Jennifer Hudson

With one of the most impressive voices to come along in a generation, Jennifer Hudson seemed destined for fame from the first time she appeared in front of a national audience on "American Idol" (Fox, 2001-2016/ABC 2018- ). Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1981, Hudson first began singing in her church choir. By high school, she was earning extra money singing at weddings and funerals. She had signed her first recording contract with Chicago-based independent label Righteous Records when, in 2004, she landed a spot competing on "American Idol." Righteous Records released from her obligation so that she could appear on the show, and Hudson captured viewers' hearts with her genuineness and talent. She finished as a finalist in seventh place, and proceeded directly from the reality show to an A-list project, playing Effie alongside Beyonce Knowles in the big screen adaptation of the musical "Dreamgirls" (2006). Hudson's acting blew audiences away just as much as her earth-shaking vocal performance of the signature song "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going." The celebrated performance paved the way for Hudson's self-titled debut album in 2008, which she quickly followed with an appearance in "The Secret Life of Bees" (2008). Hudson also gave birth to a son with partner David Otunga in 2008, shortly before suffering a devastating loss when her mother, brother, and nephew were shot and killed by the estranged husband of her sister. Hudson took a step back from the spotlight, returning in 2011 with her sophomore album I Remember Me. Hudson continued to act, appearing in the coming of age film "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete" (2013) and released another album, JHUD in 2014. In 2015 she made her Broadway debut, playing Shug Avery in an acclaimed revival of "The Color Purple." Hudson played Motormouth Maybelle in NBC's "Hairspray Live!" (NBC, 2016), memorably performing the song "I Know Where I've Been." The following year, she became a judge on "The Voice UK" (BBC, 2012-) and proved so popular, she joined the judges' panel on the American version of the sho later that same year. In 2019, Hudson joined the cast of the film adaptation of the musical "Cats" (2019) playing Grizabella.