Jennifer Hudson limelight

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Jennifer Hudson got her start in singing as a child at the Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church choir in Chicago, where she grew up. After working odd jobs Hudson landed a singing position aboard a Disney Cruise ship. In 2003 Hudson auditioned and made it on to the American singing-competition show, "American Idol." Hudson made it into the top three finalists but was voted off in the last weeks of the competition. Fantasia Barrino went on to win the season of "American Idol."

After leaving "American Idol" Hudson won the coveted role of "Effie White" in the film version of the hit Broadway play "Dreamgirls." This role marked Hudson's debut movie performance. Hudson beat out hundreds of professional singers and actresses including her former "American Idol" competitor Fantasia Barrino. "Dreamgirls" also starred Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy.

"Dreamgirls" was released in 2006 to mixed reviews. Entertainment Weekly magazine said of the movie-musical, "Dreamgirls begins as a star-spangled dream of a musical, yet it ends up earthbound enough to be a very good movie rather than a great one." Hudson however, 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. As Entertainment Weekly concluded, "Hudson's performance of this song is an epiphany, as grandly shattering a piece of musical acting as the movies have seen since Judy Garland wailed about ''The Man That Got Away'' in 1954's A Star Is Born."

For her "Dreamgirls" performance Hudson garnered twenty-nine awards from entertainment critics. She won many "Best Supporting Actress" awards including the Golden Globes, the Broadcast Film Critics Association and by the Screen Actors Guild. In 2007, she won the highest acting honor, the Academy Award, also for 'Best Supporting Actress." At 25-years-old, Hudson became the eighth-youngest winner of the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award and she also became one of a few performers to win an Oscar for a debut screen performance.

Hudson's win at the Academy Awards was slightly overshadowed by a lot of fashion magazine fuss over the dress, an Oscar de la Renta dress with a gold python bolero, she wore on the red carpet. Us Weekly magazine reported at the time, "In a Today Show interview, the 25-year-old American Idol alum admitted to Matt Lauer on Tuesday that her outfit was her only Oscar regret - adding fuel to a Page Six report that Hudson was forced to wear the much-maligned metallic bolero jacket picked by her stylist, Vogue magazine editor Andre Leon Tally.

Though the dress fuss lasted longer than it should have, Hudson also got the last-laugh with her show-stopping version of the "Dreamgirls" main song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," which debuted at number 98 on the Billboard magazine Hot 100 in the January 13, 2007 issue. The "Dreamgirls" track became Hudson's first Top 10 hit.

With the March 2007 issue, Jennifer Hudson became the third African-American celebrity and the first African-American singer, to grace the cover of the internationally acclaimed fashion magazine Vogue. Hudson also appeared on the covers of Billboard, Ebony and Essence magazines.

Hudson has followed up her Oscar-winning performance with a handful of stellar roles and performances. In May 2008, she starred in a supporting role in the blockbuster "Sex and the City;" Hudson also recorded a track called "All Dressed in Love" for the "Sex and the City" soundtrack. Upcoming films to be released in 2008 are "Winged Creatures" and "The Secret Life of Bees."

Hudson released her self-titled debut album in the fall of 2008 on Arista Records. The adult contemporary R&B release has already spawned a Billboard Top 10 R&B hit with the single "Spotlight." So far the album is getting positive reviews by critics. Entertainment Weekly magazine said of the album, "it's a solid post-Dreamgirls kickoff that should do quite nicely at radio," while Billboard music magazine said, "her self-titled debut showcases a voice so big, with an interpretive talent so natural, that it seems to burst beyond the confines of the recording."

At the request of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Hudson performed the National Anthem, as the senator accepted the nomination for president at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Hudson is now engaged to David Otunga, who is known as "Punk" from I Love New York 2." He proposed on Hudson's 27th birthday with a Neil Lane diamond ring. The couple has been dating for less than a year now. Hudson told Essence magazine exclusively that she and her fiancé have been busy and have not started wedding planning, "We were like, 'Okay let's get married.' But then I'm thinking, Wait a minute. How do you do this? Where do you start?"
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Jessica Vandelay is a freelance writer in New York City.

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This article was published on 2010/02/08