Jennifer Hudson might not have won the "American Idol" crown, but she’s forged a career filled with enough triumphs to rival any prize offered from a singing competition.
Born Sept. 12, 1981, in Chicago, Hudson discovered her voice as a child. Like Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and other legendary soul singers that inspired her, Hudson got her first stage experience courtesy of church, singing in a gospel choir.
With a stunning mezzo-soprano range, a 20-year-old Hudson had dreams bigger than singing on a cruise ship and decided to audition for the third season of Fox’s hit talent competition "American Idol" in 2004. She knocked the judges out when she auditioned with Aretha Franklin’s version of "Share Your Love With Me" and eventually landed in the show’s Top 12.
On "Idol," Hudson wowed millions of viewers week after week but endured harsh criticism from judge Simon Cowell, specifically regarding her weight. Hudson placed seventh, and her elimination is still among the series’ most controversial exits; fellow R&B diva Fantasia would ultimately win.
After her elimination from "Idol," Hudson beat out hundreds of actresses for the role of Effie White in the film adaptation of Broadway musical "Dreamgirls" alongside Beyonce, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy.
Released in 2006 "Dreamgirls" opened to rave reviews and launched Hudson — who scored a record deal with iconic record man Clive Davis shortly before its release — to superstardom. Critics fawned over Hudson’s captivating performance, especially her stunning rendition of the musical’s centerpiece, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
The singer went from "Idol" castoff to acclaimed actress and was showered with honors including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild award and many film offers.
In 2008 Hudson issued her eponymous debut album, which featured hits like "Spotlight" and "If This Isn’t Love," and landed more high-profile films, including a role in the adaptation of the hit series "Sex and the City" and "The Secret Life of Bees."
Her breakout career would eventually be jolted by tragedy in late 2008 after her mother, brother and nephew were slain. Hudson reemerged in 2009 and made her triumphant comeback performing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at Super Bowl XLIII.
At the 2009 Grammys, her idol Whitney Houston presented her with the award for R&B album and Hudson dedicated an emotional performance to her family. She would return to the Grammy stage in 2012 to pay tribute to Houston, who died 24 hours before the ceremony, with a rendition of "I Will Always Love You."
She released her sophomore album, "I Remember Me," in 2011.
The singer continues a thriving film career, having channeled Winnie Mandela for a 2013 biopic. She also had a stint on the musical drama "Smash." So far this year she has starred in two films, "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" and the musical "Black Nativity."
— Gerrick D. Kennedy for the Los Angeles Times Nov. 14, 2013