'Masked Singer' Winner Nick Lachey Shares the Unexpected Way He Tried to Stay Cool as Piglet

"When you put that mask on, it's hard to breathe, it's hard to move, it's hard to see," the 98 Degrees member tells PEOPLE

The Masked Singer -- Piglet -- Nick Lachey
Photo: Michael Becker/FOX; Paul Archuleta/Getty

This post contains spoilers from Wednesday's season 5 finale of The Masked Singer.

"Daddy's coming home with a little hardware!" Nick Lachey declared on stage of The Masked Singer Wednesday night after being named the season 5 winner.

The 98 Degrees member, who performed as Piglet on the Fox reality competition, shared following his unmasking that his sons Camden, 8, and Phoenix, 4, and daughter Brooklyn 6, had wanted him to go on the show, but they didn't know he ended up actually doing it. Still, his daughter suspected Daddy had been under the pig outfit.

"We watched the premiere episode together and I was holding Brooklyn and I think I got two or three notes out of my mouth and she pointed to me, she goes, 'Daddy,'" Lachey, 47, tells PEOPLE. "They recognized my voice immediately."

When Lachey's wife Vanessa asked their three kids for ideas for the "What's Left of Me" singer's costume, Camden actually suggested a pig, "which was really funny because I had already chosen the pig," Lachey says. "So it substantiated my selection."

Piglet also connected to Lachey's hometown of Cincinnati, known as "Porkopolis," and his Flying Pig Productions company. So even though he signed on just four days before season 5 started filming and ended up with the "first [costume] they threw at me," Lachey says the Piglet getup turned out to be a perfect fit.: "I was like, "Yeah, this makes sense. This is meant to be.'"

Lachey admits to trying to throw of the judges with football clues, attempting to stay cool under the costume in an unconventional way and that his wife should take credit for a lot of his song choices on the show.

Jason Merritt/Getty.

Congrats on your win! Did you have your eye on the Golden Mask trophy from the start?
I definitely wanted to have a good time with it. That was the number one thing. But I think anytime you do something that you're known for — people know me as a singer — you don't want to come out there and lay a big egg, so to speak. So I took it seriously, but at the same time, have a good time with it. But I'm a competitive person; definitely, my goal was to make it to the finals and then come what may. The other thing about it is you don't know who you're up against. You kind of are competing with yourself. It's like golf, you got to try and shoot your best score and then hope for the best.

Your kids knew you were under Piglet, but did you tell them before the finale aired that you won?
We told them, "Yes, it's me," but they don't know if I win or not. So we watched the entire season and like, "Is this the night daddy goes home?" It's been a lot of fun to kind of share that whole ride with them. It became Masked Singer night in our house on Wednesdays and we all watched together and they nervously waited to see if I'd get unmasked that night.

Vanessa Lachey
Vanessa and Nick Lachey with their three kids. Vanessa Lachey/Instagram

Were you trying to throw people off to think you were an athlete at first with all those football clues?
That was the goal. Because I've worked with a lot of the panel, I felt like, "Well, they're going to recognize my voice at some point." I'm not really good at disguising my voice. So we were trying to do our best to throw kind of curveballs at them to keep them guessing. The big football reference was I walked on at USC and tried to play football. And then there was also the Rock N' Jock football game that I played in a couple of times. I think [Masked Singer host] Nick Cannon actually picked up on it first because he and I played together. He's like, "Hold on a second. I know exactly who this is."

Was it important for you to sing songs that people might not expect from you?
Yeah. I really wanted to show range and diversity and try and do different things from different genres. People know me and my voice for singing ballads and love songs. Plus you want to take people on a journey a little bit through the season. If you're just standing in one lane, I think it gets a little stagnant. I give a lot of credit to Vanessa, my wife, for the song selection. She and I would sit down at night with a glass of wine and go through every song you'd think of, and [say], "Oh, that'd be a good one, that'd be a good one." We made that a collaborative effort between the two of us to pick the songs for the season.

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You posted the other day about you met 15 years ago, it'll be your 10-year wedding anniversary in July. Do you guys have anything special plan to celebrate?
Well, apparently we're going to be in Hawaii because she just booked NCIS: Hawaii. So we're going to be spending a lot of time in Honolulu as it turns out. So we'll have to figure out some kind of anniversary dinner there. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years and it's also hard to believe I have an 8-and-a-half-year-old son, time just flies by. I feel very blessed where I am in life and everything I'm getting to experience.

I imagine you feel the same about the fact that 98 Degrees has had longevity and is still together making music.
It's kind of awesome. I never would have guessed that 25 years after we got signed and started working on our first record, we'd still be making music together, we'd still be performing together and people would care. We all feel really, really blessed. It's also more fun. I think we sound better than we ever have. We enjoy each other more than we ever have. And I think our show is better than it's ever been. So, I'm just incredibly lucky to be able to still do this and do it at a high level and people still care.

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What can fans expect from the music the group's upcoming releases?
It's going to be 98 days of summer this summer! We're excited — as all musicians are, I'm sure after basically being stagnant for a year and feeling like you're not doing anything — to get on the road, but even more excited to release new music. We have a new single coming out on July 9 called "Where Do You Want to Go?" and we've also done a whole remix album on a lot of the hits that our fans know and love. So we're excited to get all that new music out this summer and ultimately start hitting the road again late summer and fall.

You talked in one of your earlier clue packages about being set on the path to pursue music after feeling lost and having an experience at church that changed your perspective. When did that happen?
It's a crazy story. I was in college and not excited about being in college at that point. I dislocated my finger playing basketball and my parents were at church — it wasn't even me, but my stepmom. There was a guest speaker who had a vision for somebody who has a busted-up ring finger on their right hand. And she said, I think that might be my son. So he told her the vision, which was this sailboat going into a storm and then at the last minute breath of God turned it around and set it in the right direction to safety. I interpreted that in my own life as, hey, I'm going the wrong direction here and I need to pull a 180. That was the time I started to contemplate joining this group in Los Angeles. So that was my cue to say, "It's time to go to L.A. and go for this." And that's what became 98 Degrees.

The Masked Singer

Now you're a seasoned performer, but did you have to get used to singing under the mask?
100 percent. It was definitely a learning curve for me. I hadn't sung in a year, so I was out of shape vocally, in general. When you put that mask on, it's hard to breathe, it's hard to move, it's hard to see. It's really, really super uncomfortable. There was a minute there in the beginning where I was like, "I don't know if I can do this. This is way tougher than I thought it would be." It's really trippy to [have something] pressing against my face as I'm trying to sing. You got to find a way to manage your breath, to find a way to manage your claustrophobia.

How did you do that?
You realize it's 100 percent live and you got to figure it out. At first I wore an ice vest under my costume because it was so hot. But then I realized the ice vest was weighing me down and making it harder to breathe. So I said, "You know what? Lose the ice vest, I'll figure it out. I'll just be hotter." I'd rather be that than out of breath and laboring. Certainly unlike anything I've ever done or probably will do again in my career, which is what makes it such a cool experience. I've told everybody, if you're ever asked to do it, do it.

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