Photo of Jennifer Hudson Jennifer Hudson

A loser on the third season of TV's "American Idol," Jennifer Hudson proved to be a winner in real life as she took home Oscar and Golden Globe statuettes and a host of other honors for the career-making role of Effie White in the 2006 screen adaptation of the Broadway play "Dreamgirls."

Born Sept. 12, 1981, Chicago native Hudson -- who has no formal vocal training -- honed her skills singing in church choirs and performing in local theater productions and talent shows. In 2003, she landed her first major performing gig with a role in a Disney Cruise Line musical.

After touring with former "Idol" performers in 2004, Hudson beat out hundreds of other Effie aspirants for the Dreamgirls role that established her as not only a powerful singer but a fine actress.

Jennifer Hudson in The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees

2008 PG-13

Haunted by her mother's death, 14-year-old Lily Owens (Dakota Fanning) escapes her dreary life on her father's farm and heads to Tiburon, S.C., with friend and caregiver Rosaleen Daise (Jennifer Hudson), spawning a life-changing journey of self-discovery. Set amid the hotbed of racial tensions in the 1960s South, writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood's touching drama is based on Sue Monk Kidd's best-selling novel of the same name.

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