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When I was a kid and saw Whitney Houston, I was, like, I want to do that. I want to be like that. Role models teach you what to do. But you can also learn what not to do, you know?
In church you learn to sing with a purpose and for a higher being, other than yourself — you learn how to sing with a message, with substance. That's what gives music the power to help people, to comfort, to change, to resonate with others. Without that connection, it's just sound.
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I believe in destiny. I sang Aretha Franklin's “Share Your Love With Me” for my American Idol audition. To play her was a dream of mine. I met her 15 years ago, and she said, “I want Jennifer to play me.” While filming Respect, I'm, like, This is actually happening. It manifested!
Everyone used to say, “Jenny's got her grandmother's voice!” My grandmother Julia Kate could have been a gospel star like Mahalia Jackson, but she never wanted to be famous, “because you have to sing when you don't feel like it!” Sometimes I feel like that. But when it's a passion and a love, even when you're tired, you push through and go out there and perform.
That before this
Everything prepares you for what's next. You may not understand in the moment why you're going through something, but it's molding you. My dream was to be a singer — I didn't know about acting or what the Oscars were. But I won an Oscar before I won a Grammy, and I did a film before I did an album. Sometimes things pick you.
I have a whole room in my house dedicated to all the sayings of my mother when I was growing up. [Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were shot to death in 2008.] I put them on the walls as an homage to her. My own saying is “You never know how much a parent loves you until you have a child to love.”
People think, Oh, [gun violence] can't happen to me. But it can happen to anyone. I know that all too well. We have to build awareness and put a stop to it by getting out and marching and using our platforms to make a difference.