Who Is Jennifer Hudson?

Jennifer Hudson is an American actress and singer. In 2004 she earned a spot on 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, leading to Hudson taking time away from the spotlight to grieve. She returned to star in an array of projects, including the televised Hairspray Live! and the Broadway revival of The Color Purple.

Jennifer Hudson

Early Career & 'American Idol'

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.

Movies, TV and Music

An Oscar for 'Dreamgirls'

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.

Book, 'Smash' and 'Black Nativity'

Hudson became 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.

'JHUD' and 'Empire'

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.

'The Color Purple,' 'The Voice' and 'Cats'

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. The well-received production won the 2016 Tony for Best Revival, and Hudson claimed another Grammy for her contributions to the soundtrack.

Hudson joined the cast of NBC's Hairspray Live! in 2016, earning strong reviews for her performance as Motormouth Maybelle. The following year, she added to her portfolio of projects by becoming a judge on the popular singing-competition show The Voice.

In summer 2018 it was announced that Hudson would join the cast of the Hollywood adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's famed musical Cats, alongside stars like Judi Dench, Taylor Swift, Idris Elba and James Corden. The film premiered in December 2019, with Hudson earning praise for her powerful performance of "Memory" as the exiled Grizabella.

Family Tragedy

Tragedy struck Hudson's life in 2008 when her seven-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 also went on to establish the Julian D. King Toy Drive and Christmas Dinner and the Hatch Day charity to honor her nephew.

Personal Life

Hudson became engaged to boyfriend David Otunga in September 2008 and the two had a son together the following summer. Otunga, a Harvard Law School graduate, is a professional wrestler and an actor.

In November 2017, it was announced that the two were ending their 10-year relationship. Additionally, it was revealed that Hudson had requested and received a protective order against her ex-fiancé. The two eventually reached a custody agreement in July 2019.

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  • Birth Year: 1981
  • Birth date: September 12, 1981
  • Birth State: Illinois
  • Birth City: Chicago
  • Birth Country: United States
  • Gender: Female
  • Best Known For: Jennifer Hudson is an Oscar and Grammy-winning actress and singer best known for her starring role in 'Dreamgirls.'
  • Industries
    • Film
    • Television
    • Music
    • Theater and Dance
  • Astrological Sign: Virgo
  • Occupations
    • Singer

Fact Check

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  • Article Title: Jennifer Hudson Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/musicians/jennifer-hudson
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: September 12, 2022
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014


  • My family always says my voice is a gift—a precious jewel I inherited from my maternal grandma, Julia Kate Hudson. My sister and I used to joke that the 'Kates' in our family got all the talent.
  • I'm getting used to my new self more than anything else. I got used to being plus-sized and knowing how to be that, whereas this is like, 'Okay, who am I?' I keep thinking that I probably need an extra-large or a large and the stylist is like, 'No, you need a medium or a small.'