Jennifer Hudson Hits a High Note for Art for Life
By MARISSA R. MOSS
PHOTOGRAPH BY ANTHONY MANDLER/CORBIS OUTLINE (hudson)
“I came here with a bunch of questions, but I have none,” said Russell Simmons to Jennifer Hudson, as they gathered to discuss art, life, and everything in between on the eve of the Art for Life benefit for Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, at which Hudson is performing. “Just a statement: I’ve watched you from the beginning, babe.” We have, too. From Simon Cowell’s critiques to Simmons’ praise, it goes without saying that Jennifer Hudson has come a long way since 2004, when she stood in front of millions of American Idol viewers and received her surprising fate (Hudson came in seventh).
Several years, many awards, including a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, and one child later, the now 29-year-old Hudson has transformed herself both physically and professionally into a multiplatform powerhouse equally capable of tackling lines (her next project is the film adaptation of The Three Stooges), songs (her newest album, I Remember Me, debuted in second place on the Billboard 200), high fashion and motherhood. Next, she will conquer the Hamptons at Art for Life, where she will join the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kimora Lee Simmons, Djimon Hounsou, Uma Thurman and Oz Garcia as well as honorees like Mary J. Blige to raise funds and awareness for the foundation. Here the hip-hop-legend and the dynamic singer-actress wax poetic about the value of creativity in their lives and engage in a bit of mutual admiration.
RUSSELL SIMMONS: You are really blooming. Look at all of the stuff you have been doing; it seems everybody’s talking about your new album. Tell me about that.
JENNIFER HUDSON: It is my sophomore album, and in this one I feel like it is definitely more “me” musically. A lot of people are like, “Oh, we don’t know what we’re going to get from this album,” but that’s what I feel like the surprise in it is. I feel like I need my direction more than someone else’s design.
RS: The artist’s authenticity…your heart is in the record and not the producer.
JH: That’s what makes music powerful, you know? When it comes from that kind of life. Other than that, it’s just a noise.
RS: It’s cool that we have you [performing at the Art for Life event] because you’re a real artist. Do you think art brings you to life, truly?
JH: Yes, that’s how I kind of look at everything. I approach everything as art. Even when I sing, I say, “OK, I’m going to look at myself as an instrument and I’m going to sing in the way that I want to be felt.” I don’t look at every song as a song—some songs are a story, some songs are a testimony.