Jennifer Hudson was always the perfect choice to play legendary singer Aretha Franklin in the biopic Respect.
It’s not just her voice. It’s the way she connects with Aretha’s heartbreak.
"As an actor, you have to go to your own real places," Jennifer told InStyle. "I don't think I would have been able to dig that deep or connect in a way, had I not been through things myself.”
Side note: Introducing MPlus. Extra, Closer. Post continues below.
Those things that Jennifer has been through are the murders of her mum, brother and nephew, on one terrible day in 2008.
She’s been able to forgive the man who killed her family and stay focused on her career, because she knows that’s what her mum and brother would have wanted.
Jennifer grew up in a churchgoing family in Chicago, one of three children born to bus driver Samuel Simpson and Darnell Donerson. From the age of seven, singing was all she wanted to do.
“I’d ask for solos in church and they’d give me the runaround,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times in 2006.
“I remember sitting in the bathroom of my house at seven years old, crying and saying, ‘Nobody will listen to me, so I’ll listen to myself sing'.”
By the time she tried out for American Idol in 2004, singing an Aretha Franklin song, Jennifer had a job as a cruise ship singer. But despite her powerhouse voice, she didn’t win Idol that year.
She was controversially eliminated in seventh place, after ending up in the bottom three with Fantasia Barrino and La Toya London. Elton John declared the voting to be “incredibly racist”.