Justin Guarini was born in Columbus, Georgia, on October 28, 1978.
Dad Eldrin Bell is a former Atlanta police chief and Clayton County (Ga.) Commission Chair. Chief Bell is first cousin to acclaimed actor Samuel L. Jackson’s wife, LaTonya.
Stepfather Jerry Guarini is a retired Navy physicist.
Mom Kathy is a former TV journalist and anchor at CNN and is now a freelance broadcast journalist and Realtor in Doylestown. Then president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, called in–from Airforce One–his best wishes to Kathy Guarini, whom he knew from her CNN association, upon hearing the news of Justin’s birth. (Justin’s godparents are Prince Faisal and his former wife, Princess Azia of Saudi Arabia.)
Raised in central Bucks County, Pennsylvania, by mom Kathy Pepino Guarini and step dad Jerry Guarini, Justin was born in Columbus, Georgia, where his mom was an anchor for the local ‘Action 9 News’ on WTVM. Kathy also anchored news programs in Philadelphia and Atlanta (CNN), where she met Justin’s father, Eldrin Bell, who rose through the ranks of the Atlanta police department to become its commissioner.
Justin was accepted into the Atlanta Boys Choir at four years old. The Choir generally does not accept children under six years of age.
With a mother in the television industry, and a father always in the public spotlight, Justin’s drive to entertain came naturally. His sister says that he imitated Michael Jackson’s style and was known to ‘moonwalk’ around the house. His first concert was The Jacksons’ “Victory Tour.” Justin met his idol, Stevie Wonder, at Quincy Jones’ birthday party held at Spago restaurant in LA on March 15, 2003.
Justin has a large family– he has nineteen brothers and sisters! It was reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution that Eldrin has 13 children – nine of whom are adopted. Jerry reportedly has eight children, including Justin.
At Lenape Middle School, Justin impressed Bucks County Music Festival director Donald Dumpson – a professor at Westminster Choir College and composer who has worked with notables like Patti LaBelle and Boyz II Men – so thoroughly that he canceled the rest of the auditions. Justin’s solo at the festival, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” won him a standing ovation.
Justin attended University of the Arts, Philadelphia, and School for Film & Television, New York City (1999-2000). One of his classmates was Scott Holroyd, formerly Paul Ryan on “As the World Turns.” A middle school acquaintance was fellow choir member at the time, pop singer Pink.
In 1996, Justin helped to form an a Capella group with school friends. “The Midnight Voices” was founded “to serenade their ‘female friends’ the night before high school graduation,” but the group went on to burn a CD and take second at the 2000 Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival Mid-Atlantic Regional. The Midnight Voices CD can be purchased. Profits are donated to a music scholarship fund at Central Bucks East High School.
Justin directed amateur theater groups, including the Riverside Haunted Woods (where he first began growing the famous curls) pre-AI days and had the lead role in many musicals during high school and college (Pirates of Penzance, Phantom of the Opera, Edwin Drood, etc.). Immediately prior to American Idol, Justin was offered a seat in the prestigious master class program in “The Lion King” on Broadway; he auditioned for American Idol instead and couldn’t take the offer from Lion King when he became an AI finalist. Justin was nationally voted runner-up on the debut season (2002) of “American Idol – The Search for a Superstar”, in which there had been over 10,000 to audition. Post AI, he was given a standing offer to play the Emcee in “Cabaret” on Broadway (instead, he was required by management to do CD/movie promotion).
Justin has since appeared and/or performed on numerous TV programs (most notably host of TVGuide Network’s Idol Chat and Idol Tonight for several years),other live venues and events and has had extensive media coverage on entertainment news programs, news segments, and in magazine and newspaper articles; he has also completed a jazz album and an acoustic EP.
Justin is a strong believer in helping others and is a spokesperson of Support Music Education. In 2006 he received the NAMM ‘Music For Life’ Award for his support of music education. He has also helped raise funds for Habitat For Humanity, Rockers on Broadway, Broadway’s Kitchen Sink, the Children’s World Organization, the Foundation for Global Harmony and donated items to a Little Kids Rock auction.
In 2011, Justin made his Broadway debut as “Carlos” in “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” followed by “Will” in “American Idiot” on Broadway; “Roger” in “Rent” at Surflight Theatre on Jersey Shore; staged reading as “Priest” in Bill T. Jones’, “Superfly the Musical” in New York; “Billy Flynn” in “Chicago” at The Media Theatre of Performing Arts in Philadelphia; “Joseph” in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at The Muny; “Drake” in Stephen King’s and John Mellencamp’s “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County” in Atlanta; as “Jake Laurents” in “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play” at Bucks County Playhouse; cast as “Paris” in “Romeo and Juliet” with Orlando Bloom on Broadway in 2013; and began as “Fiyero” male lead in “Wicked” on Broadway, February 2014. He continues his Broadway and theater career in 2015 with “Paint Your Wagon” an Encores presentation by New York City Center and “Moonshine: That Hee Haw Musical” at Dallas Theatre Center.
Justin married hometown sweetheart Reina Capodici September 26, 2009 at a Hudson River estate in Pennsylvania, with vows that included step-daughter, Lola. Son, William Neko Bell Guarini was born April 26, 2011; Asher Orion Guarini was born February 25, 2013.
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