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Justin Guarini Lost "American Idol" Over 20 Years Ago. See Him Now at 44.

The singer and actor took his talents to Broadway.

More than two decades ago, the first season of American Idol came down to two contestants: 20-year-old Kelly Clarkson and 23-year-old Justin Guarini. Of course, Clarkson ultimately won and shot to worldwide fame, but Guarini stayed in the spotlight for a bit, too. He appeared with Clarkson in the movie From Justin to Kelly, but since then, their careers have gone their separate ways.

Clarkson has remained in the public eye, with hit songs and, more recently, a talk show, but it may have been years since you've seen Guarini—or at least, that's what you think. He's actually been appearing in a popular commercial and is still a singer, as well as an actor. Read on to see what Justin Guarini has been up to over the past 20+ years.

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Guarini stars in a popular commercial series.

You may have seen Guarini over the past several years without realizing it. He stars in commercials for Diet Dr. Pepper as the character Lil Sweet, who sings the slogan, "It's the sweet one."

When appearing on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2020, Guarini said trying out for the commercial was "one of the greatest auditions I ever had," because he told himself, "You know what? I'm going to have fun with this one because I don't care." So, he sang all of his lines in a high-pitched voice and was surprised when he ended up getting the job.

In the same interview, Guarini and Clarkson reminisced about their American Idol days and how far they've come. He said of From Justin to Kelly, "Thank god there was so much more than that movie." Then, in a 2023 appearance on her show, the two looked back on how they wiled away the long hours it took to film a TV show, with Guarini calling out Clarkson for her competitiveness in cards.

He's also continued to release music.

Justin Guarini performing at the Winter Gala at Lincoln Center in February 2018
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for Lincoln Center

Following his time on American Idol, Guarini released two studio albums—2003's Justin Guarini and 2005's Stranger Things Have Happened—as well as two EPs, Revolve and JG in 2008 and 2016, respectively.

And he's done a lot of acting on Broadway.

Justin Guarini at the 2017 Tony Awards
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

Guarini has been in a number of Broadway musicals and plays in his post-Idol life. According to NYC Go, he passed up a role in The Lion King to audition for American Idol, but eventually made his Broadway debut eight years later in Women on the Verge of a Nervous BreakdownSince then, he has also had roles in American Idiot, Wicked, and Romeo and Juliet.

In 2021, Guarini directed a musical for the first time. He worked with musical theater students at Pace University on the premiere of the show Next Big Hit. And the subject matter was familiar to him. According to Broadway World, "The show centers around the story of Lara McDowell, winner of Season 4 of 'America's Next Big Hit,' a nationally televised singing competition, and how she learns that when you live in the spotlight, there is no room to hide in the shadows."

Guarini has also written a book titled Audition Secrets and mentors actors on auditioning, including through his Instagram.

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He's married and has three kids.

Justin Guarini on The Kelly Clarkson Show in 2023
The Kelly Clarkson Show/YouTube

Guarini married his wife, Reina Capodici, in 2009. "12 years of marriage and I feel like we're just getting started," he wrote in a post on their anniversary in 2021. "You're the one. You've always been the one. You'll always be the one, my Queen. I love you, happy anniversary."

The couple have two children, 11-year-old William and and nine-year-old Asher. He's also stepdad to Capodici's daughter Lola from a previous relationship.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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