Jennifer Hudson, the lovable girl-next-door with a powerhouse voice, was enjoying a sensational rise to fame a little more than 10 years ago. However, the American Idol alum’s fame has faded in recent years, leading some to wonder how such a talented performer has fallen off the radar. Here are some reasons why her career stalled.
Hudson reportedly beat out nearly 800 girls to land the coveted role of Effie White in Hollywood’s long-awaited movie adaptation of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls (2006).
Anyone who saw the musical in 1982, or simply the YouTube video of Jennifer Holliday performing the iconic song “And I’m Telling You” at the Tony Awards, knows that role has the potential to make a star out of those who play the part, and that’s exactly what happened to Hudson in Dreamgirls. Critics raved about her debut performance, declaring a star had been born. Awards followed, including critics prizes, a Golden Globe, and the coveted Academy Award for best supporting actress.
Suddenly, Hudson went from an American Idol reject with no acting experience to the most sought-after woman in Hollywood.
Winning an Academy Award for your first movie role is a spectacular way to kick off one’s career. It’s also a very, very tough way to maintain longevity in Hollywood. Just ask actors Timothy Hutton, Tatum O’Neal, and Marlee Matlin, who’ve spent the many decades following their respective Oscar wins trying to live up to their golden moment.
Hudson currently appears to be in the same boat. Forever linked to White and her signature song, the singer-actress has struggled to find a role that showcases her multitude of talents and proves she is more than just a one-trick pony. Hollywood also appears to be struggling to figure out if Hudson is a dramatic or comedic actress, or both (or neither). For Hudson, success may simply have come too fast, too soon.
One sign that your movie career isn’t going that well is when your filmography becomes littered with titles nobody has seen or even heard.
Hudson has appeared in a number of non-starters that would give any Hollywood agent a touch of heartburn. There was Fragments, which came and went without much fanfare in 2009; The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete (2013), which made less than $500,000 at the U.S. box office; and Lullaby (2014), which apparently did not make a dent in Tinseltown, despite having a notable cast that included Garrett Hedlund and Amy Adams.
To be fair, all of this can easily be chalked up to Hollywood growing pains. Nobody’s resume is perfect, but we really hope Hudson’s next project aims for a nationwide release rather than straight to video on demand.
It’s not like Hudson hasn’t tried to prove herself as a legitimate actress. In November 2009, it was confirmed that she would play Winnie Mandela in a biopic, a role that had the potential to earn her high marks from critics and maybe even an afterglow Oscar nomination.
Unfortunately, the film was marred by controversy throughout production, including complaints from the real-life Mandela, who was annoyed she wasn’t consulted on the project. By the time it opened in 2013, critics and audiences collectively decided that Winnie Mandela was simply not worth seeing. Subsequently, the chances of Hudson landing another major Hollywood biopic felt slim.
Hudson was wise to test her strengths on the small screen. Every major actress in Hollywood appears to be doing that these days, from Emma Stone to Nicole Kidman and even Julia Roberts. However, the two major projects Hudson chose either had too small of an audience—Smash (2012-13)—or were past their prime—Empire (2015-)—for her to really make a splash.
That said, we still think television is a good path for Hudson, especially as Ryan Murphy continues to revive the careers of so many major movie actresses. Seriously, why hasn’t he cast her on American Horror Story (2011-) yet?
On paper, Black Nativity (2013) seemed like it would be an inevitable success. A holiday musical drama starring Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, Forest Whitaker, and Hudson? Sure, why not?
Sadly, the movie elicited a mediocre response from critics, and the box office returns just weren’t there. For Hudson, especially, the chance to really make her mark during one of the busiest movie-going seasons fell completely flat.
One of the smartest things Hudson has done so far was land a role in the long-awaited Sex and the City movie (2008). Sure, some argued that the film, in which she played an up-and-coming assistant to a rich, depressed white lady, felt like shades of Gone with the Wind (1939), but from a career perspective, Sex and the City did wonders for Hudson, exposing her to an even wider audience with a built-in, die-hard fanbase, while setting her up for the chance to return to a major movie franchise.
While Hudson dropped hints about a possible third Sex and the City movie as recently as 2014, we find it hard to believe that will ever come to fruition. Let’s remember that the 2010 sequel earned scathing reviews, three Razzie Awards, and weak returns at the box office. At this point, we think Hudson would have better luck pitching a sequel to Dreamgirls than another Sex and the City flick.
In April 2017, Hudson appeared in the comedy Sandy Wexler, one of the four films to come out of Adam Sandler’s multi-million-dollar deal with Netflix. Though it’s unclear exactly how many people streamed the movie (do we really want to know?), one thing is certain: critics did not like it.
Yes, one could argue that Netflix is an insanely successful company, and appearing in a movie people probably watch while hungover on a weekend afternoon is good-enough exposure, but, come on. Co-starring in a movie with the same dude who co-wrote The Ridiculous 6 (2015) probably isn’t the best way to return to the Academy Awards.
Hudson took it easy after the birth of her first child, and rightly so. However, her failure to land movie roles or release music didn’t go unnoticed by Hollywood, and her fame began to decline rapidly. She catapulted herself back into the limelight by becoming the face of Weight Watchers in 2010, and she told Oprah Winfrey on her chat show that she’d lost 56 pounds and didn’t plan on losing more. However, fans were reportedly concerned for her well-being after she debuted a very slim figure in February 2011, revealing she had lost a total of 80 pounds.
Hudson released her second album, I Remember Me, in 2011, and it debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at No. 2. However, only one single, “Where You At,” was a hit.
Hudson reinvented herself for her next studio release. With a new haircut and edgier style, she enlisted the help of Timbaland and Pharrell Williams for JHUD in 2014. Alas, it was a flop, selling a mere 24,000 copies in the first week of its release. Billboard even suggested her Oscar win in 2009 was potentially damaging her music career.
Shaking off her music career failures, Hudson focused on acting. With her powerful voice and focused determination, it was no surprise when she made her Broadway debut with a role in the hugely successful revival of A Color Purple in 2015. However, she later accused the production of casting her just because she was a celebrity, seemingly affecting her chances of being cast again in a Broadway show.
Hudson has maintained one of Hollywood’s longest and most enduring relationships, and yet, despite getting engaged in 2008, she has yet to actually marry her fiancé and baby daddy, former pro wrestler David Otunga. Hudson said she isn’t feeling any pressure to tie the knot. “I’m not in a rush,” she told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in 2017 (via People). “He ain’t going nowhere.”
She has one of the most powerful voices in Hollywood, and yet, if you can believe it, Hudson was once afraid to share her gift with the rest of the world.
“I used to beg for a solo, and then when they gave it to me, I would be too afraid to sing,” she told Glamour magazine, recalling her days singing at church in Chicago. “I didn’t start singing with my eyes open until I was 19 years old.”
In October 2008, while celebrating her debut solo album success, Hudson was rocked by news that her 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donnerson, and 29-year-old brother, Jason, had been murdered at their home in Chicago. Local and national news outlets reported that her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was missing, but he was later found dead in an abandoned vehicle.
William Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson’s sister, Julia, and father of Julian, was charged with the murders and sentenced in 2012 to life behind bars.
Despite the horrific tragedy, Hudson told Oprah in 2012 that she had learned to forgive her family’s killer. “For the most part, it’s not his fault,” she said (via Today). “It’s what he was taught, how he was brought up.” She added. “[He] never had a chance. Had you had the love my mother gave us, or the background, you know, that some have, then [he] would’ve stood a chance.”
The grief Hudson faced after her family members were murdered was immense, yet she somehow carried on and forged a future with Otunga and their son.
“I went from being an aunt, having a mom, and being a child to not having a mom, becoming a mom, and raising my own child,” she told Glamour in 2015. “I tell [my son] David [now 8] all the time, ‘You saved my life.'”
During the interview, she also spoke about the challenge of discussing her family’s tragedy with other people. “It’s frustrating as hell to me to have somebody who ain’t lost nothing try to talk to me about it,” she said. “I want to say, ‘Don’t even bother, because you know nothing.’ But you never know how much you can get through until you’re going through it.”
Hard as it may be to believe, some of Hollywood’s richest and most famous stars have worked crappy day-to-day jobs, just like the rest of us. For Hudson, it was the drive-thru window at Burger King, a gig that helped her test out her incredible vocals. The job would later provide the best perk ever: in 2007, Burger King showed its support for the recent Oscar-winner by “giving her a pre-paid BK Crown Card that will be automatically reloaded for life,” reported MTV News.
It seems Hudson can overcome any adversity, and her career is once again looking strong. She signed to Epic Records in 2016, home to R&B stars Jennifer Lopez, Puff Daddy and Fifth Harmony. The former American Idol star has also returned to her talent show roots, becoming a judge on the U.K. version of The Voice, alongside will.i.am, Tom Jones and Gavin Rossdale before becoming a judge on the uber-popular U.S. version of The Voice in 2017.
In other words: J-Hud is here to stay, and we couldn’t be happier.
Culled from nickiswift.com