New York boutique eyewear company comes through for singer with rare retinal condition
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American Idol Contestant with Rare Eye Disorder Gets New Specs for Duet with Michael Buble

New York boutique eyewear company comes through for singer with rare retinal condition.

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American Idol Contestant with Rare Eye Disorder Gets New Specs for Duet with Michael Buble
American Idol finalist Christian Guardino, right, poses with Grammy Award-winning singer Michael Bublé during the Season 20 finale in Hollywood on May 22, 2002. Guardino is wearing the Gucci 0184 clear plastic frame with gold accent specs gifted to him by OPTYX New York. (Contributed Photo | Elizabeth Guardino)

Christian Guardino enjoyed an amazing run during the 20th season of American Idol — and the Optyx boutique in New York played a role.

The Long Island, NY, native wowed the judges with his voice and style on the way to a Top 7 finish in the immensely popular national singing competition.

But it is the story behind his story that is truly remarkable.

Guardino, 21, was born with the rare genetic condition Leber congenital amaurosis, or LCA.

LCA refers to a group of diseases that cause severe vision loss in infancy, according to the American Society of Retina Specialists. Untreated, it leads to a progressive loss of all vision.

“This disease causes inevitable blindness because there is a gene that is missing in the eye,” Guardino said. “Because that gene is missing, it is not producing proteins that your cells need to live, and they slowly die off to cause complete and inevitable blindness.”

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Thankfully, advancements in genetic therapy have provided some relief for individuals born with this condition. Guardino received genetic treatment when he was 13, and it was successful in slowing down the degeneration of his retina. However, his eyes remain sensitive to light. Finding the correct eyewear also can be a challenge. His eyewear, especially as an aspiring entertainer, needs to combine both form and function in equal fashion.

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After watching a video of his audition for American Idol, Guardino couldn’t help but notice his sturdy old frames kept sliding down his nose. They were scratched. They were worn.  He knew he needed to up his game after being selected as a Top 20 contestant. He was entering into the national spotlight!

A friend of his then connected him with Optyx, a boutique eyewear company with more than 50 years in the business and a handful of locations in the New York area.

It was a perfect fit.

“Due to Christian’s condition, we made sure his new frames were properly fitted with the latest in digitally surfaced lenses and anti-glare coatings to make sure his sensitive eyes were protected from the bright lights on stage,” said Brian Jekel, manager at the Optyx Port Jefferson location.

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“It was also super exciting for the Optyx staff to cheer him on and see him succeed on Idol, week after week.”

Optyx gifted Guardino the stylish eyewear he needed, matching the frames with the stylish outfits he wore each week while competing in Hollywood.

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“I’m so grateful to the team at OPTYX,” Guardino said. “I have been able to see such incredible things since the gene therapy, like the moon, the stars, the sunsets, fireworks, snow falling — just so many things that I have had the opportunity to witness.

“And I can’t take any of those things for granted.”

Guardano’s star turn on the show culminated during the season finale on May 22. He sang a stunning duet of the beloved standard Smile alongside Canadian superstar vocalist Michael Buble.

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Check out the video of the performance below. Note: Guardino is the one wearing Gucci 0184 clear plastic frame with gold accents from Optyx New York.

It’s enough to make you smile.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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