five, every one of them pinched their eyebrow between thumb and forefinger and purred dreamily, "Ooh, the one with the pierced eyebrow? He's nice!" Because J [or Jason as his mum calls him] has broken the rules - he's in a boy band, but has not only managed to maintain a certain amount of cool, he's also won himself a following of 'grown up' admirers.
Of course, until March this year you probably didn't fancy J at all. In fact, it's unlikely you even knew who he was, because unless you're under 16 you probably hadn't spent much time to distinguish between one member of Five and another. But then something major happened - J went to the Brit Awards and met Mel C. The most frequently quoted versions of events is that they had a chat, got on well, went to the bar and ended up snogging... Over the next five months, they were pictured together, rumoured to be splitting up and getting back together - and all of a sudden, J from Five became one of the most fancied men in Britain. This morning, after only three hours sleep and a nightmare journey through the London rush hour, J is braced, knowing that he is about to be quizzed on his Spice affair.
Surprisingly, he doesn't even flinch when I mention that it might have been a strain going out with one of the most famous women in Britain. "Nope, it didn't bother us, to be honest," he shrugs. "We were always going out to eat - because neither of us has enough time to get the shopping in or to cook - and suddenly people with cameras would appear out of nowhere." And that didn't bother you? "If someone had been trying to look at something really private, like if they'd been trying to see through my bedroom window, then, yeah, I'd have got pissed off. But at the end of the day I'm just J from Warrington, and there's some guy chasing me down the street trying to snap pictures. I think that's something to laugh at."
Another danger of a high-profile relationship is that you're bound to get slagged off - and the papers laid into poor old J and Mel more than was really fair. The main criticism was that, in true Geri 'n' Robbie/Geri 'n' Chris style, they seemed to have conveniently got together just as she was fending off rumours about her sexuality and he was making a bid for the number one slot with a new single. "Well, that was the only thing that annoyed me - I was seeing Mel for five months, she's a big pop star. I'm in a band, of course we're going to release singles in the space of five months. People were saying it was all done for this reason or that, which it completely wasn't. That was all such bullshit."
Maybe it's because he's had to justify it so many times before, but when J talks about Mel he does it with barely a flicker of emotion - as though neither the relationship nor the break-up have left much of an impression on him. "But we never intended to get married or have kids!" he says, exasperated. "We were just seeing how it went - like you do when you first meet someone. We were having a laugh! it was only ever meant to be something light-hearted." When you're close up to J you wonder why it took us so long to notice him, because he is utterly sexy. His face has so many angles it could be used in a maths exam, his nose has a faint smattering of cute freckles and his striking, deep blue eyes could make a girl melt [and that's before you notice the swell of muscle beneath his just-tight-enough T-shirt]. He's even honest enough to admit that he likes his new found sex symbol status because, "When I first joined the band I'd just given up serious weight training, so I was 14 [more like 15] stone and much bigger than I am now. About a year ago I lost some weight and people started to notice me more - and, of course, I'm not complaining. Everyone likes to know that someone fancies them, don't they?"
But the best news is that he hasn't met anyone since his split with Mel. J is well and truly single. "Sometimes I wish I had a girlfriend," says the man who has, quite contentedly, just spent a three week holiday in front of the PlayStation in his flat. "I miss silly things like staying in with someone, watching a video curled up on the sofa with my head in her lap. Not even necessarily doing anything - just having some contact and maybe a bit of a kiss..." It's hard to tell whether he's specifically speaking about Mel here, because as soon as her name is mentioned J flits back to his blank, PR face. But keep it hypothetical and he comes over all sensitive. It might sound like a daft question, but he can have his pick of women - if he's so lonely, why doesn't he just, er, go out with someone? "Yeah... My family are always asking if I've met anyone yet," he muses. "But there just isn't anybody at the moment. Somebody really has to get me - I need there to be so many things right with them, I have to be able to get on with them. But when I'm on my own I'll be thinking, it'd be nice to have someone here who I could have a laugh with." But, J, you could go on an international shagathon tomorrow - it's every young man's dream! "I know! And when I'm working - going abroad and meeting people - I'm glad I'm single, because if I meet someone and something happens, I know I'm not doing anything wrong. But then I go to showbiz parties and I realise I'm not into the kind of women you meet there, that's not what I want. I dunno, I'm really fickle. You see, if I settled down with someone, I'd be thinking, I'm in a huge pop band, I could be out there having a laugh. But when I'm given that opportunity, all I want is someone I can sit at home with and talk to."
All this is at odds with the 'lairy lads of pop' image that J and his fellow band members have been cultivating (and the day after this interview he's pictured 'comforting' Dani Behr after she split with American Millionaire boyfriend Adam Piser). But J maintains that he's a traditional guy when it comes to relationships. "My mates back home take this piss out of me for it, but I have high morals. I'm quite old fashioned, I'm really not your Jack-the-lad," says J, as if apologising for his poor show in the love-'em-and-leave-'em stakes. "My friends are like god, J! If we were in your position we'd be in some clinic by now!" But I've never been like that. I mean I'm not going to say I haven't slept with anyone since I've been in the band because that it'd be bullshit, but I wouldn't just go somewhere and pull someone."
Not that the opportunity isn't there. J himself admits that if you're after an endless supply of sex and beautiful women then his is the job to be doing. But despite having hoards of hormonally charged teenage fans, and women throwing themselves at him in clubs, he claims [and he seems pretty earnest when he says it, so we do believe him, honest] that he has "honestly, to this day, never taken advantage of it." Actually having just bought his first flat, J admits to being a bit of a saddo who's more interested in buying bathroom fittings than bedding women. [God he gets more perfect by the minute.] Still, it's hard to believe he's really that much of a nice guy. "But I get these girls literally coming up to me in Clubs and saying, 'I wanna do this and that... Fancy coming back to mine?' and I'm like 'Bloody hell! Bit forward aren't you?!" I'm always polite to them, but I'm always like, 'Er, no ta, love.'"

...or ordinary geezer?
Apart from being incredibly fussy about the qualities he's looking for in a woman and totally confused about the whole relationship conundrum, J is also - by his own admission - suspicious of people's motives since becoming a celebrity. "I used to pray that this wouldn't happen to me, you know?" he says quietly. "I've always been quite a paranoid person, but now...there's this major element of paranoia. If I meet someone and she says she's not in this business, it doesn't matter how nice she is, I start analysing everything she says and how she acts towards me - worrying about why she's there. That kinda ruins it a bit, really. "In the music business there are so many arseholes, there are people with about nine faces. I always thought I had a built-in bullshit-ometer, that I could sense when someone's not for real, but with women it doesn't seem to work. I use to think, God, how come celebrities always just date each other? I can really understand it now, though. It's a bit of a downer, because I think I'd actually prefer to go out with someone normal. But, you know women might be into the fame thing - and there's also the financial thing..."

Ah yes, that's another aspect of J's eligibility. After four years' hard slog the money is finally starting to roll in for Five, and at least he knew that Mel C couldn't possibly be after his cash. Just when we were starting to think we could be in with a chance ["I'm not into those model sorts at all, I can't be arsed with that 'I'm amazing' attitude, know what I mean?"] J chuckles and turns into an ordinary geezer for a split second - and lets on that it's not unlikely he'll be photographed with a supermodel on his arm, after all. "I'm not saying you won't ever see me in the papers having a bit of a do with one of them types - I am only 24!" Ah, we knew that deep down there must be a hint of good, honest, hard-partying, lady-killing pop star in J. "Oh I know how to party, believe me," he confirms. "I'm just not into treating women like shit."