Aaron Carter’s death has sparked an outpouring of emotion from fans and celebrities who remembered the 34-year-old pop singer as a boy who shot to fame in the late 1990s and a troubled adult who battled addiction under the uncomfortable spotlight that child stardom often brings.
Carter — who was known for a number of late-’90s and early-2000s pop hits and as the younger brother of Backstreet Boys singer Nick Carter — died on Saturday, according to a statement from Roger Paul, one of his representatives. Paul did not list a cause of death, and a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said detectives were investigating a report of a “suspicious death” at Carter’s home in Lancaster, Calif.
Nick Carter said on Sunday that he would miss his brother “more than anyone will ever know,” sharing his statement on Instagram alongside photos of the pair throughout the years.
“My heart has been broken today,” his statement said. “Even though my brother and I have had a complicated relationship, my love for him has never ever faded.”
Aaron Carter often spoke openly about his addiction and mental health issues, and said earlier this year that he had been sober for five years.
“I have always held on to the hope that [Aaron] would somehow, someday want to walk a healthy path and eventually find the help that he so desperately needed,” Nick Carter’s Instagram post said. “Sometimes we want to blame someone or something for a loss, but the truth is that addiction and mental illness is the real villain here.”
Actress Hilary Duff — a former child star who dated Carter when the pair were teenagers — also lamented Aaron Carter’s public problems.
“I’m deeply sorry that life was so hard for you and that you had to struggle in-front of the whole world,” Duff wrote in an Instagram post. “Boy did my teenage self love you deeply,” she added.
“We are shocked and saddened about the sudden passing of Aaron Carter. Sending prayers to the Carter family,” boy band New Kids on the Block said on its Instagram account, while ’90s boy band ’N Sync — which collaborated on a charity single with Carter in 1998 — also paid tribute to the star.
Carter was introduced to fame early in life: In 1997, while still only 9, he opened on tour for the Backstreet Boys. That same year, he released his first solo album in Europe, just days before turning 10. He then went on to make several television appearances, including in an episode on the first season of “Lizzie McGuire,” in which Duff had the leading role.
“Fame at a young age is often more a curse than a blessing and Surviving it is not easy,” tweeted songwriter Diane Warren.
Like Warren, others on social media also lamented the troubles that came with Carter’s early career and life in the public eye. “The Aaron Carter news is so sad. Child stardom is deeply cruel,” read one tweet. “Stardom is a monster,” read another.
In a 2013 interview with “The Morning Show” on Canadian network Global News, Carter reflected on the darker side of child stardom, telling the show’s hosts that he “absolutely” faced challenges throughout his childhood and teenage years as a result of his celebrity — including leaving school in second grade and being home-schooled so he could go on a world tour.
“I faced a lot of struggles,” he said. “I started off as a kid.”
He added that there were “a lot of times” when drugs were presented to him and that he got in “a lot of trouble” for using them.
In 2017, Carter revealed he was bisexual, telling fans: “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 me.” Two years later, he appeared in an episode of “The Doctors” talk show, explaining how he spent many years “huffing,” or inhaling substances. Carter said he was introduced to it at the age of 16 by his sister Leslie, who died in 2012 of a drug overdose at 25.
“I was huffing because I’m a drug addict,” he said, before going on to describe his time in rehab, which was then followed by a relapse. “I can say I’ve been through hell and back,” he said, his eyes filling with tears. “I’m back. And I’m here to stay.”
Praveena Somasundaram contributed to this report.