American Idol Finalist Justin Guarini Knew Kelly Clarkson Would Win

American Idol Finalist Justin Guarini Knew Kelly Clarkson Would Win

  • Justin Guarini told Insider he knew Kelly Clarkson would win “American Idol” before the votes rolled in.
  • The season one runner-up thought fans would have started “a riot” if he had won instead of Clarkson.
  • Guarini and Clarkson then starred in a musical together and have remained friends ever since.

Justin Guarini said it was “obvious” that Kelly Clarkson was meant to win the first season of ‘American Idol’ – and he wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

Speaking to Insider for the Fox-ABC show’s 20th anniversary, the season one runner-up said he thought fans would have been upset if he had won the 2002 singing competition.

Before the winner was announced, Guarini said he remembered being offstage with Nigel Lythgoe, the show’s executive producer at the time, watching Clarkson perform “A Moment Like This.”

The singer said he told Lythgoe, “If I win this thing, you’re gonna have to hire extra security guards.” He recalled that the executive producer “turned his head” towards Guarini and asked why.

Guarini said he pointed to Clarkson and asked the producer, “Do you see that? And do you hear that?”

“I was like, ‘If I win this thing, there’s going to be a riot,'” Guarini said. “Because it was so obvious to any objective observer that Kelly was the only winner.”

justin guarini sings in the first season of american idol in 2022

Justin Guarini was the show’s first runner-up.

Kevin Winter/ImageDirect/FOX


Still, Guarini said he was excited for Clarkson when she won “American Idol.” He said he grew closer to Clarkson and many other finalists throughout the season and was “really happy” when host Ryan Seacrest announced she had won.

“It was so obvious, even to me, that my friend was supposed to win and it was fair,” Guarini told Insider.

Now Guarini says he remains one of Clarkson’s ‘biggest fans’

Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Justin Guarini sit on a sofa in front of Kelly Clarkson next to signing with

Justin Guarini participated in “The Kelly Clarkson Show” in 2019.

NBC Universal, Inc./Getty Images


Guarini and Clarkson, who were 23 and 20 respectively when they participated in the first season, are still friends today.

In 2019, Guarini even joined guests Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell on NBC’s “The Kelly Clarkson Show” to reminisce about “American Idol” and the musical “From Justin to Kelly” (2003).

“I will always be one of his biggest fans because I was there from the start and I got to see his progression,” Guarini told Insider.

He also said Clarkson is able to connect with her fans “so deeply” because she’s relatable and genuine.

“One of my favorite things about Kelly is that what you hear on TV is exactly what you see and hear backstage,” Guarini said. “In any situation, she was always herself.”

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