It's Grammy week in L.A., and the city is bustling with activity. Last night, the Fugees played an outdoor concert at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, Fall Out Boy headlined the House of Blues, and Kanye West rocked the mike during an invite-only party at Avalon Hollywood. ''We tried to go to the Kanye West party,'' says MTV reality star Ashley Parker Angel, lounging in the modest living room of the rented Glendale, Calif., home he shares with his fiancée, Tiffany Lynn, their 6-month-old son, Lyric, and his future mother-in-law, Scarlet Johnson. ''I think we got there a little late.... [The venue] was at capacity, so we just walked the red carpet and left.''
Getting rejected at the velvet rope can be a humiliating experience for anyone, but for a former boy-band heartthrob whose group sold nearly 2 million records in the U.S., it's a harsh reality check. Six years ago, Angel enjoyed international stardom (and much ridicule) as a member of O-Town, the pop group manufactured on reality show Making the Band, which premiered on ABC in 2000 and later moved to MTV. Now, however, the 24-year-old Northern California native is struggling to reinvent himself as a piano-pounding singer-songwriter (think Gavin DeGraw meets Ryan Cabrera). As part of that effort, Angel is letting MTV invade his privacy once again, this time as the star of There & Back, an often heart-wrenching series/cautionary tale that finds the singer resuscitating his career while living not-so-large in decidedly un-Cribs digs. The experience, says Angel, has been ''really humbling. At a young age, I felt like I was living the life. It was a good feeling to go back home and hang out with my friends from high school and have a No. 1 song. Everyone was like, 'Wow, you made it!' And now, just a little bit later, I'm checking my [bank] balance and it's negative $27.''
Angel's short-lived career launched at warp speed: Thanks to Making the Band, O-Town's 2001 self- titled debut CD (the first album ever released by Clive Davis' J Records) spawned two hit singles, ''Liquid Dreams'' and ''All or Nothing,'' and hit No. 5 on the Billboard 200. But after the show's cameras stopped tracking the Orlando-based quintet's fancy footwork in 2002, their follow-up disc, O2, stalled at No. 28. J promptly dropped them, and Angel moved to L.A. to figure out his next move. (The group officially disbanded in 2003.) As it turns out, his next move was on a girl: Shortly after his arrival, Angel met model and aspiring actress Lynn, 26, at a café. It was an unlikely match. ''When 'Liquid Dreams' used to come on the radio,'' says Lynn, ''I'd be like, 'Turn that off! I'm going to smash the radio!' My girlfriends died when they found out I went on a date with him. They were like, 'The kid from O-Town? Tiffany, you talked such garbage about them!'''
But despite their musical differences (''I listen to Nas and Biggie,'' says Lynn), the couple clicked, and they moved in together within a matter of weeks. Besides paying $1,800 a month on their two-bedroom apartment in West Hollywood, Angel spent his savings recording demos and romancing Lynn. ''We would lay in bed all day,'' she says. ''We fell so crazy in love that we were like, 'We don't wanna do anything else! We don't wanna see anyone! We wanna go to Jamaica!' The first year we were together, I still modeled, so we split everything. He would pay the rent and I would pay the utilities and the car payment [on a 2003 Mercedes-Benz C230]. But then, as I stopped modeling and he wasn't having any more income, it started to get tougher.''