Hudson Family Murder Trial Begins: Jennifer Hudson Breaks Down on the Stand

Hudson Family Murder Trial Begins: Jennifer Hudson Breaks Down on the Stand

In a surprise move, Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson was called as the prosecution’s first witness in the Hudson family murder trial in Chicago. The award-winning singer and actress broke down and cried on the witness stand Monday as she recalled the brutal 2008 murders of her mother, brother and young nephew, allegedly at the hands of her jealous brother-in-law, William Balfour. “It was always me and my Tugga Bear,” she told jurors of her beloved 7-year-old nephew Julian King.

Balfour is accused of killing Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew in the Southside Chicago home where the Hollywood star grew up. Balfour allegedly killed Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, in the living room, then shot her 29-year-old brother, Jason Hudson, twice in the head as he lay in bed. He then drove off with her sister’s son, Julian King, and later shot the boy, nicknamed “Juice Box,” in the head as he lay behind a front seat, authorities say.

It is anticipated that Jennifer Hudson will attend the entire trial. She was accompanied to court today by her fiancé, the professional wrestler David Otunga. Following her 30-minute testimony, she joined him in the fourth row of the courtroom.

Read more about the trial in The Chicago Tribune here.

Hudson Family Murder Trial Begins

Interview: Jury Expert Discusses Hudson Murder Trial

Jennifer Hudson: And I Am Telling You, I’m Not Going

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Jennifer Hudson Shines at the 2009 Grammy Awards!!

Jennifer Hudson Shines at the 2009 Grammy Awards!!

A tearful Jennifer Hudson won her first Grammy, for the best R&B Album of the Year, thanking her family “in heaven and those who are with me today.” Hudson made no direct reference to the killings of her mother, brother and nephew that had kept her in seclusion until just this month. But while fighting back tears, she made it clear that her family was foremost on her mind. Hudson later performed You Pulled Me Through, a typically strong vocal performance; as she sang the last note, she looked directly into the camera and dissolved into tears .

Jennifer Hudson’s self-titled debut album was a 2009 Grammy nominee for R&B Album of the Year, while her song Spotlight was in the running for the Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. In addition, Hudson shared a nomination for the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for her duet with Fantasia on I’m His Only Woman.

It’s been a childhood dream of mine to release an album, so to receive four Grammy nominations is truly a blessing. I’m extremely honored and humbled by the nominations,” Hudson had said in a statement released by Arista Records earlier.

Hudson’s Grammy Award Acceptance Speech and Performance

Jennifer Hudson 2009 Grammy Awards: Spotlight

Clive Davis Grammy Party 2008: And I Am Telling You

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Rare Dreamgirls Reunion: Jennifer Holliday Performs at Divas Simply Singing

This is a rare filmclip of the reunion of the original Dreamgirls, Sheryl Lee, Loretta Devine and Jennifer Holliday at the AIDS benefit Divas Simply Singing, which was held on on October 6th in Los Angeles. It is said to be only Miss Holliday’s second appearance in 17 years. The crowd welcomed Ms. Holliday (voice slightly diminished, but still a force to be reckoned with) like a war veteran in a military parade, and the Dreamgirls reunion was both vocally tight and emotionally moving. Her performance brought down the house with a standing ovation.

Jennifer Holliday landed her first big stage role on Broadway in 1979. When only seventeen years-old, Holliday landed a part the same day that she auditioned for the Broadway production of Your Arms Too Short To Box With God. Her performance in that musical earned her a 1981 Drama Desk nomination. Her next role was the role for which she is best known: The role of Effie Melody White in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Holliday joined the show in December 1981 and remained with the show for nearly four years. Her performance in the role was widely acclaimed, particularly in her iconic performance of the musical number that ends Act I, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”.

Among the acclaim was Holliday’s sweep of awards in 1982, including the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, a Grammy award for her recorded version of the song, and Drama Desk and Theater World awards for the performance.

Jennifer Holliday: And I am Telling You (February 2007, U.K.)

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Jennifer Hudson’s Cinderella Oscar Winning Night

Jennifer Hudson’s Cinderella Oscar Winning Night

Jennifer Hudson: On the Academy Awards Red Carpet

Jennifer Hudson Wins Best Supporting Actress (2007)

Dreamgirls Reunion Performance: The 2007 Academy Awards


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And The Oscar Goes To: Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson!!

JENNIFER HUDSON WINS THE OSCAR FOR DREAMGIRLS

And The Oscar Goes To: Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson!!

JENNIFER HUDSON IN THE SPOTLIGHT WITH DREAMGIRLS

JENNIFER HUDSON AND JAMIE FOXX: DREAMGIRLS

Jennifer Hudson: Am I Am Telling You That I’m Not Going

Every star under the sun is here. It don’t get no bigger than this,” said Oscar Winner Jennifer Hudson.

From the Newswires:

“Former “American Idol” contestant Jennifer Hudson won the Oscar for best supporting actress on Sunday for her performance as the spurned lead singer of a female trio in “Dreamgirls.” Hudson’s showstopping singing and sympathetic character had made her the odds-on favorite to win the award. It was the 25-year-old’s first movie role, for which she also picked up Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild wins earlier this year.

“I didn’t think I was going to win. But wow,” Hudson said. She paid tribute to her grandmother “because she was a singer and she had the passion for it but she never had the chance and that was the thing that pushed me forward to continue.”

Just three years ago, she was singing on cruise ships, and her dreams of stardom appeared shattered when she finished seventh on the U.S. television talent show “American Idol” in 2004.

Later, however, she landed the role of Effie White, the hefty, headstrong singer in “Dreamgirls.” The movie tells the story of a group of a black female singers loosely based on the rise of pop stars Diana Ross and The Supremes. Hudson’s rendition of the emotional “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” in “Dreamgirls” drew standing ovations from some theater audiences.

From: Reuters, 2/25/2007

JENNIFER HUDSON’S OSCAR ACCEPTANCE SPEECH

Jennifer Hudson received her long-predicted Academy Award for her performance in Dreamgirls and delivered a tearful speech to a captivated audience:

“I have to take this moment in. I cannot believe this. Look what God can do! If my grandmother…I didn’t think I was going to win, but wow, if my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration for everything, because she was a singer and she had the passion for it, but she never had the chance. And that was the thing that pushed me forward to continue.

But I’m so grateful to have my mother here celebrating with me. My boyfriend, my sisters and my brothers back home and I’ve got two of them here. Thank you all for being here and supporting me. I would so like to thank Bill Condon, our director. Oh my god, unbelievable cast. I’d like to thank the Academy, definitely have to thank God I guess again. I can’t believe this. Wow, I don’t know what to say, but I thank you all for helping me keep the faith. Even when I didn’t believe and God bless you all. Jennifer Holliday, too!”

AND BACKSTAGE INTERVIEWS

American Idol” loser-turned-Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has perfected the art of surviving backstage interviews. Responding to reporters’ questions after receiving her Oscar, Jennifer stated that she was honored just to have been nominated for her supporting role as Effie in “Dreamgirls.” While she felt disappointed that her co-star Eddie Murphy didn’t win, she stated that, “We’re all winners, just for being nominated.” An air of confidence permeated her backstage talk. She shut down reporters who asked about rumored on-set catfighting, and she was comfortable enough to discuss her new house in Chicago. “I’ll put my Oscar next to my Golden Globe, my SAG Award and my BAFTA Award,” she joked. But she’s not gotten too big to forget her roots back home. Hudson expressed thanks for “Idol” and said she plans to continue singing in her church choir in Chicago. “It’s my reality. It keeps me grounded,” she said. Hudson believes that she has her grandmother’s voice. Her grandmother never performed professionally, instead choosing to lead more than 100 solo performances in the church choir. “It’s my duty and goal to do this for her,” Hudson said. “It’s my goal for the world to hear her voice.” And the world is hearing it now.

JENNIFER HUDSON: A REAL-LIFE CINDERELLA STORY

Four years ago, Chicagoan Jennifer Hudson finished seventh among 70,000 hopefuls in the third season of “American Idol.” Unceremoniously dumped from the program at a point when many thought that she was highly favored to win, many were convinced that her dismissal from the show was because some people didn’t think that she was attractive enough.

Who would have expected what has happened to her this year. Hudson suddenly began receiving excited Oscar support from film critics and devoted motion picture audience members from all over the country for her film debut in “Dreamgirls.” And tonight, she was awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Effie White in Dreamgirls. Hudson, who is only 25, sparkles in a cast that includes Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy. She has an unusual mastery of urban gospel in her voice, a clarity and sense of “truth” that she brings to the character of Effie White in the movie that is based upon the story of the Supremes. Ironically, the original Tony Award-winning version of the stage musical was based in Chicago, although the film version is set in Detroit.

Hudson’s riveting five-octave performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is her big moment in the film. Some have said that it is the big moment of the film, period. It belongs to her like the stars belong to the sky. Effie stands tall with dignity after being cast aside by her manager/boyfriend (Foxx) in an unforgettable scene that was filmed over four days on a Los Angeles soundstage. Hudson’s thrilling performance of that song prompted excited talk early on about her being a frontrunner in the competition to receive an Academy Awards Oscar for the Best Supporting Actress performance, especially since Academy members always love a musical.

The rags-to-riches parallels between “American Idol” and “Dreamgirls” are clear. Even Elton John thought Hudson was robbed of the grand “American Idol” prize, saying she was the “best of the lot.” After Hudson got the boot, “American Idol” host Simon Cowell snarled at her, “You get one shot, and the runner-ups; you ain’t never gonna be seen again.” In a recent interview, Jennifer stated, “I’ve had a similar journey as Effie.” “Me being a part of ‘Idol,’ her being part of the group. I was kicked off the talent show. She was the founder and lead singer of the group [The Dreamettes] and kicked off to the background. We both go through our journeys, trying to hold on to our dream and achieve our goal. We have hardships but we prevail at the end.”

Jennifer’s father, Samuel Simpson, died some time ago, but her mother Darnell Hudson still lives in Chicago’s Southside Englewood neighborhood. Hudson’s older brother Jason is a mechanic, and her older sister Julia is a school bus driver. Every time she sings, Hudson thinks of her late grandmother Julia Kate Hudson, who sang at The Pleasant Gift Missionary Baptist Church at 4526 S. Greenwood Street on Chicago’s Southside, where Hudson got her start. Her grandmother died in 1998. “To build my emotions, I thought of her,” Hudson said. “Like, ‘What if she could see me now?’ She used to sing ‘How Great Thou Art.’ I have a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing that on my iPod. I’d listen to it before a song. There was one point they had to stop the cameras, because it was too emotional.”

I never had any voice training,” she continued. “I started in the soprano section of the choir.” Her first solo was “Must Jesus Bare The Cross Alone.” Hudson later sang at Dunbar Vocational High School, which in the past produced music greats like Lou Rawls and Cleotha and Pervis Staples of the Staple Singers. How will Hudson stay grounded through her rapid ascent? “It could have been anybody,” she said. “Millions didn’t make it, but I was one that did. I’m grateful. And I realize Chicago is my home and my reality. I come home and I have to stand in line like everybody else. I love the moment of Hollywood, but you need that reality to smack you in the face.” Yes, she still sounds very much like a Chicagoan.

Jennifer Hudson: I Will Always Love You (54th Annual Grammys)

Whoopi Goldberg: Oh Happy Day!!

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Florence Ballard and The Supremes

FLORENCE BALLARD AND THE SUPREMES

FLORENCE BALLARD (LEFT)

FLORENCE BALLARD (RIGHT)

Florence Ballard: The Original Founder and Leader of The Supremes

As the 64th annual Golden Globes Awards unfolded on the evening of January 15th, Jennifer Hudson, a newcomer, won the award for Best Supporting Actress in a motion picture for playing a determined but less than svelte singer in Dreamgirls.  Bursting into tears during her acceptance speech, Ms. Hudson, who first gained notice on American Idol and had her first screen role in this film, told the audience that was filled with Hollywood’s top movie and television stars: “You don’t know how much this does for my confidence.  Because of this, it makes me feel like I’m part of a community, it makes me feel like an actress, and you don’t understand how much that feels good today.”

At the conclusion of her speech, Jennifer Hudson held up her Golden Globes Award and dedicated it to Florence Ballard.  Ms. Hudson’s character in Dreamgirls, Effie, is said to be based upon the life of Ballard.  Florence Ballard was the original founder and leader of The Supremes, but Motown Records mogul Berry Gordy soon replaced her, moving Diana Ross into the role of the lead singer.  Gordy believed that Ms. Ross was much more attractive than Ballard and would have a significantly greater “crossover” audience appeal.

Not long afterwards, Ms. Ballard was dismissed from the group, giving her last performance with The Supremes during their 1967 singing engagement at The Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.  Ms. Ballard spent much of the last five years of her life in a state of abject poverty; she died in 1976 at the early age of thirty-two.  Jennifer Hudson honored Florence Ballard at the Globes ceremony as one of her heroines, speaking of her as “a lady who never got a fair chance.”

Florence Ballard: Yesterday

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Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls: The Greatest Song Ever Filmed

THE GREATEST SONG EVER FILMED

Recently, I published a review of the astonishing performance by Jennifer Hudson of “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” in the movie Dreamgirls. Yesterday, Jody Rosen published a review of Hudson’s performance in Slate Magazine, entitled “The Greatest Song Ever Filmed.” In that truly amazing review of a truly amazing performance, Rosen wrote:

“Reading the early reviews of Dreamgirls, you could be forgiven for getting the impression that it’s not really a movie, but a song, surrounded by 125 minutes of padding. You wouldn’t exactly be wrong, either. Reviewers have lavished superlatives on Jennifer Hudson’s showstopping performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” just like theater critics did when Jennifer Holliday sang the song in Dreamgirls‘ initial Broadway run nearly a quarter-century ago, and there’s no denying that it is by far the film’s most riveting scene—the one moment, in this musical about music, when a song really grips your emotions. (The costumes and art direction in Dreamgirls are fantastic and period-perfect, but the score’s alleged Motown pastiches are laughably off). The centerpiece, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” doesn’t quite feel like a pop song, even though Holliday’s version topped the black singles chart back in 1982 and reached No. 22 on the pop charts. There’s a bit too much Broadway in the whimpering little bridge section that arrives at about the 1:20 mark in Hudson’s recording (“We’re part of the same place, we’re part of the same mind“). And the song’s length is clearly a product of staging imperatives. (Hudson spends the first half of the song clutching and tearing at Jamie Foxx). Real pop songs have less slack.

Still, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is an amazing piece of music, which will be blowing back listeners’ ears long after Jennifer Hudson marches off with her inevitable Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The song arrives midway through the film—it was the first-act closer on Broadway—when Effie White (Hudson), the erstwhile lead singer of Detroit trio the Dreams, learns that she’s being dumped both from the group and by her boyfriend, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Foxx). It is a squall of pain and defiance, delivered over swelling strings and gospel-flavored piano chords in series of crescendos: Just when you think Hudson is done, she rears back and delivers another, yet more stirring, skyward-striving chorus. While the pathos of the song is immense, it is dazzling simply as a piece of vocal athleticism. And Hudson has managed to claim the song as her own in spite of the hugely intimidating specter of Holliday’s original. Reportedly, Hudson watched Holliday’s torrid performance at the 1982 Tony Awards dozens of times—talk about overcoming the anxiety of influence.

The result is a cinematic diva moment for the ages: Even Judy Garland’s most iconic on-screen ballad performances seem small compared with the last lingering shot of Hudson, the camera whirling overhead as she blasts out a final “You’re gonna love me!” In fact, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” is a kind of summary of the great American diva tradition, our native answer to the grand opera aria-belters of the old world. The term diva has gotten rather watered down in current pop culture usage, to the point where the title is given to any moderately famous actress or singer with an air of hauteur about her and a personal trainer in her employ. But, in the classical musical formulation, Paris Hilton is certainly no diva—and for that matter, neither is Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. Old-fashioned divadom entails not just an imperious attitude and a big voice, but a theme—pain, particularly as supplied by callous men and cruel fate—and a task: to transcend that anguish through cathartic declamation. You know the divas of whom I speak: Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Billie Holliday, Garland, Aretha Franklin, and today’s Queen of Pain, Mary J. Blige. And now, perhaps, Jennifer Hudson.

The key figure is Aretha Franklin. She was the diva who brought the tolling piano chords, dramatically slow-boiling songs, and explosive vocal expressiveness of African-American gospel and applied them to the secular subject of romantic love. It’s there in her greatest ballads: “Ain’t No Way,” “Oh Me, Oh My,” “Sweet Bitter Love,” even lesser, latter-day songs like “It Hurts Like Hell” and her killer cover version of Lionel Richie’s “Truly.” The emotional heft of these songs, and the power of Franklin’s musical genius, is self-evident. But there is more here. Political coding has been the norm in African-American music dating back to slavery, and the political dimension is especially pronounced in Franklin’s work, with its strong gospel overtones. You need look no further than her most famous song, “Respect,” which, through the sheer power of her performance, Aretha turned from a plea for sexual gratification into a civil rights anthem.

ARETHA FRANKLIN: RESPECT

Of course, a feminist politics is implicit in all diva ballads, with their fervent demands for proper treatment by men—demands that carry special poignancy and moral force in the music of Franklin and her followers, given the historically heavy burden shouldered by black women. In a society that still hasn’t solved the problems or purged the guilt of its racial legacy, the spectacle of a black woman stormily standing up for herself can feel less like pop song convention, and more like a call to conscience.

Which brings us back to Hudson and her big song. Not a few writers have noted how Effie White’s story grades into Jennifer Hudson’s. In Dreamgirls, Effie is demoted from lead singer duties in favor of the lighter-skinned, thinner, prettier, and slighter-voiced Deena Jones (played by Beyoncé), who incidentally marries the man who fathered Effie’s daughter. Hudson was a favorite to win Season 3 of American Idol, when she was inexplicably voted off. Elton John decried the result as racist, and indeed, it was hard not to see Hudson’s dismissal as a case of the big-boned black girl getting screwed over. So when Hudson tears into “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” she is singing not just for Effie White, but for Jennifer Hudson, American Idol also-ran, and for all African-American women who don’t quite look like Miss USA (or for that matter, Beyoncé Knowles)—not to mention those millions of black women raising children without a man in the house. Of course, the greatness of the song is the transcendence it offers, to those who know Effie’s pain firsthand, and to everyone else. Hudson’s voice booms, huge and bright, rippling with grief but bringing ecstasy. At the screening I saw, the audience gasped and applauded throughout the song, a first in my movie-going experience.

“No, no, no, no,” Hudson sings. Sitting in a darkened theater, you want to cry, “Yes, yes, yes.”

AND I AM TELLING YOU I’M NOT GOING

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