Jennifer Hudson on honoring Aretha Franklin and 'uplifting others' at the 2021 BET Awards

'It’s all about the celebration'
Jennifer Hudson
Photo credit Getty Images

Jennifer Hudson is ready to celebrate Black music and culture with an emphasis on Black Women at this Sunday’s BET Awards, airing June 27 at 8PM ET / 5PM PT.

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Hudson described the BET Awards to Audacy’s Big Tigger as a place for the Black community to “shine, to uplift each other, to celebrate ourselves and all of our glory.” Continuing on with, “We set the blueprint for our tone and we deserve to have the platform for it and BET, BET Awards gives us that.”

Hudson also shared details surrounding her starring role in the upcoming biopic, Respect, honoring the life of the late Aretha Franklin. While Hudson pays the ultimate tribute by playing the role of Franklin (per request of Aretha before her passing), she admits the role wasn’t only an opportunity to pay respect, but also continue learning from Franklin’s legacy.

LISTEN NOW: Jennifer Hudson talks with Audacy's Big Tigger

“Just having your own voice, and knowing that’s where the power lies,” said Hudson of one of the biggest lessons she learned while playing Aretha. “To see a story of an Aretha Franklin and to know she even had her own triumphs and struggles and had to find her way to her voice… made me want to own my voice that much more. It wasn’t until she owned her own power that she found her voice, so it’s the same for me — even more so now, after playing her.”

Hudson is joined in the biopic by several stand-out co-stars including Mary J. Blige, who plays the part of Diana Washington, the “Queen Bee Of Blues,” in her time. Hudson shared the nostalgia she felt during a scene with Blige that made her feel as though the two worlds were colliding.

“You got Mary J. Blige, who is the queen of Hip Hop and everything, right? Then you have Jennifer Hudson of today, but we’re portraying Diana Washington and Aretha Franklin back in their day — who does that?!” Said Hudson. “That moment had like a double meaning of our time today and then a reflection of their era, but it’s like the worlds merged, which gave it that much more meaning.”

Aside from her acting, Hudson also gives a “final tribute” to Franklin with the song, “Here I Am,” co-written by Carole King, the writer of Franklin’s “Natural Woman.” “The title track is like, the seal of the tribute to her,” said Hudson. ”The cherry on the top to have Carole King, who wrote, ‘Natural Woman,’ be a part of writing the title track, which is our final tribute to Ms. Franklin… when you hear the words to the song, it kind of sums up the film as a whole.”

Respect will be available beginning August 13 and until then, Hudson says, “For the most part, the hard work is done. So it’s all about the celebration of it now.”

The BET Awards air this Sunday, June 27 at 8PM ET / 5PM PT on BET.

WATCH MORE: The Best Movies That Happen to be Biopics


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