The story of Frankie Jonas: Living in the shadow of the Jonas Brothers

The youngest member of the family has left the darkest chapters of his life behind and is now looking to carve out his own spot in the music industry

Frankie Jonas
Frankie Jonas, in February 2023 in a promotional photo for 'Claim to Fame.'Gizelle Hernandez (ABC via Getty Images)
Andrea Jiménez

In 2005, brother Kevin, Joe and Nick combined their musical talents to create one of the most recognized teen groups of the century: the Jonas Brothers. This stardom led to a TV series on Disney called Jonas, magazine front covers and intense media scrutiny into their private lives. But few knew that there was a fourth brother in the family, Frankie Jones, who has been living in the shadow of the band since he was little. Now the 22-year-old — who is also known professionally as Franklin Jones — is trying to make a name for himself in the music industry.

The youngest of the Jonas brothers was born eight years after Nick (after three boys, his parents were hoping for a girl). By the time he was five years old, his brothers had already made the leap into the music industry, and Frankie Jones became, indirectly, affected by that sudden fame. In 2005, his parents gave him unexpected news: the family was moving to Los Angeles to follow more closely the Jonas Brothers as they made it in the music. In a moment, all his dreams — such as becoming a football star at Princeton University — were dashed. But they also changed: at the age of seven, he attended his first audition, in which he was cast to voice the animated film Ponyo.

Even so, Frankie was still the fourth Jonas. His brothers’ fans even dubbed him “Bonus Jonas,” which he considered demeaning. “I always hated that nickname,” he told Bustle in 2021. “A lot of my problem with being in the public eye was that I was seen as this commodified vision of myself.” His brothers even called him the “Bonus Jones,” but stopped after they realized Frankie didn’t appreciate. “I refused to call Frankie ‘Bonus Jonas’ after he opened up to me about how that was hurtful to him,” Joe Jonas told Bustle. “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.”

When he turned 12, Frankie downloaded Twitter on to his phone and decided to look up what was being said about him. “It was all pretty awful things for a 12-year-old to read,” he recalled. “A lot of it was like, ‘If you ever feel forgotten, remember this guy.’ Or, ‘Frankie Jonas is a talentless sack of shit.’” Frankie said the comments also made fun of his weight, which affected his self-esteem. “It became a form of self-harm to look at these things,” he said. “I couldn’t stop. I checked it every day, and I had to, to feel OK in a way. A lot of that perpetuated the idea that I was just this meme.”

Kevin, Joe, Nick and Frankie Jonas at the 'Jonas Brothers in Concert 3D' movie premiere on February 24, 2009.
Kevin, Joe, Nick and Frankie Jonas at the 'Jonas Brothers in Concert 3D' movie premiere on February 24, 2009.AXELLE WOUSSEN (AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN.COM / Cordon Press)

That same year he realized that he had always wanted to be like his brothers and, finally, he decided to take control of his own life. It all started with a softcore hentai that led to his first orgasm. At the time, he was wearing the purity ring — one he had begged for because he wanted to be like his brothers —, which signified a religious pledge of celibacy until marriage. “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. It was this ceremonial ritual; I was moving on with my life and taking my will back.”

His film career did not help to boost his self-esteem or address his self-destructive streak, so he decided to retire from acting — up until that moment he had appeared in 12 episodes of Jonas and in Camp Rock 2. “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. I wanted to run away from everything,” he said in the interview, one of the few that he has given.

And he was able to get back to that normal life. His family moved to Texas, where he was able to start over and be a normal teenager: he graduated from high school and enrolled in Belmont University to study film. But the feeling didn’t last long. A friend said he would have more luck with the ladies if he said he was one of the Jonas brothers. “In my head, I’m like, ‘OK, yeah, I’ll do it,’ so every person I meet, I’m like, ‘Hi, my name is Frankie Jonas. Nice to meet you.’ I’d introduce myself, full name,” he said, which soon made him the laughingstock of the school.

That the darkest chapter of his life began, and he started drinking and using drugs. But things have changed now, thanks to treatment and the support of his family. After fleeing social media to avoid seeing the negative comments about himself, he is back and sharing his experiences with addiction. “From a very young age I struggled with drinking and drugging as an escape because I hated life, and I didn’t want to be here,” Jonas said in a video posted to one of his TikTok accounts. He even shared that he had thought about suicide.

Frankie Jonas is now in the process of writing his own story. He wants to be known for himself, not his brothers’ work. In 2020, he began to make his own name thanks to his funny videos on TikTok, where he has almost two million followers. He also took advantage of the platform to share unknown details of his life that have since been deleted.

Frankie Jonas in concert at the Stagecoach Festival, on April 28, 2023, in Indio, California.
Frankie Jonas in concert at the Stagecoach Festival, on April 28, 2023, in Indio, California.Presley Ann (Stagecoach / getty)

The reality is that Frankie has the same artistic vein as his three brothers. In February, he released his first song, Cocaine. “I was thinking about my time in Nashville,” he told Rolling Stone magazine. “While I was there, I was in very dark places. The song is about how even in the darkest moments, we can escape into these moments of bliss. Even that can be a moment that we can go back to and feel peace and feel love and feel happiness. It’s a light that’s surrounded by the tunnel of your own bullshit.” And he has also released his first EP, Sewer Rat.

Music has been a lifeline for Frankie Jonas. “I’m always trying to be as honest, vulnerable and authentic as possible, and that can be difficult when you grow up in a world where you’re on Disney Channel,” he told Rolling Stone.

But music is not Frankie’s only passion. Despite leaving the world of television almost a decade ago, he is back, this time with his older brother, Kevin. The two host the show Claim to Fame, whose second season recently premiered on ABC. In the show, 12 celebrity relatives live together under one roof and must guess which celebrity the other contestant is related to. The winner gets $100,000.

Frankie Jonas has come a long way from the person who lived in his brothers’ shadow.

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