When Jennifer Hudson accepted her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in February 2007, it was an incredible moment for a number of reasons. Firstly, she is one of only a handful of actors to win an Academy Award for a debut role, in her case Effie White in Dreamgirls. Secondly, she was and still is the only American Idol contestant to have gone on to win such an accolade. Thirdly, unlike those who spend years working towards the achievement, Hudson had little idea of the significance of her win. “I didn’t know what the Oscars was,” she says. “Where we come from, we don’t know anything about that world. If you see it on TV, it’s like, ‘Oh, people in fancy suits and ties’.”
Down to earth is a description much overused when it comes to celebrities. Hudson, though,
“It’s [still] BIZARRE to say, ‘Let me go EMAIL Alicia Keys or Beyoncé, let me talk to OPRAH...’”
epitomizes it. Born and raised in a tough Chicago neighborhood, she still lives in the city with her fiancé, law graduate-turned-wrestler David Otunga, and their four-year-old son, David Junior. And, 10 years after she left her job on a Disney cruise ship to audition for American Idol, now with an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and over a million album sales to her name, she is still pinching herself. “It is so bizarre to me to say, ‘OK, let me go email Alicia [Keys], let me go email Beyoncé, let me go talk to Oprah...’. For so long I sat and admired them; now I’m among them,” says Hudson.
Not only among them, but respected by them. “Her voice can reach the heavens with beauty and precision,” says Keys, who worked with Hudson on The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete. “She is phenomenally talented and not just as a singer. When you have a voice as powerful as Jennifer’s, it tends to be the thing everyone focuses on. What I loved about working with her on Mister & Pete was that we were reminded of what an incredible actress she is.”
It stands to reason then, that