Fate has been kind to Jennifer Hudson. After being ousted from season three of TV’s "American Idol" (Fantasia Barrino won it all that year), Hudson has bounced back in a very big way.
The 25-year-old singer-actress from Chicago makes her debut as Effie White in the big-screen adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical "Dreamgirls." It’s the same role that made a star of singer Jennifer Holliday, who thrilled audiences in the 1981 Broadway production.
The film, loosely based on the story of The Supremes, tells the tale of young, gorgeous women from Detroit who rise to the top of the music business in a group called the Dreamettes.
Hudson beat 782 other hopefuls for the part. Although the film is loaded with big-name stars such as Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles, Danny Glover and Anika Noni Rose, it’s Hudson’s name that seems to be creating the most buzz, including Oscar talk.
"It all hasn’t quite sunk in just yet," a glamorous-looking Hudson said during a recent interview at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Seated comfortably and wearing a beautiful, black sequined skirt and blouse, she said, "I’m listening to you and going ‘wow’ because I’ve been hearing the Oscar talk, too. It’s a trip because all I wanted was the part in this movie. This never occurred to me or crossed my mind at all. So to hear all of this, I’m like, ‘Wow, are they serious?’"
Of course, Hudson’s thunderous voice has made people notice. She’s the real deal, having put her personal stamp on Holliday’s signature song, "And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going." Yet the singer also has a major screen presence. On screen, she looks as if she’s been acting for years.
She knows she could gloat, especially having proved Simon Cowell and "American Idol" wrong. (She said Cowell told her she "was out of her league" and that there were other singers on the show who were better than her.) But Hudson prefers taking the high road. Besides, she’s a little preoccupied right now, having recently signed with Clive Davis’ Arista label. In January, she heads to the studio to record her first CD.
"I never really felt as if my dream of making it as a singer crashed and died after being voted off of ‘American Idol,’" she said. "I would have felt that way had I not got the ‘Dreamgirls’ part. I just knew there was something else out there for me. I wasn’t
sure what. I was like, ‘Whatever it is, I’m going to have to sing my way to it.’ And I couldn’t give up even if I wanted to. Of course, you know I felt set back and hurt after my run on ‘Idol,’ but I got over it pretty quickly."
Hudson sees a direct parallel in her life and that of the character she plays in "Dreamgirls."
"Effie was told she was no good and couldn’t make it either," she said. "She was cast aside. But in the end we both prevail. I like that."
Hudson credits her parents with giving her an inner strength and ability to deal with adversity.
"They are really my inspiration," she said. "Especially my grandmother. I got my voice from her. She was religious and chose not to sing professionally. She said she just wanted to sing for the Lord. And my theory is that had she gone professional, I would not exist. ‘Dreamgirls’ is a tribute to her. That’s where much of the emotion comes from when I sing ‘And I’m Telling You.’ I just think ‘Grandma, are you happy? Look what I’ve done. It’s no longer a dream.’"
Limited engagement event includes displays from the making of the movie, costume designs and a limited edition program
Opens Dec. 15 exclusively at the Clearview Ziegfeld, 141 W. 54th St. (west of Sixth Avenue), New York
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