Jennifer Hudson’s story is the stuff of legends. The Chicago native’s meteoric rise from American Idol competitor to Oscar-winning actress is a once-in-a-generation story. We knew she could sing, but when she stole the movie Dreamgirls from Beyoncé, she entered the stratosphere. Personal tragedies (the murder of family members) and triumphs (remarkable weight loss) followed. Hudson has persevered through whatever life has thrown her way and continued to turn out memorable work and performances. Her third album Driven, soon to be released, is expected to show yet another side of the star.
Fans can experience being “Jenniferized” (her term) when Hudson performs at Chicago’s Pride Fest on June 21, 2014.
I spoke with Jennifer in May about her LGBT fans and more.
You performed “Same Love” with Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert on the VMAs in 2013. On June 21, you are doing a mid-day set at Chicago’s Pride Festival. What do your LGBT fans mean to you? Oh, my God! I would have to say everything. That’s where I started. I always say it was the gay community that loved me first. It feels good to come full circle and get back into that. I am so excited!
Will you perform any songs from your new album? Almost every song will be a new song. I can’t wait. I’ve created a playlist of all the songs I’m going to do and I can’t stop listening to it (laughs). That’s how excited I am.
Will you also perform songs from your older repertoire? There will be a few little sprinkles here and there. But I don’t give anything away. There will be a few reminders. For the most part, it will definitely be new songs from the new album Driven for sure.
What is it about Chicago that keeps you coming back? Chicago is home. Obviously, family, and it’s all I know. I don’t care where I go in the world, there is no place like home. Every time I come home, I get to come home to Chicago.
In your most recent single “Walk It Out,” you sing about being a good girl who has to think about her image. How would you describe the general perception of your image — and what image would you like to project? That is a very good question! I almost don’t know how to answer it. In writing “Walk It Out,” the verses I’m singing came from me, from my perspective. We all have other sides to ourselves. But in my type of position, I can’t just do anything, although I might have a thought or two like, “Hmmm. I might like to do that.” Even if you do, there’s a way to do it. As far as how I feel like I’m perceived, I’m perceived as everybody’s very safe when it comes to Jennifer. Then there are other sides to me. When you meet me, it’s like, “She’s nothing like that at all.” The image is very clean-cut; this little good girl. There’s more to me than that. I think we’ll find that out on this album as well.
There are spoken words at the beginning of “Walk It Out” that say, “You must have the right producer.” How do you know when a producer is right for you? Well, when I work with a Timbaland and a Pharrell and producers like that (laughs), that’s how I know. If I’m going to sit in the studio until six a.m. when the sun comes up, which I did on this album when I was in the studio with Timbaland. My manager was asleep with his mouth wide open. I was like, “We are not leaving this studio.” That’s when you know it’s right. When they allow you to be you and put your artistry into things, that’s when you know the producer is right.
The current season of RuPaul’s Drag Race just wrapped up with Bianca Del Rio being crowned. Have you ever been invited to be a judge on that show — and would you do it if you were invited? No, I’ve never gotten an invite, but I sure would go! With bells on, honey. I would love that for sure.
How many Jennifer Hudson drag queens have you encountered? Oh, my God, so many! On one of my last birthdays. Any time it’s time for me to celebrate — if it’s Mother’s Day or a birthday or something, my friends go and always do a drag show. For my 30th birthday, it was a timeline of Jennifer drag queens. They went from Idol all the way to now. They did a timeline of different performances and different appearances with different looks. I had a ball. Love that!
What else can your fans expect from the new album? Is there a concert tour in the works? There better be a concert tour, first of all (laughs)! It’s a whole new side of me, for sure. There’s a lot of dance music on there for sure. This is the most I’ve ever been involved in any of my projects. It’s a celebration and I’m loving it. It’s a new space I’m in and I can’t wait to share it. I got some serious tracks going there for all the queens! I’m even bringing some queens with me when I come. I hope you are all ready, because I’m not playing, honey!