Jennifer Hudson goes all 'Divas' again for VH1 concert special
Jennifer Hudson performs on "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" Monday.
An Oscar winner for her movie debut in "Dreamgirls" and a Grammy winner for her self-named debut album, the "American Idol" alum will join a host of other female music stars -- including Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Florence and her "Machine," and original "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson -- as "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" is presented by the music-oriented channel Monday, Dec. 19.
"I'm excited," says the friendly Hudson, whose first turn in a "VH1 Divas" special was two years ago, "because I'm a fan of all these ladies. I worked with Florence (Welch) at the Grammys last time, and I fell in love with her. Soul music is home for me, so it's going to be interesting. They're going to pair us up, with some of us singing together, so we're just going to have a soulful good time with, I'm sure, some surprises throughout the night."
Originating from New York's Hammerstein Ballroom, "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" also is slated to feature Jessie J., Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Estelle and Marsha Ambrosius. A few members of the male gender typically manage to find their way into a "Divas" show, too; this time, they'll include Boyz II Men and Travie McCoy.
A potential teaming with current "Mr. Know It All" crooner Clarkson is a big prospect for Hudson, who reveals that the two "Idol" icons have crossed paths "hardly at all" despite their both having been in the 2009 "VH1 Divas" show along with another "American Idol" victor, Jordin Sparks (plus Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Miley Cyrus and Adele).
"Of course, I watched her season of 'American Idol' because it was the first one," Hudson says of Clarkson. "That made me so nauseous because I thought, 'I can't believe I didn't go and audition for this show.' That was when I decided to go for Season 3, seeing Kelly win Season 1.
"I'd imagine a lot of 'Idol' fans will be watching," Hudson reflects of possible "VH1 Divas" duets with Clarkson, "but I hadn't even really thought about it like that at first. Kelly has been going along on her own, and it's almost the 10-year ('Idol') anniversary for her. I'm not that far behind that, and this will be great, since one aspect of it will be our meeting."
With soul the driving music force of the newest "VH1 Divas" event, the program will salute several cities that have done much to foster and sustain the genre: Chicago, Detroit, London, Memphis and Philadelphia. The Roots -- involved in controversy recently as house band for NBC's "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon," over their choice of musical introduction for Rep. Michele Bachmann -- will accompany the "Divas."
While it yields on-air specials, the "VH1 Divas" franchise also is designed to raise funds for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, an initiative to continue music education in public schools. For Hudson, "VH1 Divas Celebrates Soul" comes right after TNT's "Christmas in Washington" special, on which she appeared with Justin Bieber, Cee Lo Green, The Band Perry and host Conan O'Brien.
"It's fun," Hudson says. "There's no better time than the holidays. Switching it up and trying new things and working with different artists, it's fine." Also considering her latest film roles in "Winnie" (in the title part of Winnie Mandela) and the forthcoming "The Three Stooges," Hudson continues to embrace fresh opportunities, but she admits she's been in "the biggest whirlwind" since 2004.
"It has not stopped. It has just kept going since 'American Idol,' because right after that was when I got 'Dreamgirls,' and it's just been going and going. It's been fantastic, though, and it gave us the platform to still be in it this much later."
Hudson recognizes the holidays are an especially ripe time for "Idol" veterans to turn up on specials. "I guess it's maybe because you got to see us as we started and then grew into these careers," she reasons. "A lot of people have become part of our lives, and the holidays are about family, right? Maybe that's what it is."
For Hudson -- who lost her mother, brother and nephew in a much-reported 2008 tragedy -- family also includes her 2-year-old son with her pro-wrestler fiance, David Otunga. She has increased her visibility lately, while decreasing her physique, as a Weight Watchers spokeswoman. Clearly, then, much has changed for her ... but she has learned through experience to adjust and adapt.
"I feel like I've been on both sides of everything," Hudson says. "I was once someone who would have to go and audition for a show like 'American Idol,' and now, I'm in a whole new world. I miss the normalcy of being able to do some things.
"I love people-watching, because I think, 'Wow! They just get to walk up the street and go into the grocery store.' They get to do normal things, and that's what I miss. Because I was that person."