Hudson Has Arrived!
Born in Chicago on September 12, 1981, Jennifer Hudson began singing in her church choir at the age of seven. Throughout her school years, she continued to hone her voice by performing at various venues around the Windy City.
In 2002, she and 70,000 other hopefuls auditioned for American Idol during the hit TV show's third season. Though she was a finalist and wowed the judges, Jennifer only came in seventh. Her early departure prompted Elton John to state publicly that he believed racism played a part in the voting.
Hudson's singing career has blossomed nonetheless, and she is currently putting the finishing touches on her first CD. Perhaps more importantly, she is making quite a splash with her feature film debut in Dreamgirls, garnering universal critical acclaim for her spellbinding performance as Effie Melody White which has established her as the early favorite for an Academy Award.
Ironically, the emerging ing’nue had to compete again against American Idol-winner Fantasia for the role. So, it makes sense that Jennifer would see some similarities between herself and the character she's portraying on screen.
Kam Williams (KW): Why did you pursue this role?
Jennifer Hudson (JH): Because Effie's story is similar to my story. We've kinda’ had the same path. Maybe not as dramatic or drastic as hers, but it's very similar. I felt like nobody could tell her story better than I could, and that's why I really wanted Effie.
KW: Why is Effie so crushed when she's demoted to back-up singer?
JH: She feels so backed against the wall, feels so lost, and definitely hurt, because come to find out, her brother knew about it. Basically, this is her family, Lorrell [Anika noni Rose], Deena [Beyonce’], Curtis [Jamie Foxx] is her boyfriend, and then her brother, her real brother, flesh and blood, C.C. [Keith Robinson], is sitting right there. He knows about it. And it seems like everyone knows about it but her.
KW: How would you describe your show-stopping song, And I'm Telling You?
JH: It's about Effie's heart and soul being laid out on the line. Her true emotions' Her true feelings... It's basically about her getting kicked out of the group and then just being rejected by her family, because that's what they are.
KW: What was the biggest challenge in taking on this role?
JH: Singing And I'm Telling You. That was the biggest challenge. Finding the emotion’ Where to pull it out of myself... And to be able to deliver it and to show you her pain and living Effie's journey is just challenging.
KW: How'd you like working opposite Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx?
JH: You definitely get a whole other Jamie Foxx packaging in this because he gets to display even more of his talent. What can't he do? Jamie can sing, Jamie can act, Jamie's a comedian. Jamie can play the piano. So, he brings a voice, again, to the movie. And of course, he brings this unbelievable acting ability. And he dances too.
KW: And how was it working with Beyonce’?
JH: I loved working with Beyonce’. It was amazing to watch this huge star being able to transform herself into Deena, who starts out this kinda’ timid and shy, young little girl in the background. For her to be able to flip into that was amazing.
KW: Are there any truth to the rumors that there was tension between the two of you on the set?
JH: No. I feel that anytime something good is going on, somebody's going to find something to throw in, even if it's true or not.
KW: Has the relationship remained good even though you're getting all the Oscar buzz?
JH: Beyonce’ and I still support each other, the same way we did when we first started on this project. Anything that comes in is for the good of all of us. We all worked for this.
KW: What message do you think the movie is delivering about chasing your dream?
JH: If you have a dream, you can achieve that dream, you can achieve that goal. You just gotta go for it. But it also lets you know, that there is a price to pay.
KW: Do you credit American Idol at all for your success, given that you were voted off the show unfairly?
JH: I do give American Idol some credit because if it hadn’t been for American Idol, then they wouldn’t have ever known about Jennifer Hudson to pick up the phone and call. So, I am definitely grateful to them for that, for giving me the opportunity to be on the show and to be seen.
KW: How do you feel about the fact that the critics are all talking about your performance?
JH: The one thing I think about is my blessings. And the fact that I'm in a movie with all of these stars, and I get the biggest stage. I'm a baby, so that alone makes me emotional. Also, getting connected to the source of Effie, which is Florence Ballard [original member of The Supremes]. Reading her story, I got angry for her. I feel like Effie was her voice, and that there were things she wanted to say. And things that her fans wanted her to do. I feel that Effie is their way of getting Florence Ballard justice. So, I got angry, and I lived in the moment, as if it was really happening to me. What if my sisters, who I've been with all this time, betrayed me? Or if my boyfriend dumped me for someone else, how would I feel? Everybody's been rejected, and I tried to take from whatever was most close to me to make it that much more real.
KW: What's your acting background?
JH: Well’ I don't have any’ This is it. The only thing I've done is worked for Disney on a cruise ship doing Hercules the musical, where I narrated the show and sang. And I worked in a Marriott on the outskirts of Chicago in a production of Big River, but I didn't have any lines in that. It was basically all singing, but that's my only acting experience.
KW: What does it mean to you then to go from doing a Disney cruise to possibly winning an Oscar?
JH: I can't even believe it. To hear that is overwhelming. It brings tears to my eyes to see people receive it this way, when I think back to last year at this time when all I wanted was the part. And when I got it, all I could think about was not letting the people who gave me this opportunity down. It was something I took extremely seriously, and I just knew that I had to really put myself into it.
KW: What's up with your debut CD?
JH: I did just sign my record deal with Clive Davis and Arista Records. We have not had that creative meeting to decide what direction we're going to go in. all I can guarantee is a lot of soul, and that it will be out in June of 2007.
KW: Good luck with everything, Jennifer!
JH: Thank you.
Jennifer Hudson - The Sex and the City Interview
with Kam Williams
Dreamgirls (2006)- Reviewed by Michael
Dreamgirls Movie Review by Kam Williams
Eddie Murphy Interview on AALBC.com
Dreamgirls Lands Most Nominations But Snubbed for Best