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Jennifer Kate Hudson (born September 12, 1981) is an American recording artist, actress and model. She came to prominence in 2004 as one of the finalists on the third season of the Fox reality television series American Idol. She made her film debut in the 2006 film Dreamgirls and won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance, as well as a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, an NAACP Image Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award, among many others.

She won a Grammy Award for her eponymous debut album, Jennifer Hudson, which was released in 2008 on Arista Records and soon certified gold by the RIAA for more than 500,000 shipped copies, spawning the hit single "Spotlight".

In late 2008 Hudson's mother, brother, and nephew were killed in a shooting. Her estranged brother-in-law has been charged with their murders. Soon after, Hudson stepped out of the limelight for three months. Hudson resumed her public appearances in 2009, and has since performed at the Super Bowl XLIII, the Grammy Awards, American Idol, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Hudson has been described as a friend of President Barack Obama, who invited her to appear with him at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills in May 2009.

Early life

Jennifer Hudson was born on September 12, 1981, in Chicagomarker, Illinoismarker. She is the third and youngest child of Darnell Donnerson (November 7, 1950 - October 24, 2008) and Samuel Simpson (died 1999). She was raised as a Baptist and attended Dunbar Vocational Career Academy, which she graduated from in 1999. She cites Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle as her overall biggest influences and inspirations. At the age of 7, She got her start in performing by singing with the church choir and doing community theater with the help of her late maternal grandmother, Julia. As a teenager, Hudson worked at a Burger King in Chicago — a job that she famously acknowledged after receiving her 2007 Academy Award for Dreamgirls.

American Idol

Hudson auditioned for the third season of American Idol, in Atlantamarker, Georgiamarker. In her audition she commented that she had been singing on Disney Cruise Lines for the past few months (as one of the Muses from Hercules); and contestant judge Randy Jackson said, "We're expecting more than a cruise ship performance from you." Jennifer delivered and all the judges agreed it was the best voice they had heard so far in the competition. She was a member of the first group of semifinalists in the Semifinals. She was not voted through to the final round, although she was brought back on the wild card round and put through as a "Top 12" finalist by Jackson.

Hudson struggled to gain popularity in the early stages of Idol's 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, receiving the highest number of votes in the "Top 9" after her performance of Elton John's "Circle of Life," on April 6, 2004. Among Hudson's worthy performances on the show was her rendition of Whitney Houston's, "I Have Nothing". Judge Simon Cowell commented that Hudson, "finally proved why she was among the 'Top 12,'" and referred to the performance a week later as, "sensational." During the "Top 7" show, Hudson performed Barry Manilow's, "Weekend in New England," which garnered praise from all three judges. Jackson called the song Hudson's best performance to date; and Simon Cowell noted that Hudson's presence made the third season a, "Battle of the Divas," referencing other powerful vocalists Fantasia Barrino and LaToya London. Despite this praise, Hudson was eliminated during this week, which some blamed in part on a power outage in Hudson's hometown of Chicago due to storms and tornadoes in the area. This also led to controversy since the "Battling Divas" were all in the Bottom 3. On April 21, 2004, Hudson became the sixth of the 12 finalists to be voted off the show, finishing the competition in seventh place.

American Idol performances

Theme week Song sung Artist Date sung Status
Audition Share Your Love With Me Aretha Franklin - Advanced
Hollywood [N/A] [N/A] - Advanced
Semifinals Imagine John Lennon February 10, 2004 Eliminated
Wild Card I Believe in You and Me Four Tops

Whitney Houston
March 9, 2004 Selected
Top 12

Soul Music Week
Baby, I Love You Aretha Franklin March 16, 2004 Bottom 2
Top 11

Country Week
No One Else on Earth Wynonna Judd March 23, 2004 Safe
Top 10

Motown Week
Heat Wave Martha and the Vandellas March 30, 2004 Bottom 2
Top 9

Songs of Elton John
Circle of Life Elton John April 6, 2004 Highest Number of Votes
Top 8

Songs of the Cinema
I Have Nothing from The Bodyguard Whitney Houston April 14, 2004 Safe
Top 7

Songs of Barry Manilow
Weekend in New England Barry Manilow April 20, 2004 Eliminated


Dreamgirls (2006)

In November 2005, Hudson was cast in the role of Effie White for the film adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls, which also starred Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphy. The role, originally created in a Broadwaymarker performance by Jennifer Holliday, marked Hudson's debut screen performance. She won the role over hundreds of professional singers and actresses, including Raven-Symoné and American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino. Filming of Dreamgirls began on January 9, 2006, and the film went into limited release on December 25, 2006, and national release on January 12, 2007.

Hudson has won particular praise for her show-stopping onscreen rendition of the hit song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", the signature song of the role, which had earlier been recorded, and had already reached the status of musical standard, because of the definitive performance of Jennifer Holliday. The New York Observer described Hudson's performance of the 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." Variety magazine 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."

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 became Hudson's first top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot Adult R&B Airplay chart on February 24, 2007. The track has also reached number 14 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, while remixes of the song have topped the Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart.

As Effie White, Hudson has garnered 29 awards from film critics as Best Supporting Actress and Breakthrough Performer of 2006. She won the Golden Globe Award as Best Actress in a Supporting Role. In addition, she has been named Best Supporting Actress by the Broadcast Film Critics Association and also by the Screen Actors Guild. After seeing Hudson's performance in Dreamgirls, American Idol judge Simon Cowell taped a congratulatory message to her, which aired on The Oprah Winfrey Show. With the March 2007 issue, Jennifer Hudson became the third African American celebrity, and the first African-American singer, to grace the cover of Vogue magazine.

Hudson performing in 2007
On February 25, 2007, she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the film. Upon winning the award, Hudson also became one of the very few performers ever to win an Oscar for a debut screen performance. As of 2009, she is also the only person to have gone from participating in a reality television series to becoming an Academy Award winner. During her acceptance speech Hudson said: "Oh my God, I have to just take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do. I didn't think I was going to win. [...] If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration." She also concluded her speech by thanking Jennifer Holliday.

Later in 2007, the Mayor of her home town Chicagomarker, Richard M. Daley declared March 6 as "Jennifer Hudson Day". She also was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on June 18, along with 115 other individuals for 2007.

Sex and the City (2008)

In September 2007, Hudson began work on Sex and the City as Louise, Carrie Bradshaw's assistant. Filming finished in December 2007 and the movie was released on May 30, 2008.

The Secret Life of Bees (2008)

In January 2008, she began filming her third film The Secret Life of Bees as Rosaleen, the mother figure of Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning). Also starring in the film are fellow Oscar nominees Queen Latifah and Sophie Okonedo, as well as Alicia Keys. The film opened on October 17, 2008, and grossed over $37 million at the box office. The film won two People's Choice Awards in January 2009 in the categories, Favorite Drama Movie and Favorite Independent Movie. The film also received nine Black Reel Awards nominations including three wins. Hudson was nominated for her performance in the film, but lost to Queen Latifah. The film also received eight nominations at the 2009 NAACP Image Awards, including a nomination for Hudson for her performance.

Fragments (2009)

In 2009, Hudson starred as Kathy Archenault in Fragments, a film based on the novel by Roy Freirich, with Dakota Fanning and Forest Whitaker. The name of the film was changed from "Winged Creatures" to "Fragments". It was released on DVD on August 4, 2009.


In September 2006, Hudson performed the song, "Over It," live on Fox Chicagomarker Morning News. In the interview she stated the song would be included on her debut album, to be released in early 2007 however this was before she signed with Arista. On The Oprah Winfrey Show, Hudson announced plans 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. Hudson also recorded a song called, "Stand Up", which was available for preview on her fan website which was produced by Chicago natives Earl Powell and Herman Little III, who arranged the song. The power-ballad is available on the deluxe edition Hudson's self-titled album as a bonus track.

In November 2006, Hudson signed a record deal with Arista Records. She released her debut album and has recently finished recording one song entitled, "Depreciate".

In January 2008 Hudson returned to the studio to record new material for her debut album. Her label was reportedly unhappy with the direction they were sending Hudson musically and decided it would be best to scrap the older songs and instead focus on new ones. Hudson worked with Ryan Tedder and Timbaland on a number of songs.

Her debut single, "Spotlight" was released on June 10, 2008 and became Hudson's first top 40 hit peaking at #24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a top 20 hit in the UK and Turkey. The second single, "If This Isn't Love" followed it. The second single was to be released in October 2008 and was supposed to be "My Heart". After three of her family members were murdered brutally be her estranged brother-in-law, the single was rescheduled for a January, 2009 release. In January her label decided that the second single would not be "My Heart" and therefore decided the second single would be released in February 2009. After much discussion, her label chose "If This Isn't Love" as the second single. The single eventually peaked at #63 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #37 on the UK Singles Chart. The third single was announced as "Pocketbook" featuring Ludacris in April, 2009, for a June, 2009 release, despite speculation that the third single would be "My Heart" after it was canceled as the second single. In May, 2009, "Pocketbook" was canceled as the third single due to negative reception from fans and critics alike. The third single was then rescheduled as "Giving Myself" and was released on June 2, 2009 to the US.

Her eponymous debut album, Jennifer Hudson was released on September 30, 2008 on Arista Records and was written by Ne-Yo, who co-produced along with Stargate. Additional contributors on the album include Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Robin Thicke, Harvey Mason, Jr., Diane Warren, Earl Powell, and Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, among others. The album debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 with 217,000 copies in the US and opened to positive reviews. As of August 2009, the album has sold 739,000 copies in the US, receiving a Gold certificiation for surpassing sales of 500,000. She has performed the song, "All Dressed in Love" for the Sex and the City soundtrack, which was released on May 27, 2008. Hudson performed the national anthem at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Her debut album garnered Hudson three nominations at the 2008 Grammy Awards; Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Spotlight", Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "I'm His Only Woman" with Fantasia Barrino, and Best R&B Album for Jennifer Hudson. She won the last of these and performed at the awards.

Hudson sang The Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XLIII. She toured the United States with Robin Thicke in 2009. Recently, Hudson has suffered through a "throat fatigue" and has had to reschedule her May 16 – 19, 2009 tour dates. She also sang "Will You Be There" at the memorial of Michael Jackson on July 7, 2009.

Hudson has also recorded "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 third season. She is featured in a duet, "The Future Ain't What It Used to Be," on Meat Loaf's Bat out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose. She also performed the song "Easy to be Hard" on the Actors' Fund benefit recording of the musical Hair; and she is featured on Ne-Yo's second album, Because of You, on the track, "Leaving Tonight". Hudson sang "Dancing a Catchy Rhythm" with Brooke White.

In September 2009 Ne-Yo told E! Online that Hudson was ready to get personel on her second studio album. When probed for details he said that he might be executively producing the album. He also said "I'm pretty good at writing personal records…It starts with her idea and her thoughts." She's gone through a lot over the last year, so she has a lot to talk about," he continues. "She's definitely gotten stronger. The things that she's gone through and for her to still be upbeat and happy, it's amazing."

Jennifer will be doing a Christmas special on ABC in December 2009 called Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas. She will relive her childhood Christmases with musical performances filmed at her favorite locations in her native Chicago. Hudson will also visit family members, friends and other childhood influences during the broadcast, ABC announced.

Personal life

Hudson began dating James Payton in 1999, when she was eighteen. They were both from Chicagomarker. When asked if they had any plans to marry, Hudson declared that, "We are happy with the place we are right now, but perhaps we will tie the knot someday. One thing's for sure, I definitely won't be popping the question!" The couple separated in late 2007.

Hudson met David Otunga (who appeared as "Punk" from I Love New York 2), a Harvard Lawmarker graduate. On September 12, 2008, Hudson's 27th birthday, Otunga proposed marriage. The couple had dated for less than one year and the news was met with apprehension by her fans. Otunga accompanied Hudson throughout Spring and Autumn 2008 on various promotional events for her films, as well as debut album. In November 2008, he started training to become a professional wrestler and is currently wrestling for Florida Championship Wrestling, which is a developmental territory for the WWE, under the name Dawson Alexander. In August 2009, Hudson gave birth to her first child with Otunga; a boy named David Daniel Otunga Jr.

Hudson owns three Pomeranian dogs named Dreamgirl, Oscar and Grammy.

Family murders

On October 24, 2008, Hudson's 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donnerson, and the singer's 29-year-old brother, Jason, were found shot to death inside Donnerson's Chicago, Illinois home of Hudson's sister, Julia. An AMBER Alert was issued for Hudson's 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, after Hudson's elder sister, Julia, reported him missing.

Later that day, Chicago police arrested a suspect, William Balfour, 27, the estranged husband of Hudson's sister Julia, but he was not charged with the crime. Balfour was on parole and had spent nearly seven years in prison for attempted murder, vehicular hijacking and possession of a stolen vehicle. The Illinois Department of Corrections' records revealed one of Balfour's addresses to be the home where Donnerson and Jason Hudson were murdered.

Three days later, on October 27, 2008, the body of a young boy was found inside a 1994 Chevrolet Suburban parked on a street in Chicago's West Side area. The license plate and the vehicle's description matched that given in the AMBER Alert. The FBImarker confirmed the body was that of Julian King. Autopsy reports released on October 29, 2008 from the Cook County Medical Examiner's office indicated that Julian King's death was due to "multiple gunshot wounds".

A gun found in a West Side vacant lot was confirmed to be the murder weapon by Chicago police Superintendent Jody Weis on October 31, 2008. The gun belonged to Jason Hudson and had been missing for months.

Funeral services for the victims were held on November 3 followed by a private service at Chicago's South Side Apostolic Church of God on November 10.

Hudson's family announced a foundation for families of murder victims. The Hudson-King Foundation for Families of Slain Victims was named in honor of Hudson's mother, brother and nephew.

Because he had not yet been officially charged with the murders, Balfour appeared without an attorney at a thirty-five minute parole violation hearing on November 10, 2008; the hearing decision was that he was believed to have violated parole and should be held in custody until a December 3 hearing before the full Illinois Prisoner Review Board.

Balfour became the prime suspect on December 1, 2008, and was transferred into police custody. A police department spokesperson said, "He is awaiting formal charges for three counts of murder. There likely will be a press conference once there are formal charges against him." Balfour was officially charged with three counts of first degree murder, one count of home invasion and was denied bail.Balfour was indicted for the murders on December 30, 2008 and in a January 27, 2009 court appearance pleaded not guilty.

On February 1, 2009, Hudson made her first public appearance since the murders, singing the Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XLIII.



Hudson has appeared in the following film releases:
Year Film Role
2006 Dreamgirls Effie White
2008 Sex and the City Louise
The Secret Life of Bees Rosaleen Daise
2009 Fragments Kathy Archenault
2011 Winnie Winnie Mandela

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Result
2006 ShoWest Female Star of Tomorrow
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Supporting Role
National Board of Review Best Female Breakthrough Performance
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress
New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress
New York Film Critics Online Best Supporting Actress
Breakthrough Performer
Hollywood Life Awards Breakthrough of the Year
Southeastern Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress
Washington, DC Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress
Best Breakthrough Performance
African-American Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress
Palm Springs International Film Festival Breakthrough Performance
Las Vegas Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actress
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Pauline Kael Breakout
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Award Breakout Performance
2007 The National Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actress
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actress
Austin Film Critics Association Breakout Artist
Broadcast Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actress
Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Screen Actors Guild Best Supporting Actress
Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture
NAACP Image Awards Best Supporting Actress in a Movie
BAFTA Actress in a Supporting Role
Central Ohio Film Critics Awards Best Supporting Actress
Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress
Best Breakthrough Performance
Academy Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Soul Train Awards Sammy Davis Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year
MTV Movie Awards Best Performance
BET Awards Best Female R&B Artist
Best Actress
Best New Artist
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Actress: Drama
Choice Movie Actress (Breakout)
2008 Vibe Music Awards VHollywood Award
Black Reel Awards Best Actress for The Secret Life of Bees
Best Ensemble for The Secret Life of Bees
2009 Grammy Awards Best R&B Album
Best R&B Female Vocal Performance for "Spotlight"
Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "I'm His Only Woman" featuring Fantasia
Best R&B Song for "Spotlight"
NAACP Image Awards Outstanding New Artist
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Movie for The Secret Life of Bees
Outstanding Female Artist
Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration "I'm His Only Woman" (with Fantasia)
Outstanding Music Video for "Spotlight"
Outstanding Song for "Spotlight"
Outstanding Album for Jennifer Hudson
BET Awards Best Female R&B Artist
Best Actress
Teen Choice Awards Choice Music: R&B Artist
Choice Music: R&B Track for "If This Isn't Love"
Soul Train Awards Best R&B/Soul Female Artist
Song of the Year: "Spotlight"
People's Choice Awards R&B artist


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