Jennifer Hudson's career has skyrocketed ever since her star turn as a finalist on American Idol. It's no surprise that with every step of her career, the Chicago native has increased her profile as a gay icon. The Academy Award-winning screen debut in the screen adaptation of Dreamgirls. The role in last summer's Sex and the City film. The cover of the Out 100 issue. Two more movies are in the works—Winged Creatures and The Secret Life of Bees—and the 27-year-old singer actress is not slowing down.
Tomorrow is the release of Jennifer Hudson, her long awaited debut album. In a recent telephone interview—unfortunately, just before her engagement was announced—J Jud chatted up the new album. Oh and of course she dished divas, Dreamgirls, drag queens, and, her love for the gays.
ROD 2.0: You starred in a movie, you won an Academy Award, you have a new album coming out ... You're doing it all. How does it feel to wake up every morning and look at an Oscar?
JENNIFER HUDSON: (LAUGHING) Well, I am taking it day by day. There is a lot happening at once but I am staying grounded. That is what is important. But yes, the Oscar is there at home in Chicago.
It must be very difficult to be maintain some privacy and have a life. I'm sure you're recognized everywhere you go. How do you deal with that?
Oh yes. The publicity around Sex and the City, the awards, Dreamgirls ... it's a whole new world. It is taking some time to get used but I'm just me, I'm the same person, but people don't view me that way anymore. Even my sister can't go to work without being approached or treated differently. That's not really fair because I was the one who wanted this, not my family. But we're dealing with it, you just have to work differently and look at everything as a challenge.
How did you become a gay icon so quickly? Right now I'm looking at your MySpace page and it looks like you have hundreds of gay friends.
Oh really? I wouldn't be surprised. That's for real. Offline, most of my friends are gay. They always have been. I feel so honored that the children are looking out for me. If the gay community thinks I'm hot then I must be must be doing something right! If the kids say I'm fierce, I'll take that as the best compliment of them all.
"The children"? Girl, that's old school. I grew up in Chicago on the South Side.
Ohmygosh did you really? I didn't know that. I would have LOVED to have hung out with you. I started off singing at the gay clubs. At the drag shows. Not many people know that. Have you ever heard of the East of the Ryan?
Jennifer, yes! On 79th Street. Was it Monday nights? Flame Monroe used to host and ...
(JENNIFER SCREAMS) Oh lord! I can't believe we are talking about the same spot and the same people. Yes, honey, Miss Flame Monroe went on to [BET's] Comic View and she blew up. I remember all the old school girls like Sasha Valentino, Indigo Blue, Miss Tanya. That's how I started off singing, at the drag shows. I used to make tips, big tips. Rod, when I first started singing, you wouldn't believe it, some of them did not believe I was a real girl! I almost had to pull something out to prove it! But the children have been looking out for me ever since.
What about the photo for your album cover? There was some controversy over that.
There was but I didn't pay any attention. People are going to say what they are going to say. I like the photo. I think it's hot.
It is. Very hot. But I was living for those Francois Rousseau photos in the Out 100 issue. Now those were stunning.
Yes, yes, yes! Those were fabulous pictures. He is a very talented photographer. I can't wait to work with him again. That was such a great issue of the magazine. So many talented people doing things for the community.
Let's talk about the new album. Did you feel a lot of pressure to release "Spotlight" as the first single? Or did you want to go in a different direction
There was more pressure to [choose] something that everybody would like and at the same time something my fans would enjoy. "Spotlight" was a good introduction to me, my talent, and, for the radio. It was a good introduction to me as an artist. Everyone has heard me on Idol, in [Dreamgirls], in the clubs ... hitting all the notes .. but there is a whole lot more to me as an artist. I hope the album gives something to everyone.
Ne-Yo co-wrote and produced that track, right?
Yes and he is amazing. We worked on three songs together and I'd love to work with him again. Ne-Yo is an amazing songwriter. He's one of my favorites.
The release date is around the corner. How do you feel?
The album comes out on September 30. I'm really excited about this. I want to thank everyone who has supported me before. I also want to tell the gay community and all the children that I will always stand by them. Just look for me, I'll be around. If you see me on the street, just say hello, I speak to everyone. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
Jennifer Hudson (Arista) will be released on September 30. Thanks to Arista Records and Jennifer Hudson's management, limited copies are available for giveaway to Rod 2.0 readers. In the comments below, explain why you're a Jennifer Hudson fan and/or what you've heard from the new album.