She’s won just about every award going but Black Nativity star Jennifer Hudson is all about giving rather than receiving.
Ever since she was famously voted off American Idol in 2004, Jennifer Hudson has emerged as one of Hollywood’s greatest all-round entertainers.
The 32-year-old actress/singer has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and performed for the Obamas at The White House but insists she still has to stay on her toes.
Over tea in Los Angeles, Hudson cuts a slim, beautiful figure. She’s lost 80lb (36kg) since becoming a spokesperson for WeightWatchers in 2010 and her hair has been chopped into a gamine pixie cut.
‘I wanted a change,’ she says. ‘I had my hair cut shorter for a film and I loved it, so I said: “OK, I want to go all the way!”. It’s much easier, I love it,’ adds the author of bestselling memoir I Got This: How I Changed My Ways And Lost What Weighed Me Down.
Hudson’s latest movie, Black Nativity, follows her roles in Sex And The City: The Movie and a Winnie Mandela biopic, and is her first musical since Dreamgirls.
Based on a play by the late US writer Langston Hughes, it’s a contemporary take on the nativity story and casts Hudson as a struggling single mother – a part written for her by director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou).
It’s one of several absorbing films by black directors this year, ranging from 12 Years A Slave by British film-maker Steve McQueen to The Butler by director Lee Daniels.
Black Nativity’s all-star cast also includes Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Tyrese Gibson and Mary J Blige, who plays an angel.
The soaring score by musician and producer Raphael Saadiq fuses r’n’b, soul, hip hop and gospel.
Hudson was born into the church. As a baby, she would sit on her mother’s lap in the choir stand.
Black Nativity’s storyline, she says, ‘shows the reality of having obstacles in life. That no matter what one is going through, one should always have forgiveness and never be separated from the love of family’.
That theme of forgiveness must have a poignant resonance for Hudson, given the appalling tragedy she experienced in 2008, when her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew, Julian, were all murdered by her brother-in-law.
In response, Hudson and her sister Julia founded The Julian D King Gift Foundation.
David, her four-year-old son with fiancé David Otunga, a professional wrestler, is already involved in the charity.