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Oscar could be just the beginning for 'real girl' Jennifer Hudson

Robert Dominguez
New York Daily News (MCT)

Jennifer Hudson, winner for best supporting actress for
\"Dreamgirls,\" holds her Oscar backstage at the 79th Academy
Awards at the Kodak Theater, February 25, 2007.
(Daniel A. Anderson/Orange County Register/MCT)

Thanks to her Academy Award, Jennifer Hudson is about to become a real American idol.

If the breakout star of "Dreamgirls" thought she was living a fantasy in the months leading up to her Best Supporting Actress win Sunday night, that's nothing compared with what lies ahead.

With her brand-new Oscar in hand, the 25-year-old Hudson - who grew up on the tough side of Chicago and wound up on the glamorous side of the red carpet - has become the official symbol of real girls everywhere.

Like America Ferrera, the Golden Globe-winning star of television's "Ugly Betty," and the soulful British songstress Corinne Bailey Rae, whose self-titled album has gone double platinum, Hudson has zoomed past the overly primped and posed girls to become the star that female audiences feel they know. Despite all her talent - and all the exciting options now open to her - Hudson is a budding star who really could live next door.

"A lot of people are rooting for Jennifer because of her humility. She's a potential star who a lot of fans project themselves onto, because she came out of nowhere," says Gregg Kilday, film editor of The Hollywood Reporter.

During awards season, adds Kilday, "she conducted herself with a lot of poise. She has grace, style and flair. And the Oscar win obviously opens up the possibility of a solid (acting) career."

Bernie Telsey, a veteran New York casting director, auditioned Hudson for the role of Joanne in the film version of "Rent" shortly after she was voted off "American Idol" in 2004. Though she didn't get the part, Telsey says he saw star potential in her.

"She has this great energy," says Telsey. "And what I was taken by at every awards show is that smile. Somehow you want to capture that joy. She's fresh."

Though it turned out that the "Dreamgirls" part of Effie White was the right role at the right time, fans of Hudson will be eagerly watching to see what she does next, says Damien Bona, co-author of the Academy Awards bible "Inside Oscar."

"She seems to be a very grounded, real person who'll be careful to choose a role that fits her personality," says Bona.

Late last year, as the awards hoopla was reaching its peak, Hudson told the New York Daily News what she felt as she and her family heard her name announced as a Golden Globe nominee. True to form, she thought it might be for someone else.

"At first I just heard the first half of my name (during the Globe announcement) - I heard `Jennifer,' and we were like, `Ahh!' We would have felt real stupid if they would have said Jennifer Connelly, or another Jennifer.

"I (was) like, `Oh my God - are they really gonna say my name?'"

Could a real girl like her get all the attention?

Oh, yes.

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