Jennifer Hudson kicked off her afternoon talk show, The Jennifer Hudson Show with Simon Cowell. The two first met when the singer competed on American Idol back in 2004, and Simon sat on the judges panel.
Thing is, Simon didn’t seem to like Jennifer very much as an artist. He was very focused on pulling his favorite that year, Fantasia Barrino, across the finish line. And he succeeded! But Jennifer ended up leaving the competition, shockingly, in 7th place.
These days, however, the America’s Got Talent judge is full of praise for Jennifer.
“Who chose stupid Barry Manilow week? Wasn’t me!”
Simon gushes that American Idol became a huge juggernaut because of contestants like Jennifer. “It was the combination of talent, determination and real personality,” that made her great, he believes. Alluding to their fraught relationship on the show, Simon says, “Even though we had that kind of banter you and I, it was always that. I always knew how determined you were,” he says. “You were funny and you took it with grace, because you kind of got it.”
At this point, Simon suggests dissecting the night she got eliminated. Jennifer wants to know his perspective. Simply, Simon blames it all on poor Barry Manilow. Barry was the guest mentor that week, and guided Jennifer through a show stopping performance of “Weekend in New England.” It was clearly the performance of the night. But now, Simon believes it was the wrong song.
“I was thinking who chose stupid Barry Manilow week? Wasn’t me!” Simon says. OUCH! “I remember thinking, this is not a great song. It wasn’t your fault. And then of course, what happened happened.” Simon wonders if Jennifer had to do it all over again, would she have chosen a different song.
“…that song lead me to get Dreamgirls honey!”
Jennifer is taken aback a bit. “You flipped the script on me!” she exclaims. But she has a ready answer. She would NOT change that song choice. Maybe a few others she chose early on, but she says, “…that song led me to get Dreamgirls honey!” She explains that Manilow structured the song to sound like the show’s showstopping tune, “And I Am Telling You.” Jennifer would subsequently play Effie White in the film adaption of the musical and then win a best supporting Oscar for the role.
“A lot of people thought that’s what I was singing,” Jennifer says. “I think this is a good question because….when you’re on a show like that, you want to have a song that you feel represents you best. It was a few songs in the beginning that I don’t feel that represents my artistry.” She namechecks Elton John’s “Circle of Life” as another song she felt represented her.
With a couple of great performances under her belt, Jennifer felt OK with being eliminated. “And then once I was, I was,” she thought at the time, “You’re walking away with your talent. You’re walking away with your gift. This competition may be over, but your passion isn’t. Your love and your drive isn’t.”
Jennifer feels that people give up too easily. “And I said ‘No, I’ll be back. And I don’t know when, and I don’t know how, but I will sing my way to it.’ I kept that goal in mind, and I didn’t give up.”
Simon gets a little choked up as he praises Jennifer’s strength and determination
In another clip, Jennifer asks Simon advice on how to do television. He jokes “The best advice is don’t listen to a word I say!”
Instead of advice, Simon becomes emotional while praising Jennifer. “You are the epitome of the American Dream,” he says. He mentions the power outage in Chicago the night Jennifer was voted out! It’s amusing that Simon remembers that long ago conspiracy theory for Jennifer’s ouster. Truth is, Idol was fraught with shock eliminations, which is why the show eventually instituted a “judges save” to keep talented singers in the show longer.
“A lot of people would have walked away from that moment and gone ‘It’s too difficult. I give up.’,” Simon says. “And you didn’t.” He claims that afterward he told Jennifer “This is not the end.” He marvels at her tenacity. “And then you took every opportunity with grace and with determination.”
“I’m getting emotional!” Simon admits. “And you just did it. This is why we make these shows still because there’s always talent out there, thank God.”
Simon adds, “And you’re a nice person!”
Check your local listings for The Jennifer Hudson Show in your area. Additionally, the America’s Got Talent 2022 finale airs Tuesday September 13 and Wednesday September 14 on NBC.