Looking Back On Hudson's Rise To Fame

As police in Chicago try to sort out what happened to Jennifer Hudson's mother and brother who were found shot to death at home last week, the young actress is dealing with the loss of her biggest cheerleader.

The spotlight initially landed on Hudson in 2004 when she appeared on "American Idol."

Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, encouraged her to audition for the show.

As her fan base grew, life changed quickly for Hudson.

"Oh, my God. People are flocking towards you and running towards you. You're like -- you want my autograph? What?" she said in an earlier interview.

Then she landed a starring role in the hit move "Dreamgirls."

"My 'American Idol' experience, I guess it was a vehicle to help me be seen," Hudson said.

Hudson did such an outstanding job in the role it earned her an Oscar.

Her mother was by her side the whole way.

Her life seemed like a Cinderella story as she landed roles in the "Sex and the City" movie and "The Secret Life of Bees." Throughout it all, Hudson credited her family, who kept her grounded.

"My faith in God and my family -- they are very realistic and very normal and not into the whole limelight kind of thing, so when I go home to Chicago, that's another place. It's just home," Hudson said.

And it would be that very home -- the place where Hudson had blossomed -- where tragedy would later strike.

Bradley Jacobs, senior editor at US Weekly, had the pleasure of talking to Hudson three times this year. He sat down with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith to discuss Hudson's rise to fame.

"Jennifer has had a busy year. Two movies and one album, which is now in the top five on the Billboard charts so, we've talked to her at US Weekly a lot this year," Jacobs said.

When Hudson came to US Weekly for lunch she talked about a photograph she took that was an homage to her mother, which was based on an old portrait of her mom.

"They were obviously very, very tight. She's always talked about music and family. Family/music those are the most important elements in her life," he said.

Even as a tiny child, Hudson stepped it up and showed the choir a thing or two.

"She was in church and she was just 7 months old and the choir was having a problem and she managed to hit it. And I'll tell you we had lunch with her at the magazine, she was speaking normally about her life, music and movies and somebody asked her to sing and without missing a beat, she started a gospel that is currently on her album and it just had the whole room floored," he said.

As a young woman, Hudson was on the "American Idol" stage, on a show that chews people up for a living -- especially at the hands of "Idol" judge Simon Cowell.

Despite the sometimes harsh critiques, Hudson was able to rise above it and then was able to hold on to it, which so few can do.

"She's always had a lot of confidence. You know, her mother gave her that confidence. She has always credited her mom. Her mom is the one who saw the flyer for "American Idol" auditions and encouraged her to fly from Chicago to Atlanta to audition for the show," Jacobs said.

"She made it and even they, though they grilled Jennifer on being a cruise line singer, they said 'We want to hear something better than that,' and of course she did extremely well on the show. She advanced all the way to the top ten. Many people thought she was a winner. For a while she was the front-runner on the show, but there was a lot of competition on that show. But of course she got her revenge the next year," he said.

She stood out so much in her role in "Dreamgirls" that she even overshadowed singer Beyoncé.

"She beat out 780 other actresses and singers, including Fantasia Barino, who had won idol the year before. Fantasia later called her and said, 'Girl, you got my part,'" he said. "She won every critics award. She walked away with an Oscar at 25, and one of the youngest people to ever win an Oscar, especially for a debut performance," Jacobs said.

Sadly this past weekend, Hudson had to walk out and offer a $100,000 reward, while pleading for the safe return of her nephew.

"This is the most devastating thing to happen to a person. She's lost her mother, she's lost her brother and there is this missing nephew. She's never left Chicago. She's always said Chicago is home, that's why she's normal and where she has to make her own breakfast and, obviously, family is very crucial to her," Jacobs said.
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