The runner-up to Kelly Clarkson on Fox TV's first American Idol: The Search for a Superstar competition, curly haired heartthrob Justin Guarini managed to win the hearts of millions of teenage girls, if not the entire contest. Born in Columbus, GA, Guarini began singing with the Atlanta Boys Choir at the tender age of four, and also performed with an a cappella group, Midnight Voices, during high school. He refined his talent further at Philadelphia's University of Arts and at the School for Film & TV in New York City. Before entering the American Idol competition, the 23-year-old Doylestown, PA, resident worked as a salesman for ADT home security systems and for Cutting Edge Entertainment, which specializes in singers and entertainers for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and other gatherings.
As one of 10,000 potential American Idols and one of the ten finalists, Guarini first caught the attention of judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Simon Cowell with his renditions of "Who's Loving You Now" and "Get Here." On a few occasions, it looked like he might not get enough audience votes to continue in the contest, but his strong performances of songs like "Route 66" and "Let's Stay Together" -- not to mention his considerable stage presence -- made him one of the show's two finalists. While he didn't win American Idol's grand prize, Guarini did score a contract with 19 Entertainment, the production company that created the show, and was rumored to appear on a duet on Kelly Clarkson's debut album. To capitalize on Guarini's newfound celebrity, Midnight Voices' 1999 self-titled album was reissued shortly after American Idol: The Search for a Superstar wrapped up.