Monday, October 27, 2008

Dream Shattering Deaths Strike Jennifer Hudson’s Family

Quotable:"I've had a similar journey as Effie…Me being a part of 'Idol,' her being part of the group. ... We both go through our journeys, trying to hold on to our dream and achieve our goal. We have hardships, but we prevail at the end.”

In recent events, Oscar winning actress/singer, Jennifer Hudson realized what nightmares are made of when the horrendous news of the violent deaths of her mother, 57 year old Darnell Donerson and older brother, 29 year old Andre Hudson in Hudson’s native Chicago, hit airwaves last Friday. Hudson’s rise to stardom was like the slow but steady ascension of a rollercoaster ride through good old-fashioned hard work and talent. Her critically acclaimed performance in the 2006 smash hit musical, “Dreamgirls” featuring an all-star African-American cast composed of Oscar award-winning Best Actor, Jamie Foxx (“Ray”), Grammy award-winning actress/singer, Beyonce Knowles, and comedic legend, Eddie Murphy among others, garnered her an Oscar and Golden Globe award in the Best Supporting Actress category in a Comedy/Musical in her first nomination shortly after being eliminated midway from Season 3 of “American Idol.” Her tumultuous on screen portrayal of Effie, the overweight lead singer of the fictitious Dreamettes , features the show-stopping song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," a remake of the original Tony award winning song performed by singer, Jennifer Holiday in the hit stage play. Hudson reportedly beat out 800 other actresses/singers for the role including her Idol running mate, Fantasia.

Things seemed to be on track for the rising star who recently announced her engagement to “I Love New York2” contestant, David Otunga. Her healthy body image and beauty have been at the center of many celebrity magazines and message boards as an example of a positive role model for young women everywhere. Senator Barack Obama personally requested the girl with the “big voice” to sing the national anthem at the Democratic National Convention and 2008 has seen her appear in the blockbuster “Sex and City Movie” and most recently, “The Secret Life of Bees” with fellow black Hollywood starlets, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Kwundo as well as the release of her first solo album, “Spotlight.”

Miss Hudson has been no stranger to tragedy. In 1998, she lost one of her inspirations for her music upon the death of her grandma whom she tearfully thanked during her Oscar acceptance speech along with her mother, also her muse. Prior to that her father was also laid to rest. Always humbled and thankful, the close knit Hudson family was struck with tragedy again early Friday morning shortly before Hudson’s mother and brother were found fatally shot in Jennifer’s childhood home on Chicago’s Southside. News of the Hudson family’s horrific murders sent shockwaves of sadness, sympathy and outright disgust at the gall and viciousness of the homicides. Nine am Monday morning, the body of a 7 year old boy found shot multiple times including an execution style bullet to the head in the backseat of an abandoned white 94’ Chevy Suburban, has been identified as being that of Miss Hudson’s missing nephew, Julian—adding another devastating blow to family and its supporters.

"Jennifer always used to beg her mom to get out of that neighborhood, but she owned that house and she would never leave," said a neighbor.

Jennifer and her sister, Julia Balfour, pleaded in a Saturday press conference for the safe return of Julia’s son, Julian affectionately nicknamed “Juicebox” and “Dr.King”, offering a $100,000 reward for information of his whereabouts. The boy was originally believed to be in the custody of Julia’s estranged husband, William Balfour at the time. Balfour, 27, has been arrested and place in police custody for questioning in the Hudson family slayings. Although Balfour was rumored to have threatened to take the boy away and his alibi has been ruled contradictory to what was revealed by his pregnant girlfriend, he has not been charged with their deaths and denies involvement in the incidents. Outpours of condolences, well wishes and prayers flooded Jason and Jennifer’s myspace pages from family, friends and fans alike showing support what must be the singer’s growing pain for the loss of family that has kept her “grounded.” Neighbors from the Englewood neighborhood where Hudson herself once lived with her family, crowded outside the Hudson home silently praying, tears glistening and already a memorial of teddy bears and other tokens of support litter the street, marking the area where the tragedy first took place.

Jennifer’s brother was described as a “nice guy” who had few enemies and was nearly lost to a robbery at the family’s home two years prior. Anyone who knew the family admired their closeness and adored the “happy go lucky, spoiled yet easygoing kid” they lovingly referred to as Julian.

“It was such a nice family...I was shocked that somebody could ever do something like that to such a sweet lady. [Donerson] was quiet, but very nice," a neighbor commented. "She kept to herself and stayed in her house a lot."

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