The changing looks of Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson, a.k.a. “JHud,” is a woman of many looks. “I think I have many different styles as far as fashion,” she once told Radio.com. “Sometimes I have a little tomboy swag, and then at times, I have like a bohemian type of style.” 

Between her singing and touring career, her multiple movie roles, raising her young son, and running her clothing line, Hudson has shown off many different looks to the world over the years. Her sense of style seems to evolve to match alongside her growing career. “That’s all a part of artistry,” she told the Today show. “Is reinventing yourself.” Indeed, this singer, actress, and fashionista has come a long way since she first blew away television audiences with her incredible voice on American Idol. With Hudson’s look completely transforming during her time in the spotlight, she’s seemed to enjoy changing up her style and wearing new things, admitting to Radio.com, “I’m always splurging, because I am a shopaholic.”

From her humble start to doing it up Hollywood glam style, these are the changing looks of Jennifer Hudson.

Jennifer Hudson's surge to the spotlight began with an easy American Idol look

This fashionista made her initial debut in the entertainment industry in a pretty basic way. Jennifer Hudson’s claim to fame came from singing her heart out on season three of American Idol. Although she didn’t win, the singer gained worldwide recognition that eventually propelled her to stardom. 

Looking back, she hasn’t done too badly for an emerging singer who ended the competition in seventh place! But Hudson’s appearance on the show was simple and low-key, as she was still learning what it meant to be in the spotlight. When thinking about one of the first outfits she wore while performing on the show, she said on The Late Late Show with James Corden, “Simon told me that dress was an Easter dress or something!” However, Hudson loved her debut look: “Anyway, I had it made, [and] I thought I looked sharp!”

Hudson’s signature tight curls finished off the very first looks that viewers recognized as the infamous “JHud,” when she popped up weekly on their television screens.

She went glam for Dreamgirls and even won an Oscar

Following American Idol, Jennifer Hudson found herself with an itch for acting — that’s when the movie adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls came along. Admitting she wanted the role even more badly than winning American Idol, JHud said on The Howard Stern Show, “Who gets a second chance, and then that big?” 

Over the course of three auditions, Hudson beat out 782 other women for the role of Effie White, and had to attend special classes to learn her role. “Diva school for Dreamgirls,” the singer-actress quipped on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. “I felt I had a bookbag on my back, and I felt like I was going to class everyday.” To match her musical character, Hudson brought the same true Hollywood glitz and glam to her own personal look on the red carpet, debuting a sparkly gold gown at the Academy Awards alongside her co-star, Beyoncé.

Her glamorous emergence into the silver screen’s spotlight was only the beginning. Hudson’s first on-screen role won her an Oscar for best performance by an actress in a supporting role … and her style only evolved from there.

JHud's role in Sex and the City inspired her to experiment with fashion

After a major movie win, it seemed that acting was simply something Jennifer Hudson was born to do. Following the success of Dreamgirls, she continued to seek out more time on the big screen. “I’ve been looking for a role in which I didn’t have to sing,” she told AALBC.com. “I don’t want every role to involve singing. I don’t mind singing in a film, but I want to act too.”

In 2008, Hudson took on a role in the film Sex and the City. Working alongside Sarah Jessica Parker’s iconic and fashionable character, Carrie Bradshaw, made JHud appreciate changing up looks through her clothing even more. “I’m more into fashion now,” she said after finishing up the film. “Because their level of it is exciting and more interesting, and made me want to experiment with my style.”

At the movie’s premiere, Hudson stunned the world when she hit the red carpet in an eye-catching form-fitting metallic dress and ditched the signature tight curls she wore in the film for a straight bob.

It's all about comfort for Jennifer Hudson's motherhood moments

In 2009, Jennifer Hudson gave birth to her only son, David. “I’m a singer, but first, I’m a mom,” she told Radio.com. Being a busy working mom comes with its own sets of challenges, especially when you’re as busy as Hudson — and for her, comfort is key. She’s even admitted to owning 300 pairs of leggings (via Women’s Wear Daily)! “We should be cute and comfortable,” she explained on Good Morning America. “It shouldn’t always be, why does beauty have to hurt, you know?” JHud added, “Women, we wear many hats!”

Even when she’s not home and busy working on her next album or feature film, Hudson stresses comfort in all of her looks. “When you’re uncomfortable in what you’re wearing, the clothes end up wearing you,” she told Women’s Wear Daily. “That’s the attitude I’ve always had: It’s more about you wearing the clothes, not them wearing you.” With the confidence that Hudson exudes both on stage and on the red carpet, we think she can easily rock just about anything!

An 80-pound weight loss completely transformed her look

In 2010, Jennifer Hudson transformed her look with an 80-pound weight loss. “One of my first times on a red carpet, an interviewer asked, ‘How does it feel to be plus-sized in Hollywood?'” the singer-actress told Self, adding, “In the neighborhood I’m from in Chicago, a 16 is normal. But in Hollywood, everyone looks exactly the same, so I stood out.”

However, Hudson didn’t go from a size 16 to 6 because of her position in the spotlight. The following year, she explained that she and her fiancé at the time did it for their son: “We didn’t learn to eat right and be healthy as kids, so we wanted to for him.”

Dressing for a new body was definitely a challenge at first. “Even picking my sizes, I still have that issue where it’s like, ‘I probably need an extra-large or a large,'” Hudson explained to Redbook. “And the stylist is like, ‘No, you need a medium or a small.'” Hudson went on to admit to Self, “I’m prouder of my weight loss than my Oscar! I hope it has inspired people.”

Jennifer Hudson likes to keep it basic with all black

Even with all of the international attention that American Idol and her first on-screen role brought Jennifer Hudson, she still likes to keep her outfits low-key and less colorful at times. Revealing that wearing all black gives her the power to do just that, she told Radio.com, “Why everyone always sees me in black is because I think it’s subtle and quiet. I like to have a presence, but not to scream, ‘Hey! Look at me!'”

Though Hudson likes to experiment with her style and even her haircuts often, she’s known to keep it classy and simple — just like many big name designers she admires. “I love black tones and colors,” she told Yahoo! Lifestyle. “I love Donna Karan’s things.”

However, don’t get her wrong. “I love drama,” Hudson said of the outfits she likes to wear to Radio.com. Whether she’s wearing an all black look to a red carpet event or to an interview, she still seems to always add an edge to her outfit with leather or lace.

She launched a clothing line

Jennifer Hudson’s various looks in the spotlight increased her love for fashion. In 2012, she partnered with QVC and launched the Jennifer Hudson Collection, which featured fashionable yet affordable clothing. “It was inspired by my fans,” Hudson said on Good Morning America. “You know, they would see me in red carpet looks, and you’re like, ‘My gosh, I wish I could wear that, but I can’t afford it.'”

It was also important for her to create a clothing line that was flattering for every figure. “I look at each piece and think, ‘Could I wear that as big Jennifer or could I wear that now?'” JHud told Redbook. “I want to consider every girl.”

Growing up, Hudson always knew she wanted to be a singer, but she never imagined that she would one day become a fashion designer and have her own clothing to sell. “I have my own line, and I can’t believe it,” she continued. “I didn’t see it coming, but it’s here.” We can’t wait to see which business endeavor this busy entertainer will take on next!

Jennifer Hudson was a Disney Princess

Before American Idol, Jennifer Hudson was still performing, but on a smaller seaside scale. She started out on Disney cruise ships as the character Calliope, the hair muse from the musical Hercules. Being constantly surrounded by vacationing guests at sea had her having to remain in character at all times. “I used the cruise ship experience and said if I can get through this, then that means I am cut out to go audition for a show like American Idol,” she later said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Just two days after Hudson got back to shore, she knew it was now or never to make it big and auditioned.

In 2013, Hudson was selected to be a part of the Disney Dream Portrait series, where celebrities were photographed as various Disney characters. Her interpretation as Tiana from The Princess and the Frog appeared in multiple magazines, such as People and Vanity Fair. “My career kind of started with Disney, so it’s kind of seeing things come full circle,” Hudson told Yahoo! Entertainment. “It’s showing what the Disney magic is all about.”

She changed her 'do with a pixie cut

Jennifer Hudson shocked the world with an iconic pixie cut in 2013. As much of a change as it was, she admitted it was a spur of the moment decision after getting tired of extensions. “I was on a flight and then like the next day or so I was like, ‘Fly the hairdresser in. I want to chop it all off,'” she told Yahoo! Lifestyle (via People). “I wanted to go extreme.” However, the pixie cut she showed off wasn’t the one she intended on having. “I actually, originally, wanted it much shorter,” Hudson said. “Then my hairdresser was like, ‘That’s a bit drastic, Jennifer.'”

In 2015, JHud debuted an even shorter buzzed ‘do, which she attributed to one of her fashion idols, Grace Jones (via Vogue). “My mom used to wear her hair short, too” she previously explained to Radio.com. “So it’s a tribute to her.”

Hudson’s shorter haircuts even changed how she felt in the spotlight, saying to Yahoo! Lifestyle, “I feel as though when you wear short hair it’s more about your presence.”

Jennifer Hudson displayed a true rock star with her edgy look

Changing her ‘do gave Jennifer Hudson the inspiration to change up the rest of her look. “I feel like the hair changed the game for me and gave me that swag,” she told Radio.com. “And I kind of went with it … I like to just morph into it one hundred percent.”

Following the release of her 2014 album, JHUD, Hudson showed off an edgier style to the world to go right along with her edgy haircut, and admitted that she received a lot of inspiration for her rock star look from another musical icon. “I like Rihanna’s style a lot,” she told Yahoo! Lifestyle. “It’s edgy, but it’s still very fashionable, and it’s still very street, all in one. I love the combination of that.”

Even with Hudson’s new and true rock star look, she still liked to play around with her style, adding, “I just love fashion across the board.”

She became the face of New York & Company

Jennifer Hudson’s love for both fashion and comfort brought her to her next role as a model for jeans. In the summer of 2015, women’s clothing retailer New York & Company knew they needed JHud as the face of their denim line. “She is a true inspiration. Jennifer embodies the aspirations of so many women,” CEO Gregory Scott said upon announcing the company’s new spokesperson (via PR Newswire). “We felt the Soho Jeans Collection was the perfect fit for Jennifer, as it is inspired by music, reflects a cool attitude and fits her busy lifestyle.” Just like a true New Yorker!

Hudson’s laid back attitude and constantly evolving style were what drew her to the brand, as well. “What I love most about New York is the diversity,” she stated. “It’s a haven for individuality and I have always found that inspiring. That sort of energy affects me in all ways but especially when it comes to style.”

JHud debuted a blonde bob in Hairspray

In 2016, Jennifer Hudson was not afraid to show off yet another daring ‘do, but this time it was for a very different reason. “I’m going to be big, blonde, and beautiful,” she teased Broadway.com of her upcoming look. That year, JHud found herself with a role in another musical playing Motormouth Maybelle in NBC’s live televised version of Hairspray. “I feel like Motormouth’s spirit is in her hair,” she said of her character’s iconic blonde wig. “Because when I put that hair on, you get a whole ‘nother Jennifer.” 

Hudson certainly blew audiences away with her rendition of the show’s musical number, “I Know Where I’ve Been”! But along with an incredible voice, it seems she had a lot more in common with the blondie she portrayed in the famous musical. “She has a very big personality,” Hudson told iHollywoodTV. “She’s someone who cannot be missed.”

Every year, she goes festive for Christmas with an ugly sweater

“Starbucks is like everybody’s living room away from home,” Jennifer Hudson once said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. And so, in 2013, she decided to add something new to her bucket list for Christmas that year. “I came up with this big, bright idea that I want to have, like, a Christmas party at Starbucks,” she continued. “Because you get the cookie the size of your face, a hot chocolate, all the holiday treats in Starbucks!”

Ever since then, Hudson has hosted the Starbucks Christmas Karaoke Party — complete with ugly sweaters — at the coffee powerhouse as an annual tradition with her family. “I put on the worst thing I could find in my closet that represents the holidays,” she told The Kelly Clarkson Show. “And then I sing with everybody that comes in.” As for her go-to karaoke song? “My favorite is ‘O Holy Night,'” she told late-night host Stephen Colbert in 2019.

That year, the Christmas fanatic even got to host her yearly party at the largest Starbucks in the country, which also happens to be located in her hometown of Chicago.

Jennifer Hudson had to learn to look like her Cats character

When Jennifer Hudson got cast as Grizabella in the movie adaptation of the musical Cats, it wasn’t as easy as just putting on a costume. “The suits we wore were basically like walking green screens that the VFX team would transform into cat fur later,” she told Newsweek, adding, “Working on this film was different than anything I had done before.” 

However, it wasn’t because she was acting in an imaginary costume or had the challenge of singing live for the film. Hudson, along with co-stars Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, and Idris Elba, had to attend cat school for their characters. “We started out learning about cats,” the “Memory” singer revealed on the Today show. “You know, the characteristics … the mannerisms, and then we would sniff around, closing our eyes and trusting our other senses and things like that.”

As the proud pet parent of five cats, Hudson confessed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “I didn’t know much about them, but after cat school, I’m like, ‘Oh, I get cats more now.'” There seems to be a school for everything!

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