Justin Guarini's leap to stardom began with the hit TV show American Idol, but the singer who loves "soul, funk music and raw vocals" didn't stop there.
Guarini, who was runner-up on the first season of the hit TV show, released his debut album, Justin Guarini, last month. Plus, he and American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson starred in a movie, From Justin: To Kelly, about two students who fall in love while on spring break in Florida, which opened earlier this summer.
Guarini, a 24-year-old self-professed music fanatic from Doyleston, Pa., has had music running through his veins since a young age.
He was just 4 years old when he was admitted to the Atlanta Boys Choir, two years before the usual acceptance age. Twenty years later, he is living proof that talent, hard work and focus really do pay off.
"My parents gave me a free rein when it came to listening to music," Guarini says on his official Web site. "I've grown up listening to all sorts of sounds from jazz and R&B to rock. I like to keep open-minded."
He has also delved into other performing arts, including acting.
After leaving college in Philadelphia, where he studied vocal performance and theater studies, Guarini headed to New York in the hopes of focusing on both acting and singing. A few short months later, he was approached by scouts from Broadway and offered a role in The Lion King.
Guarini, then 22, joined the cast in their master classes, further widening his experience in the industry. Before long, though, his mother told him about American Idol, a Fox TV show that soon became a phenomenon. Guarini auditioned in April 2002.
For 10 weeks he performed live to a TV audience of millions. Week by week, he improved his game and generated more and more fans.
"My one defining moment was my first performance in front of a live audience — I felt something really going on. I knew immediately that this was where I wanted to be and I felt at home," Guarini says on his Web site.
Clarkson was given the title American Idol and a $1 million record deal when she received more votes that Guarini during the show's Sept. 4 finale. But Guarini also came out a winner when he was signed to a management contract by the show's executive producer, Simon Fuller of 19 Entertainment.
"I want to make good music that makes people happy. I love soul, funk music and raw vocals without too much post-production, which really lets me demonstrate what I can do," Guarini says.
Guarini says he and Clarkson, 20, sometimes can't believe how quickly they both found success after American Idol. He says it sometimes feels as if their time on last year's competition was actually years ago.
"We often say we feel like we're 30. But it's just the way it's happened for us," Guarini said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America.