Thursday, April 09, 2009

Singer/Actress Jennifer Hudson: "I'm Fine, I'm Happy"

Singer/actress Jennifer Hudson: 'I'm fine, I'm happy'

By Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY

Jennifer Hudson still gets nervous when she has to perform, at least on certain occasions.

February's Super Bowl "was too big an event to take in. I had to step out of it, to be like, 'I'm just singing to myself.' " Appearing on the Grammy Awards later that month brought on "a whole other basket of nerves" as Hudson was nominated for three awards — she won best R&B album, for her self-titled debut — and faced an audience of her peers and idols. "I'm thinking, 'Am I going to win?' Then I looked out and saw Whitney Houston, and I lost it."

Hudson, 27, is facing relatively modest crowds during her theater tour with Robin Thicke, which launched Tuesday in Albany, N.Y. Thicke was a contributing writer on Jennifer Hudson. "After the chemistry we had working together, this was a no-brainer," she says.

Hudson took part in the American Idols Live tour in 2004, after the then-unknown singer placed seventh on TV's top-rated show. But this is her first trek as a solo artist, and like Hudson's triumphant performances earlier this year, it is shadowed by the slayings of her mother, brother and nephew in Chicago last October.

The singer doesn't address the tragedy or say outright that she finds work therapeutic. But she is clearly intent on maintaining a busy schedule and a positive mind-set. "I'm fine, I'm happy, I'm glad to be here," Hudson says when asked how she is.

Her belief in God remains a source of strength and guidance. "My family and friends have always called me a woman of faith," says Hudson, who was raised Baptist. "For my whole life, that has helped me get through everything."

Keith Murphy, who covered the murders as senior associate editor at Vibe magazine, says Hudson "has shown a resilience beyond that of a pop star. Her fans recognize in her a real person, and when she went through that tragedy that made people even more protective of her. You can't buy that kind of connection with a hit record, and it's a great thing in a time when we're often so cynical about performers."

Hudson hopes to give fans attending her concerts a sense of "the evolution of Jennifer, where I'm from, how I became who I am." There's a medley from Dreamgirls, the film that earned Hudson an Oscar in 2007, "and a medley of songs by divas who inspired me, like Whitney and Aretha Franklin and Chaka Khan."

She plans to do more acting. "I get a lot of scripts, but it's not about how many films I can do, it's about the quality. I would love to do a comedy — that would be cool and different." A Broadway musical also is a possibility, "maybe in the next three or four years."

Wedding bells are likely in Hudson's more immediate future. She still won't say when exactly she and I Love New York 2 alum David Otunga will tie the knot, but Hudson is busy "preparing ideas" for the big day.

"I've sung at a lot of weddings and seen a lot of the same things, and I want to make sure this is different — but traditional, and very, very classy," she says. "I'll be surrounded by family and friends. I hope that when I'm 80 years old, people will still be talking about my wedding."

Hudson allows that her dress "might be the most untraditional thing" about the affair. "Everybody comes down the aisle in a white gown. Maybe I'll give it a twist."

After the tour, Hudson also hopes to enter the recording studio again. She's proud of the "versatility" shown on Jennifer Hudson. In March, she returned to the Idol stage to perform the latest single, If This Isn't Love, for a future episode. "It was like coming full circle."

But Hudson also is keen that her next project be more of a personal showcase.

"I want to be even more true to what I love and what inspired me as a musician, and that will require more writing. I want people to learn more about Jennifer."

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