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Jennifer Hudson        

Award-Winning Actress and Singer; Contestant on "American Idol"

After singing for a year on a Disney cruise ship, Jennifer Hudson auditioned for the third season of FOX's "American Idol" in 2004. As a finalist, she gained exposure and a fan base, then all but disappeared from the limelight after she was eliminated from the show. Controversy ensued over her departure as she was recognized by legions as an outstanding vocalist who could out-sing other contestants.

In 2005, Hudson beat out hundreds of competitors to win the role of Effie White in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls." Her scene-stealing performance, including an unforgettable, rapturous rendition of "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going," earned the young singer a Golden Globe and an Oscar in the supporting actress categories.

Jennifer Hudson continued her film work by appearing in the hit movie "Sex in the City," playing Louise, the electronically savvy assistant to Carrie Bradshaw. Hudson then starred in "The Secret Life of Bees" in October of 2008 along with Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo.

In September of 2008, Hudson also released her self-titled debut album, which went on to win a Grammy for Best R&B Album.

Tragedy struck Hudson's life when her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, disappeared. The boy went missing shortly after Hudson's mother and brother were shot in what appeared to be a double-homicide. King was later found dead as well. In December 2008, police arrested Hudson's brother-in-law, William Balfour, in relation to the killings. He was eventually convicted of the murder of all three family members and was sentenced to life in prison.

Hudson took significant time off to mourn and heal, and made her first public appearance after her loss when she sang the national anthem during Super Bowl XLIII. In the spring of 2011, she released her sophomore album, I Remember Me, which featured production and songwriting from the likes of Alicia Keys, Diane Warren and R. Kelly. She has also gone on to establish the Julian D. King Toy Drive and Christmas Dinner and the Hatch Day charity to honor her nephew.

Hudson has also become a spokesperson for Weight Watchers and published the 2012 book "I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down." She’s started her own clothing line and contributed to the soundtrack for "Think Like a Man" while continuing to star in film projects as well.

In 2013, Hudson appeared as a reoccurring guest star on the television musical series "Smash."

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Hudson got emotional while being honored at VH1's annual awards show celebrating charitable efforts.

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