SHE didn't win American Idol, but Jennifer Hudson's consolation prizes, including an Oscar and a Grammy, ain't half bad.
With a festive film and new album on the way, she's sticking to 'Plan A', following her dreams and keeping her late mother's advice close to heart, as KEELEY BOLGER discovers
IN HOLLYWOOD, you are never more than a few films away from some bright young thing coming along and stealing your spotlight.
At 32, you'd hope Jennifer Hudson has a long career ahead of her before she needs to worry about that happening - but it turns out there was an emerging star eyeing up her enviable position on the set of her new film, Black Nativity.
"My baby makes his debut in this film," says Hudson, laughing heartily.
She's talking about David, her four-year-old son with fiance David Otunga, a professional wrestler and Harvard Law graduate.
The singer and actress plays a single mum in the musical movie, about a streetwise teen from Baltimore who journeys to New York to spend Christmas with his estranged relatives, which also stars Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and 'Hudson Junior', of course.
"There's a scene where we are at the station and he is sitting there on someone's lap, as if he is waiting to go on the train."
But the youngster wasn't impressed when he saw the film's promotional paraphernalia.
"[He understood he was in a film], because then he said, 'Why am I not on the poster? Where am I?'" recalls Hudson. And it's not just the billboards that have been bothering him...
"It's a bit of a process when someone else is playing my son," adds the proud mum, chuckling.
"He says, 'Mummy, that's not your son, I'm your son!' He doesn't really get that part yet."
At the moment, David is "absorbing a lot", including a love of singing, from his mum, whose powerful voice brought her acclaim when she comp-eted in the third series of American Idol in 2004.
Raised in Chicago, Hudson "grew up singing in church", and knew from an early age that she wanted to make a living out of her passion for music.
She finished seventh in the American singing contest, but her decade-long career in showbusiness since is evidence that, when it comes to TV talent shows, winning isn't everything.
After the show, she quickly found herself in demand, landing her biggest breakthrough as Effie White in Dreamgirls, which saw her share the screen with mega-stars Beyonce and Jamie Foxx.
It was her first silver screen role, but Hudson clinched the 2007 Best Supporting Actress Oscar.
A year on, she picked up a Grammy Award for her debut album, Jennifer Hudson, and since then has appeared in the Sex And The City movie and taken the title role in 2011's Winnie Mandela.
Professionally, Hudson might be flourishing, but there have been big challenges in her personal life, including the killing of her mother, brother and seven-year-old nephew, murdered by her former brother-in-law William Balfour in 2008.
Last year, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the actress told how she'd forgiven Balfour for the crimes, because he never experienced the love and happy upbringing that her mother, Darnell Donnerson, had given Hudson's family.
Positive and cheerful, she shares her mother's outlook on life.
"My new album is called Moan," she says, of her third album, due out soon.
"My mum always used to tell us if something's hurting, if you moan, it makes it feel better. It works for me," she adds, smiling.
Moaning may help Hudson through the bad times but on a day-to-day basis, she finds comfort in keeping a small "energy stone" close to hand.
"I'm very sensitive to energies and this centres my energy," says the star, revealing that she holds the stone during interviews. "I carry it in my hand so when I'm in foreign places, it brings me back to my energy."
SINGING is something that's also energised Hudson. "I always said, no matter what, I'm going to use my talents and gifts to make my living, so I had my plan," she says.
That said, she had a back-up, just in case.
"I said, 'OK I want to be a singer, and if that doesn't work out, I want to be a tattoo artist', because I can draw as well. That was 'Plan B' if I needed it."
But with Moan coming out and a part in new drama Lullaby, alongside Amy Adams, it doesn't look like Hudson will be reaching for the inks soon.
Black Nativity is now showing at Cineworld, Renfrew Street