Frankie Jonas would like to be excluded from the “Bonus Jonas” narrative. In an interview with Bustle, the 20-year-old TikTok star admits that he never liked his very public childhood nickname.
The nickname was coined by Jonas Brothers fans, as an affectionate nod to the younger sibling of boy band members Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas. For Frankie, though, it wasn’t a welcome moniker.
“I always hated that nickname,” he says. “A lot of my problem with being in the public eye was that I was seen as this commodified vision of myself.”
While the public may not have known about Frankie’s distaste for his nickname until now, it’s something he’s been open with his brothers about in the past.
“I refused to call Frankie ‘Bonus Jonas’ after he opened up to me about how that was hurtful to him,” Joe tells the outlet. “It completely makes sense, and we’ve had lengthy conversations and apologies behind closed doors that showcased my understanding and respect for his wishes. I think to feel like you are second, third, or fourth best from something is unfair; we are all equals.”
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Being in his brothers’ shadow was something Frankie experienced throughout his whole life, but it really sank in when his parents moved the family to Los Angeles when he was five.
“They were like, ‘We’re going to move to L.A. for your brothers’ career,'” he recalls. “I had planned out my entire life in Jersey. I was 5, and I’m like, ‘I’m going to go to Princeton and be this college football star who comes back home and becomes an astrophysicist.’ That was my plan. And I watched it just fade to dust. My future just slowly died.”
After the move, Frankie says, “it was kind of just decided” that he’d go into acting. But the career path always made him feel like a “mascot-like character” for his brothers.
Amid the height of the “Bonus Jonas” term, a 12-year-old Frankie decided to join Twitter. The comments he saw about himself there, Frankie says, were “all pretty awful.”
“A lot of it was like, ‘If you ever feel forgotten, remember this guy.’ Or, ‘Frankie Jonas is a talentless sack of s**t,'” he says. “It became a form of self-harm to look at these things. Then it became essentially an OCD, like a tic. I couldn’t stop. I checked it every day, and I had to, to feel OK in a way. It really became a serious issue for me.”
“A lot of that perpetuated the idea that I was just this meme,” Frankie continues. “I was this joke, and my entire identity to people was ‘adjacent,’ which really affected myself and the way that I thought about the world and the way I felt about myself.”
Around the same time, Frankie decided to do away with his Jonas-issued purity ring, which was something he’d initially “begged for because I wanted to be like my brothers.”
“I took it off and snuck out in my backyard. I started a fire. I put it on the log. And I sat there for two hours as the metal slowly melted,” he recalls. “It was this ceremonial ritual; I was moving on with my life and taking my will back. I was just trying to be in control of my life.”
That control didn’t come easily, though. “I became disillusioned with it all and feeling the way I was feeling. I wanted to disappear, but I wanted to do everything I could to get back to that normal life that I thought I watched die,” Frankie says. “I wanted to run away from everything.”
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When he was just 16, Frankie started college at Nashville’s Belmont University. As soon as he arrived, a friend advised him to “tell people who you are so you’ll get laid.” He went along with his friend’s advice, but was eventually mocked for doing so.
“The second that people knew who my family was or who I was, I felt that connection, that tether of empathy, get cut,” he says.
Things only got worse when Nick came to town for a performance.
“He’s like, ‘I want to welcome my brother to town. He just started school at Belmont University,'” Frankie recalls of Nick. “I brought him to school the next day to see the campus, and it was a crowd, and it was a whole thing. It sucked. It wasn’t cool.”
He dropped out of school after less than a year, following a citation for marijuana. During the time that followed, Jonas continued to study and make music, but was consistently unhappy, something he attempted to remedy with drugs and alcohol.
“So much of that time was me being like, ‘I’m done being Frankie Jonas,'” he says. Eventually, though, he sought help, and is now sober.
“There were some blockades within my family, which prevented me from getting certain help that I wanted,” he says. “I’ve always dealt with a lot more than just anxiety. At the time, I didn’t know that I got panic attacks. I didn’t know that I had obsessive thoughts. I didn’t know that I would go on to be diagnosed with PTSD.”
“It’s important for me to be like, ‘Yeah, these things were rough,’ but at the same time, without them, where would I be?” Frankie wonders.
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After his two-year social media hiatus, Frankie joined TikTok and decided to be completely himself. He currently has nearly two million followers.
“Everything that I talk about on TikTok… no one knew that that was how I speak, how I express myself, what I think is funny. I was just making jokes, thinking no one was hearing them,” he says. “And then people heard them and liked them. I thought, ‘I’m going to continue to do this,’ because I’ve never had my thing really. This feels like so much of my thing. It feels so empowering to have a thing.”
Joe approves of his brother’s new passion, telling Bustle that Frankie’s “the social media star we honestly need.”
“He’s done a lot of healing behind the scenes, and this is his way of bringing you into his own universe. He has a lot of fun with it,” Joe says. “… I just want him to be happy. If that means he wants to be TikTok famous, great; if that means he wants to be an author, great; if that means he wants to be a scientist, great! He could pretty much do anything he puts his heart and mind to, and he’s done that already. I’m just so proud of the man he’s become.”
Though he’s unquestionably a TikTok hit, Frankie still has “massive anxiety” each time he posts to the platform. “I don’t want to fail,” he explains. “I’m someone who has spent his whole life wanting to be liked.”
Even with that anxiety, Frankie considers his TikTok fame to be “amazing and incredible and a blessing and a gift,” mostly because he’s not trying to be anyone but himself.
“There’s definitely been moments where I was like, ‘Is this really what I want to do right now?'” he says. “This experience on TikTok is so different because I’m being so authentically myself and not caring and just doing what I can.”
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