Justin Guarini (born Justin Eldrin Bell on October 28, 1978 in Columbus, Georgia) is an American singer-songwriter and actor who rose to fame in 2002 as the first runner-up on the debut season of the television show American Idol.
His father, Eldrin Bell, is a former Atlanta, Georgia Chief of Police, and current Chairperson of Clayton County Commission (Georgia). His mother, Kathy Pepino Guarini, was a journalist for WTVM TV in Columbus, and later for CNN. Guarini was raised by his mother and stepfather, physicist Jerry Guarini, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.
Guarini's music career started at the age of four when he was accepted by the Atlanta Boy Choir, acclaimed for its established reputation as one of the world’s finest boy choirs. After moving to Pennsylvania in 1985, he joined the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Boys Choir. Throughout his school years Guarini sang in school choirs, and from 1996-2000 was the lead soloist in an award winning a cappella group named The Midnight Voices. The group released an independent album in 1999 with proceeds benefiting a music scholarship fund at Guarini's alma mater, Central Bucks High School East in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. As director/performer at the Riverside Haunted Woods in Bridgeton, Pennsylvania in 2001, he directed over 50 actors in productions, wrote musical scores, performed, and helped build the 25 sets used.
His high school and college theater credits include the lead roles in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Little Prince, The Pirates of Penzance, The Taming of the Shrew, and Once on This Island. In addition to singing and stage performing, Guarini plays the piano and guitar.
After studying vocal performance and theater studies at the University of the Arts (Philadelphia) in Pennsylvania, Guarini later moved to New York City where he attended the School for Film and Television. He worked briefly on Broadway and was recruited by Broadway scouts to join the cast of The Lion King in their master classes before successfully auditioning for American Idol in April 2002. Shortly after being chosen for American Idol, he was offered a role in the Broadway production of The Lion King. Guarini wrote about his decision between the two offers in his exclusive 2008 blog for the television site, Fancast, stating, "I had attended master classes… I learned Zulu and Sutu phrases, as well as the music from the show. It was a dream almost come true at the time. But, now I knew I was onto something, and I wasn’t letting go. I politely declined the offer of a role...". He was also considering a contract offer from an independent record label, but the show's rules prohibited participants from having existing record contracts.
"Justin, you know, occasionally you're very privileged when you do a competition like this to hear somebody undiscovered who has a voice like yours". With those words from Simon Cowell, Guarini emerged as a standout during the early round of auditions for American Idol's debut season, ultimately becoming the runner-up to winner Kelly Clarkson in September 2002. Soon after, Guarini signed with American Idol's 19 Management and secured a record deal with RCA. Prior to the American Idol Tour, he was the only contestant asked to appear on "The Oprah Show", where Oprah Winfrey told him, "Justin, you have it". After reviews during the American Idol Tour describing Guarini as a "revelation" (Los Angeles Times), "easily the best performer... whose combination of pipes and persona most deserves a continued place in the spotlight" (Boston Herald), and "the closest thing to a natural in the spotlight" (Indianapolis Star), the multi-talented newcomer's career appeared ready to take off. However, unlike subsequent seasons, Guarini was required to wait until after the release of the winner‘s album before releasing any solo projects or accepting any outside offers. According to interviews with Guarini and his parents, he received the following outside offers but was contractually required to refuse them: a guest role on Friends, the emcee role in Broadway's Cabaret, a major role in the TV series The Fast and the Furious, a film soundtrack, and modeling for Tommy Hilfiger.
His long-delayed first project, the self-titled album Justin Guarini, debuted nine months later in June 2003, coinciding with the high profile single releases of the current second season American Idol top finishers, and Simon Fuller's ill-fated movie project, From Justin to Kelly, in which Guarini co-starred with Kelly Clarkson. The timing further hindered Guarini while having little impact on Clarkson, whose career momentum had been established with ongoing solo projects and individual promotion during the prior months. After a short period of haphazard promotion, Guarini was dropped by RCA. When it became legally possible, he decided to sever ties with Fuller's 19 Management.
American Idol performancesEdit
|Top 30||Semifinal Group 2||"Ribbon in the Sky"||Stevie Wonder||10||Advanced|
|Top 10||Motown||"For Once in My Life"||Stevie Wonder||6||Safe|
|Top 8||1960s||"Sunny"||Bobby Hebb||7||Safe|
|Top 7||1970s||"Someday We'll All Be Free"||Donny Hathaway||4||Bottom 2|
|Top 6||Big Band||"Route 66"||Nat King Cole||2||Safe|
|Top 5||Burt Bacharach Love Songs||"The Look of Love"||Dusty Springfield||4||Safe|
|"P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)"|
|Top 3||Idol's Choice|
|"Let's Stay Together"|
"Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me"
|Top 2||Finale||"Before Your Love"|
"A Moment Like This"
Guarini co-produced his second album Stranger Things Have Happened, independently released in December 2005 through his own production company, Justice Entertainment, Ltd.. The album of reinvented jazz standards was described by AllMusicGuide as "a successful reinvention... where his natural skills shine", The Philadelphia Inquirer likened Guarini to "an earthier Al Jarreau" saying of the album, "Guarini displays an agile, attractive voice with good phrasing, supported by a sophisticated and funky backing ensemble". The Niles Daily said Guarini "performs each song beautifully, creatively and from the heart" and the album is "a mature, elegant, adult CD". Guarini announced the start of production on his third album which will contain original material, described by Guarini as a fusion of jazz/soul/funk. In April 2007, he unveiled a teaser for the song "Eventually", co-written with United Kingdom writer/producer Peter "Boxsta" Martin.
In May 2008, Guarini released an acoustic EP titled Revolve comprised of three songs ("Sweet Time", "Rock Bottom", and "When She Cries") co-written and co-produced with Shaun Ingram. Versions of the songs are planned to be included on his third solo album. As described at Guarini's official site, " Revolve is raw, unfiltered, and stripped down to expose the essence of Justin Guarini's voice, and the turning point in his musical evolution".
Additionally, he has completed music-related projects with other artists. He is a featured vocalist on the smooth jazz/fusion album Foreign Shores by David Hughes, the bassist for jazz pianist David Benoit. Hughes, speaking in an online interview about his album, stated Guarini's participation in the project came about after he was "blown away" when he heard Guarini's jazz album Stranger Things Have Happened. He described Guarini as "a great musician who instinctively understands what the arrangement calls for on his behalf", and "his improvising is on par with that of a great instrumentalist".
In other projects, Guarini composed the music for the hymn Did You Know That I Know Your Journey written by H.H. Gayuna Cealo. The hymn, first performed by Guarini in Ishikawa, Japan in October 2005, was released in 2006 with proceeds benefiting the child-oriented peace work by the organization Foundation for Global Harmony. Cealo stated that Guarini's "rendition of the Hymn is truly as pure as his heart". Guarini composed the music/lyrics and recorded the song Everlasting for the documentary series Project Everlasting, launched August 2006 and featured on the Today Show. The title track from his album Stranger Things Have Happened is also used in the documentary.
Aside from the film From Justin to Kelly, Guarini's acting/entertainment-related projects include a 2004 role in the pre-Broadway New York Stage and Film Powerhouse Theater workshop/presentation of the musical Good Vibrations at Vassar College. His performance (which included singing, dancing, acting, and playing guitar) landed Guarini an offer to continue the role in the original Broadway production of the musical Good Vibrations, which he eventually declined. He continues to act in independent film projects such as the drama/action film Fast Girl, The Unknown: Frankie The Squirrel, Mafioso II: The Son, and the short film Tilt-a-Whirl for the Dances With Films Film Festival.
Some of his television appearances include a musical spoof for AMC's FilmFakers (2004), guest role in Run of the House, guest host/co-host for shows including Regis and Kelly (2003), VH1's Top 20 Countdown (2004), ManiaTV!'s U Pick 'Em and Too Short for Hollywood (2006), and the TV Guide Network (2006). In 2007, the TV Guide Network signed him as permanent co-host for Idol Wrap and Idol Tonight. His on-air duties with the network soon expanded to include guest hosting/appearances on other TV Guide Network shows, hosting movie premiere specials, and on-air coverage of the Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards. He's also a recurring commentator for such shows/networks as the Today Show, MSNBC, Fox News Channel, Style Channel, and Comcast.
In 2009, Guarini appears as a contestant on the CMT reality show Gone Country Season 3.
In 2015, Guarini began starring as "Lil' Sweet" in commercials for Diet Dr. Pepper.
On October 9, 2015, Guarini teamed up with PledgeMusic to raise money for an EP. He has already raised about 37% of the money needed to make the EP.
A music education advocate, Guarini has been a national spokesperson for Support Music Education since 2004, speaking and performing at events such as the annual NAACP Leadership 500 Summit. In March 2005, he was part of a delegation which met with members of Congress, and later performed/emceed at a private gala concert for Congress, their families, and staff. In 2006, he received the NAMM "Music for Life" Award for his work in support of music education. According to the American Music Conference, "the NAMM Music for Life Award, created in 1990, recognizes the extraordinary accomplishments of individuals who play a significant role in promoting music education in the nation's schools and whose dedication to music and music education serves as an inspiration to others."
He has also participated in raising funds for charities such as Habitat for Humanity, Rockers on Broadway, Broadway's Kitchen Sink, Children's World Organization, Foundation for Global Harmony, and various children's hospitals across the country.
Guarini has been married to his wife, Reina, since September 26, 2009. The couple have two sons, William Neko and Asher Orion.
During a performance of his one-man show Lovesick on February 21, 2014, Guarini finally confirmed long-standing rumors that he had once been romantically involved with Kelly Clarkson while both were on Idol and during filming of their 2003 movie From Justin to Kelly. He also admitted to having had a fling with Tamyra Gray while they were on the show.
- Revolve (2008)
- The Midnight Voices (1999)
- Justin Guarini (June 2003)
- Stranger Things Have Happened (December 2005)
- Foreign Shores by David Hughes (July 2007) (featured vocalist)
|Kelly Clarkson · Justin Guarini · Nikki McKibbin · Tamyra Gray · R.J. Helton · Christina Christian · Ryan Starr · A.J. Gil · Jim Verraros · EJay Day|