Ever since Jennifer Hudson rocketed to stardom as an Academy Award winner for the 2006 film “Dreamgirls” (after having been cut from “American Idol” in 2004), she has embarked on a life journey that is no less remarkable than that of the fictional women of “Dreamgirls.”
If you tried to write a play with a heroine who is multi-talented but scorned by a nationwide viewing audience, but then comes back loud and proud, to win an Oscar, only to have her personal life reach epically tragic proportions when her mother, brother and nephew are all killed in Chicago by her sister’s estranged husband….well, let’s just say that people would say it is too far out to be true.
If that weren’t enough drama, the 5′ 9″ singer then embarked on a weight loss program as the spokesperson for “Weight Watchers” that has seen her shed 80 pounds. Her television ads now feature a slinky, sensuous, sexy young woman (Hudson was born in 1981).
In Hudson’s personal life, she is engaged to Harvard Law School graduate and WWE wrestler (another unlikely combination) David Otunga. The two have an 18-month-old son, David Jr., born ten months after her family was nearly completely wiped out, in August of 2009.
Even Hudson, herself, says, in an article entitled “Jennifer Hudson: A Star Is Reborn” (“Newsweek,” February 28, 2011, p. 50), “It’s like, ‘What’s gonna’ happen to the girl now? Will she come back again? It’s like a movie, even to me.”
NEW FILM ROLE
Hudson is coming back to the big screen, and that is one of the reasons she worked so hard to lose weight. She is playing Winnie Mandela, the 74-year-old former wife of Nelson Mandela. These days, Winnie Mandela goes by the last name Madikizela-Mandela and serves as a member of South Africa’s parliament. Winnie was married to Nelson in 1958 when she was 22. She had 2 daughters before he was sent to prison in 1963.
The couple divorced in 1996, but, during the 27 years that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, she was involved in many controversial situations, including charges of being a thief, an adulteress and a murderer. She was convicted of theft and fraud and kidnapping, in connection with the death of a 14-year-old boy…which also sounds too far-fetched to be “real life.” Says Jennifer Hudson of the role in her new “Newsweek” interview, “Half the country think she’s Satan. The other half think she’s the world’s greatest hero.”
Musically, Hudson appeared on the Grammys recently as part of a tribute to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and she told Lorraine Ali of Newsweek, “If I was born in the ’60s, I’d be right there with them. Every song I do or film role I get seems to fall right back in that era.”
And she marvels in the new “Newsweek” article, as I did after seeing her sing at Invesco Field in Denver when Obama was to address the huge crowd at the Democratic National Convention:”Ten years ago I was singing in Chicago theaters and living in my mom’s house. That’s all vanished.”
And, one could say, not all “vanished” in a good way. But much, now, is good and getting better.
NEW CD “I REMEMBER ME“
Of her new CD, “I Remember Me,” Hudson says she has returned to her soul-inspired roots and remarks that she “used to sing Aretha songs at the top of my lungs and drive my music teacher crazy.”