Jennifer Hudson is an American actress and singer. In 2004, she earned a spot on FOX's American Idol, gaining exposure and a loyal fan base. In 2006, she played a Motown-era singer in the film Dreamgirls, for which she won a Golden Globe and an Oscar. She also won a Grammy in 2008 for her debut album. The same year, her mother, brother and nephew were killed by her estranged brother-in-law, with Hudson taking time away from the spotlight to grieve. She has later gone on to star in additional screen projects, including the The Secret Life of Bees and the TV musical Smash.
Jennifer Kate Hudson was born on September 12, 1981 in Chicago, Illinois. She grew up singing in the church choir and graduated from Dunbar Vocational Career Academy in 1999. After singing for a year on a Disney cruise ship, Hudson auditioned for the third season of FOX's American Idol in 2004. As a finalist, she gained exposure and a fan base, then all but disappeared from the limelight after she was eliminated from the show. Controversy ensued over her departure as she was recognized by legions as an outstanding vocalist who could out-sing other contestants.
An Oscar for 'Dream Girls'
Then, in 2005, Hudson beat out hundreds of competitors to win the role of Effie White in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Her scene-stealing performance, including an unforgettable, rapturous rendition of "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going," earned the young singer a Golden Globe and an Oscar in the supporting actress categories.
On May 30, 2008, Jennifer Hudson continued her film work by appearing in the hit movie Sex in the City, playing Louise, the electronically savvy assistant to Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker). Hudson then starred in The Secret Life of Bees in October of 2008 along with Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo.
In September of 2008, Hudson also released her self-titled debut album, which went on to win a Grammy for Best R&B Album.
Tragedy struck Hudson's life when her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, disappeared. The boy went missing shortly after Hudson's mother and brother were shot in what appeared to be a double-homicide. King was later found dead as well. In December 2008, police arrested Hudson's brother-in-law, William Balfour, in relation to the killings. He was eventually convicted of the murder of all three family members and was sentenced to life in prison.
Hudson took significant time off to mourn and heal, and made her first public appearance after her loss when she sang the national anthem during Super Bowl XLIII in 2009. In the spring of 2011, she released her sophomore album, I Remember Me, which featured production and songwriting from the likes of Keys, Diane Warren and R. Kelly. She has also gone on to establish the Julian D. King Toy Drive and Christmas Dinner and the Hatch Day charity to honor her nephew.
'JHUD' and 'Empire'
Hudson has become a spokesperson for Weight Watchers and published the 2012 book I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down. She started her own clothing line and contributed to the soundtrack for Think Like a Man while continuing to star in film projects as well. She portrayed Winnie Mandela in a 2011 biopic named after the famous South African activist and was featured in 2012’s The Three Stooges. Then in 2013, Hudson appeared as a recurring guest star on the television musical series Smash as well as in the big-screen musical Black Nativity.
Continuing to make new music, Hudson released her latest album, JHUD, in 2014, a more scintillating affair featuring production from the likes of Pharrell Williams and Timbaland. She also returned to television the following year, appearing on the hit musical drama Empire. The show, co-created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, focuses on the family behind a successful music business. In addition to playing a music therapist in the series, Hudson performed on its soundtrack.
In 2015 Hudson once again starred in a famed musical, this time as Shug Avery in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, co-starring Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks.
Hudson and her boyfriend David Otunga have been engaged for several years and have a son. Otunga, a Harvard Law School graduate who starred on the reality show I Love New York 2, is a WWE wrestling star and has entered the world of acting with a role in the film The Call.
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