I became a Jennifer Hudson fan the moment I heard her audition for Season 3 of American Idol. It didn't matter to me that she later lost to Fantasia. I knew she was a star in the making. So you can imagine my response, 9 years later, to an invitation to cover a red carpet event where I might meet Grammy winner, Academy Award winner and Golden Globe winner-the one and only-Jennifer Hudson.
She is starring in a new movie about Winnie Mandela. The U.S. premiere was at MegaFest 2013 in Dallas last month. The editor of the news outlet giving me the assignment mentioned the other stars who would be at the event like Robert Townsend, Kerry Washington, and Holly Robinson Peete but it was Hudson's name that prompted me to change plans I'd had for months.I have interviewed countless VIP's for various print media as a freelance journalist. I even hosted my own tv program for a while but there is no competition with those types of interviews. The thought of standing among dozens of journalists vying for Hudson's attention was intimidating to say the least. I wondered what I could possibly say or do to get her to talk to me.
Two days before the event I started sending Tweets to what I hoped was her official Twitter handle writing things like, "Jennifer please stop and talk to me. It's my first time on the red carpet." I doubted she would read the Tweets but hoped her publicist might. I read every thing I could find about her, Winnie Mandela, and the movie. I knew that if she came anywhere near my position I'd only have precious seconds to get her attention and ask a question. The photographer and I made it through the long media check-in line only to be squeezed between two major media outlets. The reporters worked for magazines I actually subscribe to and both claimed to know Hudson's "people." I didn't know people but I know the power of positive thinking and I had already set my commitment to success in motion with those Tweets and the courage to try something I had never done before.
A few of the other stars strolled through but I didn't try very hard to ask them questions. The journalists on either side of me were throwing elbows, hissing, stepping on my feet, and pushing their microphones in front of mine each time a star came near us. The photographer advised me, "Quit being nice. They are not your friends." I wasn't being nice. I just didn't care as much about the other folks. I was there for one reason. "I got this." I told him. "Watch me."
Then, I saw her coming. She's beautiful with a positive energy that simply radiates. Her "people" walked a few feet ahead of her and determined where she would stop and who she would talk to in advance. They designated the chick next to me. I planted my feet firmly so I wouldn't get knocked over and held out my old school black microphone like a sword. The moment Jennifer paused, I yelled, "David! Jennifer, can I ask you about David." My sister told me she loves to talk about her son. Every one else was asking about the movie or her music career. I was the only one to yell "David!". She hesitated, smiled, turned to me and said, "Which one?" Ah, when preparation and providence collide, the force opens the door of opportunity. I knew both her husband and son were named David. "Your son," I replied. Her smile widened. I asked something like, "In Winnie Mandela you essentially played a strong, working mother separated from her child. As a mother, how has this effected your parenting?" Now, here is where it gets good for anyone doing an interview. If you ask a question and the person answers immediately, they have probably been asked that question many times before. But after I posed that query, she paused, looked to the left corner of her eyes, and said "Ooohhhh."
Bingo! She had to think about it. That is as close as I'll ever get to a Barbara Walters "if you were a tree" moment. LOL! Her response was thoughtful and gracious with the most delightful eye contact. Hopefully, I'll get the video after it's published. In the meantime, I have this photo of Jennifer and my hand. Oh and this quote from Goethe "Whatever you can do, or dream you can begin it, Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it."
Thank you Ms. Hudson (and Providence.)