The above should read the "Ultimate Dreamwoman". At 25, Jennifer Hudson has turned the disappointment of
an exit from television's hit show "American Idol" in 2004 into a
sure-to-be-Oscar nominee (and a guaranteed Oscar-winner) in February 2007
for her role as EffieWhite in "Dreamgirls", the new film by Bill Condon
adapted from the famed 1981 Broadway musical.
Jennifer Hudson is a mid-westerner -- she pines often for her
beloved Chicago (the Hyde Park district is where she'd most like to live she
said) but her ambitions and
boundless talent have quickly pushed her to the apex in Hollywood after her stunning
performance in "Dreamgirls" which opens on December 15 (in New York, San
Francisco and Los Angeles) and around the rest of America and in Canada on
December 25 (Christmas Day).
As Ms. Hudson explains, she was tailor-made for Effie White,
the confident and determined character she portrays, a woman who won't take no
for an answer, even after she faces the indignities and mistreatments
during Bill Condon's film. "I definitely, through my experience on
'American Idol', shared some of Effie's ups and downs, being the lead singer of
the group (in "Dreamgirls") and then being kicked out." Unless one
has been living under a rock, a hard place or on another planet other than
Earth, Hudson in 2004 was booted off the aforementioned show, even though it was
later revealed that she had the most votes among all the surviving contestants
on night that she was unceremoniously rejected. Even the judges, including
celebrity judge Elton John, thought Hudson was by far the best of the remaining
Apparently, America did not.
Elton John charged that her dismissal
was one borne of racism, and not of anything to do with her singing ability.
While Hudson herself has not addressed that specific issue of racism, many have
not disagreed with Mr. John's assertion. One of the most ironic twists in
the Jennifer Hudson story on the way to Effie White is that she beat out the
2004 American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino for the role of Effie. To be
more precise, Hudson beat out 800 other auditioning hopefuls. It wasn't
easy however, as she recalls:
completely stripped of everything a vocalist would do. They [director
Bill Condon and the film's vocal instructors] didn't want any vocal
gymnastics, or big notes, or 'put a high note here, put a riff here'-type of
thing. And I'm like, 'oh my god' -- coming from a singer's standpoint,
that's what I've been doing all my life! -- and have to approach it as an
actress and lead it by complete emotion -- was like, 'huh, what do you want
me to do here?'" In this, her debut feature film acting role, the
former "Idol" contestant Hudson is already being compared to Barbara
Streisand who debuted with an amazing performance in "Funny Girl" in the
late 1960's, for which she won an Academy Award. Ms. Hudson credits
her grandmother as the person who gave her the voice she has today.
She also gives big credit to Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx. "Jamie was such
an inspiration and so helpful". She also was impressed by the work
ethic of her onscreen rival Beyonce. "Just watching her -- the hard
work the girl puts in, is unbelievable to watch." She also appreciated
Eddie Murphy's professionalism and acknowledged his quiet side. "You
could barely get Eddie to say 'hello'," she said, but when it was time to go
to work, he was on, 100%.
To prepare for the complex role of
Effie, she read up on The Supremes and digested the history of Motown and
watched DVDs of the singers from the era when soul was at its pinnacle in
the 1960's. Hudson would study the way the artists talked, what they
wore, how they moved -- every detail. Hudson, who is remarkably
poised, mature, ebullient, endlessly engaging and charismatic, patterned
each of the songs she sung after specific soul legends. "'Move' I
patterned after Aretha [Franklin] . . . 'I Love You I Do' was just me
singing." After saying this, she laughs. 'One Night Only' was
kind of like my "Bodyguard" Whitney Houston moment."
Hudson has already been honored as
best supporting actress by several prominent film organizations and national
film critics for her performance as Effie. The role is a somewhat
unconventional one -- specifically Hudson is for all intents and purposes
the lead character, as the film revolves around her Effie, even though it is
a supporting performance in relation to the rest of the cast -- essentially
an ensemble cast. Ms. Hudson dealt with the added pressure of knowing
that Jennifer Holliday, the actor who was sensational as Effie in the "Dreamgirls"
Broadway Tony award-winning musical in 1981 had burned holes in peoples'
consciousness with her show-stopping first-act song, "And I Am Telling You .
. . I'm Not Going". "I had to just focus on creating my own Effie, not
anyone Jennifer's," Hudson said.
Speaking about "Dreamgirls" and the
phenomenon it has become even before its opening, Hudson said, "I'm honored
just to be a part of it . . . I can't believe it, what's going on, and just
the experience of it. And the role model [to a lot of young people]
part is all the more better. To be a role model for people like myself
Ms. Hudson will be soon hitting the
studio to record her debut album, which should be out in stores by June or
July of 2007, she said.
In the meantime, Hudson is a
soul-stirring presence in a duet with Meat Loaf on his latest CD "Bat Out Of
Hell III: The Monster Is Loose", on the song "The Future Ain't What It Used
For Jennifer Hudson, the future
definitely isn't what the very recent past has been, and the road to
success, Oscar gold, glory, fame and beyond, starts here, with Effie White.
-- Omar P.L. Moore
Heart and Soul: Jennifer Hudson's "And I Am Telling
You . . . I Am Not Going" during "Dreamgirls" will have your soul on the
floor . . . guaranteed.
(Photo: David James/Paramount)
(Top photo and the one below: from Jennifer Hudson's official website)
Dream Goddess: Hudson walks tall, regal and statuesque -- she's 5 feet 10.
originally published on December 12, 2006