Kate's Notes

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Kate Hudson
(born September 12, 1981) is the epitome of “breakout star.” She first gained national recognition for her talents as a singer when she became a finalist on the wildly popular weekly show “American Idol.” However, it was not until she auditioned for the intrinsic role of Effie White in the movie adaptation of the Broadway show Dreamgirls, did her star shoot to the top of the Hollywood sky. Out of hundreds of hopeful Effies, Hudson stood out as the clear choice for the movie’s producers; and after the movie’s release, critics from all over named Hudson as an unstoppable, driving force of a singer and actress. She was not only nominated for a Golden Globe, SAG, BAFTA, and the prestigious Oscar award for best supporting actress for her role, but she also went onto win every single nomination.

In March of 2007, she became the first “American Idol” singer, the first black singer, and the third black woman in history to be featured on the cover of the American fashion magazine Vogue.

Early Life and Inspiration

Hudson grew up on the south side of Chicago IL, and at seven years old, she began singing in the church choir. Hudson credits gospel music as the cornerstone of her introduction to her lifelong passion for singing: "the church is my favorite place to sing. My first solo was "Must esus Bare The Cross Alone," she has said. She was also influenced by her grandmother, Julia Kate Hudson, who was an avid churchgoer and also sang in the choir. Throughout grammar and high school, Jennifer cultivated and showcased her talent by participating in a host of local talent shows and musicals. During this time she also performed at various clubs, weddings and benefits in Chicago and surrounding areas. Although she attended Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, after she graduated in 1999, Hudson tried her hand at making a profession for herself as a singer.

Hudson landed her first professional role in a local production of Big River. Then, in the Fall of 2002, Hudson successfully auditioned for one of the Disney Cruise ships, where she landed her first major role as "Calliope," the head muse on the "Disney Wonder" line; the show ran from February 2003 through August of 2003. Hudson appreciated her time with the Disney crew very much, and considers herself a member of the Disney family. However, taking a leap of faith, Hudson tactically decided not to renew her contract with Disney, and instead flew to Atlanta where she auditioned for the hit, Fox reality show, “American Idol: Season 3” in August of 2003.

"American Idol: Season 3"

Hudson auditioned for the third season of “American Idol” in Atlanta, Georgia; out of 70,000 hopefuls, she was a stand-out voice, and easily became a top-12 competitor.

Hudson struggled to gain popularity in the early stages of the live shows, receiving the second lowest number of votes in two of the first three shows. However, after a change in song choices, she soon became a favorite to win and received the highest number of votes on one occasion.

From there, she wowed the idol judges and millions of viewers with her strong and passionate performances of classic songs by international icons such as Elton John, Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston. Though she was a member of the first group of semifinalists, she was not voted through to the final round. Viewer response to her early departure was quite controversial (many accused the show of being racist) and sent shockwaves across America, unleashing a torrent of criticism about the idol voting process. She was, however, brought back on the “wildcard” round and put through as a finalist by judge Randy Jackson. This accelerated her to the seventh position on the show.

Hudson received high praise from some of music’s biggest industry legends. Sir Elton John was quoted as saying that she was "the best of the lot." The resonant, rich, powerful, and classic texture of Hudson’s voice was a highlight of the show. In response to hearing Hudson’s version of his song, "Weekend In New England," Barry Manilow said, "My catalog of songs requires that you have range, you cannot do what Jennifer is doing, she takes it to a whole other level." Movie director Quentin Tarentino was also enchanted by hearing Hudson’s powerful rendition of the Whitney Houston song "I Have Nothing" from The Bodyguard Soundtrack, and proclaimed "Hudson takes on Houston and WINS!" Although Hudson did not win the idol crown, she left an indelible mark on the music industry and millions of “American Idol” viewers.

Of her idol experience Hudson had to say, "I have learned a lot," she said. "It's been the biggest experience of my life. "It's just a blessing from God to just be able to use my talent to make my living - to be on American Idol and be on stage."

Post Idol: Pop Idol

After the 2003 “American Idol” wrapped up, the top ten finalists embarked on a 48 city tour and Hudson received critical praise for her performances from many of the local newspapers covering the event. Though being voted off the show, so close to the final round was an initial disappointment, reaction to her departure yielded much unprecedented exposure. She completed a duet with Barry Manilow on the radio program, "On Air with Ryan Seacrest," after which Manilow invited Hudson to sing with him on tour.

Post "Idol" life for Hudson proved to be very rewarding. She has performed at several important benefit concerts, including a performance in the hit Broadway musical "Hair.". Hudson has also received rave reviews from established stage performers after her stand out delivery of "Easy To Be Hard", which she has recorded for an ensemble cast HAIR benefit album, due for release in early 2005.

Hudson was also invited to perform at an event in her hometown along side such notable acts as Destinys Child, Kanye West and others. There, she introduced an original song entitled "Stand Up", which has gotten considerable buzz.


In November 2005, out hundreds of professional singers and actresses auditioning for the fundamental role of Effie White in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls, Hudson was cast. Ironically, she beat out Fantasia Barrino, who won American Idol: Season 3, when she was given the role. The character Effie is supposed to be a full figured woman, and Hudson had to gain 20 pounds in order to play the role.

Starring along side Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Beyonce Knowles, and many others, Dreamgirls began filming on January 09, 2006, and the film went into limited release on December 25, 2006 and national release on January 12, 2007.

Hudson won voluminous critical praise for her curvy figure and onscreen performance of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." The New York Observer described her performance of that song as "five mellifluous, molto-vibrato minutes that have suddenly catapulted Ms. Hudson... into the position of front-runner for the best supporting actress Oscar." Newsweek said that when moviegoers hear Hudson sing the song, she "is going to raise goose bumps across the land." New York Daily News proclaimed, "When she sings 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' – one of the most heartfelt cries of pain ever written for a musical – Hudson inscribes her name on an Oscar." Variety wrote that Hudson's performance "calls to mind debuts like Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl or Bette Midler in The Rose, with a voice like the young Aretha."

As Effie White, Hudson has garnered more than twenty four nominations and awards from film critics as Best Supporting Actress and Breakthrough Performer of 2006.

She won a Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and dedicated the award to Florence Ballard (upon whom her Dreamgirls character was based), as well as friends Jasmine Trias, Fantasia Barrino, and the rest of the American Idol Season 3 finalists. In addition, she has been named Best Supporting Actress by the Broadcast Film Critics Association and also by the Screen Actors Guild. On February 7, 2007, Hudson was named Best Supporting Actress and Best Breakthrough Performance by the Black Reel Awards, awarded by the Foundation For The Advancement Of African-Americans In Film.

She earned a nomination for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress, and won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.

Hudson's version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" debuted at number 98 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the January 13, 2007 issue. The Dreamgirls track has since become Hudson's first Top 10 hit, albeit not on the Hot 100, as the track registered a new peak at #7 on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay chart on February 24, 2007; the track also entered new peak positions on the Hot R&B/HipHop Songs and Hot R&B/HipHop Airplay charts, rising 17-16 on both surveys.

Recording Career

Hudson recorded her own version of the soul classic "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)", originally by Gladys Knight & the Pips, for “American Idol Season 3”: Greatest Soul Classics – the official American Idol album for the 3rd season. She is featured on a song called "The Future Ain't What it Used to Be" on the Meat Loaf album Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose and performs the song "Easy To Be Hard" on the Actor's Benefit Fund recording of the musical Hair.

In September, Hudson performed the song "Over It" live on Fox Chicago Morning News. In the interview she stated the song would be included on her debut album. She also stated it would be released in early-2007. On the Oprah Show, Hudson announced her plans to Oprah Winfrey that she was going to enter the studio in March 2007. Hudson said on the Tyra Banks show on February 23, 2007 that she just finished the first song for the album.

In November 2006, Hudson signed a record deal with Clive Davis's label, Arista Records, joining the ranks of other legendary artists that he has represented, such as Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and Dionne Warwick.

Vocal Ability

Hudson has a five-octave singing range and has been compared to legendary voices such as Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, and Jennifer Holiday. Hudson’s voice has been hailed as a throwback to powerful old school performers. Many have praised Hudson’s duality: her ability to deliver classical soul music just as easily as wooing her audience with the power ballads that have made many of today’s musical stars.

Media and Controversy

With Hudon’s easy street to fame, also came her share of media attention, and controversy. Hudson has graced the cover of Giant Magazine, HX magazine, and she became the first “American Idol” singer, the first black singer, and the third black woman in history to be featured on the cover of the American fashion magazine Vogue, in March of 2007.

However, there has been much internet gossip regarding a rift between Hudson, and Beyonce Knowles, who also stars in Dreamgirls, as well as Knowles’ father. Because Hudson gained so much critical praise for her work in the movie, and Knowles’ performance was considered average, many have stated that Knowles was jealous of her counterpart’s notoriety.

There were rumors that Knowles handlers did not want Hudson's name on the guest list for a party she threw with People magazine in West Hollywood.

In addition, it was rumored that Knowles father, Mathew Knowles, unsuccessfully tried to woo Hudson into being a client to his Houston-based Music World Entertainment management company, which she refused.

Many say that Mathew Knowles was so insulted by her refusal to sign with him that he demanded the movie be re-edited to lessen Hudson’s screen time and boost Beyonce's. He argued that his daughter was being shortchanged but was rebuffed by the studio. In one meeting with director Bill Condon, Beyonce's mother, Tina, supposedly went into a “tirade” about how he ruined the movie for her daughter. “It was supposed to be her Oscar role,” Tina hissed, according to a source

Though Knowles as responded to these rumors by saying, “I knew that the character that I played wasn’t the star … I’m already a star. I already have nine Grammys. Everyone knows I can sing. I wish I could have gained 20 pounds and played Effie.”

In addition, Hudson is said to have slammed the show that made her a household name, and said that “American Idol” is “abusive.” She told Essence magazine “On ‘American Idol,’ you go through this mental thing; you’ve got to get yourself back together. You’ve been abused, misled and brainwashed to believe whatever they want you to think. You become a character – I became the girl in the turkey wrapping. I just knew I had to sing my way out of it. I don’t believe in looking back, and I didn’t look back.” She has had her fare share of self-created controversy as well, specifically with the gay community, who she was said to have insulted. Though responded to this controversy by saying, “In a recent interview I was asked how I reconciled being a Christian with performing at events for my gay fans. I find it upsetting that some folks equate being a Christian with being intolerant of gay people. That may, unfortunately, be true for some, but it is not true for me. I have talked often of my love and support of the gay community. I have said again and again that it was the gay community that supported me long before and long after “American Idol,” and kept me working and motivated. It is the gay community that celebrated my voice and my size and my personality long before Dreamgirls. Yes, I was raised Baptist. Yes, I was taught that the Bible has certain views on homosexuality. The Bible also teaches us not to judge. It teaches us to love one another as God loves us all. I love my sister, my two best-friends and my director dearly. They happen to be gay. So what? While some search for controversy, I hope that my friends and fans who know me, know where I stand.”


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