In Your Dreams, Girl: From Jennifer Holliday to Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Holliday in the 1982 hit musical Dreamgirls

One of my favorite weekend rituals is watching CBS's Sunday Morning, but sometimes I miss it. So glad I caught it today though, as an original Dreamgirls star -- diva Jennifer Holliday -- was interviewed! She had a lot to say on this special day... the day that "her" character, Effie White, may win an unseasoned actress named Jennifer Hudson an Oscar.

"I never got to turn Effie off, the way that Jennifer Hudson can," Holliday told interviewer Russ Mitchell. She admits she lived the character of Effie for many years -- obviously becoming an unhealthy "one" with her Tony Award-winning muse.

Like the character she brought to life in the spectacular Broadway musical, Holliday felt pushed off-stage, unrequited. It didn't much matter that she was celebrated as Time magazine's Performer of the Year. She'd actually quit the play at one point, unhappy because her character didn't get stage-time throughout. She might have felt better about herself when the producers tweaked the script and brought her back in the mix. But by then, she had become in real life the same defeated, lonely woman as Effie.

By this time, Jennifer weighed over 300 lbs. -- 100 of those pounds she had gained in one year. (She really liked Popeye's Chicken -- a lot of it.) So on her 30th birthday, Jennifer Holliday attempted suicide. She was diagnosed with clinical depression.

Jennifer Holliday may watch tonight's Oscars show with a touch of green-eyed envy.  She wanted to revive her role for the hit movie, which may win Jennifer Hudson an award for Best Supporting Actress
Luckily time heals old wounds. In the early nineties, she found hope in gastric bypass surgery. She dropped over 200 pounds and now her inner-light shines bright. She has recorded and toured over the years, primarily for gay and gospel audiences. She even secured a recurring role on Ally McBeal, playing a choir director. She'd finally moved on. Living, loving, twice divorcing and performing. Then, a ghost from the past came back to haunt her...

"It was a test when I heard Dreamgirls was coming up for a movie," said J-Holl. The role of Effie -- she was absolutely certain -- was hers! She waited and waited for DreamWorks to call about starring in the film. But the call never came. Needless to say, she is hurt. "Not even a call about making a cameo...?"

When asked by Russ Mitchell what she thinks of the movie, Jennifer says, "I think Dreamgirls is good..." (I notice she didn't rave about it, saying it was Great! Fantasic!) She adds, "It felt as though I was seeing myself on screen."

Holliday also feels that Jennifer Hudson did "a good job," but adds a telling between-the-lines about "not wanting to go against what everyone else is saying." (In other words, she's sure she could have delivered a better Effie.)

But J-Holl seems to have come full-circle. She looks beautiful, healthy and hopeful. Her signature song, she says, is now a source of strength for her. Nowadays, whenever she sings "And I'm Telling You (I'm Not Going)" Holliday says she performs it like never before.

Given the determined gleam I saw in her eyes during the interview, I believe her.

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zawadi said...

wow thanks for this video, I know the song, I just never seen her sing it before.. She is amazing!

kweenkong said...

Awesome, isn't she, Zawadi?

Anonymous said...

I saw Jennifer Holiday singing before the Oscar Awards. She sounded better back in this video than she does today.

kweenkong said...

anonymous, i didn't get to see Jennifer Holliday do her thing on E!, but heard is disappointing.


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