Here’s What ‘American Idol’ Runner-Up Justin Guarini Is Up to These Days

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Justin Guarini may not be a household name these days, but the American Idol alum is doing pretty well for himself.

The 38-year-old, who was beat out by Kelly Clarkson as the first-ever winner of American Idol, is now making Broadway his home. Though winning the singing competition in 2002 would’ve undoubtedly launched Guarini’s career to superstardom, the singer believes it’s a kind of a good thing that he placed second instead.

“I feel like if I had won that year, I just wouldn’t have known what to do. I was so naive,” he tells the Associated Press. “So I had to learn the hard way. I backed away and I started from the beginning.”

“I was not handed anything and I consider myself so lucky for that because I developed good habits. I learned how to audition properly. I did the work. And I failed miserably at times,” Guarini, who has since appeared in productions such as Rent, Wicked, ChicagoMamma Mia! and American Idiot, explains. “It taught me all the lessons that I missed not going through the usual setup. And I’m all the better for it.”

Now, Guarini is starring in the a cappella Broadway musical, In Transit, which demands that its performers be able to simultaneously act, sing, dance and be the orchestra.

“There is absolutely no place to hide,” he admits. “It’s not perfect every single night. It’s not this heavily produced thing that we’re so used to hearing in popular music. There’s an honesty and a truth.”

He adds, “What I love about a cappella is that it’s a great equalizer. You can be from any socio-economic background, any race, any anything and when you get in an a cappella group, because you’re singing in harmony, or in unison, you’re all together. You’re all the same.”