Is Crystal Bowersox Better Off as 'American Idol' Runner-Up?

Lee Dwyze may have claimed the title as ninth "American Idol," but runner-up Crystal Bowersox might emerge as the real winner.

As recent history has shown, the top "Idol" crowning doesn't always translate into a blockbuster career with millions in record and concert sales, endorsements and sponsorships.

Viewers watching seven of the eight previous Idols appear onstage for Wednesday night's season nine finale could see that some "Idol" winners had fared professionally better than others.

VIDEO: Lee DeWyze beat out Crystal Bowersox to become the ninth "American Idol."
'American Idol': Lee DeWyze Beats Crystal Bowersox

By far, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood and the very first "Idol," Kelly Clarkson, had achieved the most success of all the "Idol" winners.

Season seven winner David Cook hasn't done so bad himself. With 11 songs appearing simultaneously on the charts, he broke the Billboard 100 record previously held by Miley Cyrus.

Then there are Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks and last year's winner, Kris Allen. All reached the pinnacle of "American Idol" yet failed to achieve the success or even recognition of runner-ups Clay Aiken and Adam Lambert.

Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson, who never made it past the top three, have also gone on to successful careers, earning millions in album sales and endorsements.

VIDEO: Simon Cowells top five moments on American Idol.
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Of all the "Idol" contestants, only Hudson has successfully managed an acting career too. She won an Oscar for best supporting actress for "Dreamgirls," beating out season three "Idol" winner Barrino for the role.

So Bowersox has plenty of role models among the "Idol" losers and second-place finishers who ultimately emerged victorious. Or she could just as easily go the way of Justin Guarini and Diane DeGarmo. Remember them?

Take a look at some of the runner-ups and contestants who never made it to the final and learn what happened to their career since:

Justin Guarini

While season one winner Clarkson became a household name, Guarini quickly returned to obscurity.

After Guarini co-starred with Clarkson in the poorly received "From Justin to Kelly," he released his self-titled CD in June 2003.

Guarini has continued to record and managed to find work as an entertainment commentator, but he has failed to live up to the pop star potential Simon Cowell once bestowed on him.

Clay Aiken

Aiken continues to surprise, ever since his second-place finish to season two winner Studdard.

Since the release of his first single, Aiken has outsold and outshined Studdard, earning an estimated $2.2 million in 2009, according to Forbes.

His "Claymates" made him a hit in Broadway's "Spamalot." And when he announced he was gay and becoming a father, he made the cover of People.

Diana DeGarmo

Sweet DeGarmo never seemed much of a match for season three powerhouse winner Barrino. Nor does her career compare.

DeGarmo released two albums, "Blue Skies" (2004) and "Unplugged in Nashville" (2009). Neither made much of a splash. DeGarmo has found modest success in theater, though. She appeared in "Hairspray" and "Hair" on Broadway.

Jennifer Hudson

Hudson didn't get past seventh place in season three, but in other ways she has eclipsed winner Barrino. After winning the Oscar for "Dreamgirls," Hudson starred in the films "Sex and the City" and "The Secret Life of Bees." She is currently filming "Winnie," about Winnie Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela.

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