Jennifer Hudson: ‘I’m Stronger Than Ever,’ Talks About Playing Winnie Mandela

“I spent my twenties figuring out what I wanted to do, and trying everything,” the singer-actress said in Essence magazine’s January issue. “But by 30, my foundation was set. I became confident and clear about the path I wanted to take. … Now I’ve really settled into myself. And I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.”

That strength has allowed Hudson to stretch her acting chops like never before. Playing iconic figure Winnie Mandela in the big screen biopic of the same name, Hudson first had to master a South African accent.

“I was so nervous about doing a good job that I started working on the accent a couple of months before I even got there,” she told Essence.

Then, she had leave fiance David Otunga and son David Jr. to go film in South Africa. “I was like, ‘Oh, my God, You want me to leave my baby and my man?’” she said.

On top of all that was the pressure to live up to the living legend.

“So much was done to suppress Winnie’s voice, to keep her quiet. Winnie’s story needed to be told,” Hudson said.

Responding to news of Nelson Mandela’s death Thursday, Hudson told ABC News in a statement, “The Mandela family is in my thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Mr.

Mandela fought for freedoms and equality that changed the face of South Africa and the world. We can all learn from his extraordinary journey.”

Hudson’s next role, playing a prostitute addicted to heroin in “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete,” was a big stretch for her. “The drugs, the tattoos, the prostitution — her life is so different from my own,” she said.

To research the part, she visited rehab centers and met with addicts.

Hudson can also be seen in “Black Nativity,” a film adaptation of Langston Hughes’ 1961 Off-Broadway stage musical, with Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.

Director Kasi Lemmons told Essence, “I wrote the role for her. She has such a unique combination of fragility and strength.”

As for her personal life, Hudson said she’s in no hurry to marry Otunga.

“Yes, there was a date set, and that date has come around again every year,” Hudson said. “In fact, the date may keep rolling around. … When I’m ready to be married, I will be married. It’s that simple. Everyone should just chill. Our relationship is very strong. We’re both huge family people, and I’m only going to get married once. So I’m not rushing into anything.”

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