"My American Idol audition song, my introduction to the world, was "Share Your Love With Me," by Ms. Franklin," Hudson revealed. "I feel as though Ms. Franklin’s songs have kind of always been there, but now I feel like I have permission to sing them because of her blessing. I feel like I get to help carry on her amazing legacy. Now, Aretha Franklin’s "Never Loved a Man" is my go-to karaoke song."
"People are like, 'Jennifer, this isn’t fair!' But in my family, we take music seriously," she continued. "So, even with karaoke, it’s not a game."
The bond between Hudson and Franklin goes back to 2007, when she says the icon invited her to open up for her at one of her concerts.
"I first met Ms. Aretha Franklin in Merrillville, Indiana, when she allowed me to open up for her concert. You know what? Aretha said, 'Don’t sing none of my songs,'" Hudson revealed. "When I got to open up for her concert, she allowed me to sing my own songs, but I got to watch her perform her songs."
It wasn't until a few years later that Franklin pegged Hudson for the role of her in what would ultimately become 2021's Respect.
"We had breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City. That was our first sit-down meeting about me portraying her. And then, eight years after that, that’s when she called me and said, 'I've made my decision, and it is you who I want to play me,' the Dreamgirls actress revealed. "I was very excited in the moment that I learned that she wanted me to play her. But then, the next second, like, Oh my god. Like, it's Aretha Franklin. Where do you even start? So, it's exciting, but the scariest thing at the same time."
The role has garnered plenty of awards buzz and has earned Hudson multiple award nominations, including Female Movie Star of 2021 at the People's Choice Awards, Best Actress at the 23rd Women's Image Awards, Outstanding Actress at the 22nd Black Reel Awards and Best Original Song at the 79th Golden Globe Awards.
"I don't even know where to begin to say, like, how amazing it is to feel acknowledged and to be a part of such a prestigious thing," Hudson said, thanking her "Respect family" and PSIFA festival chairman Harold Matzner for the accolade.
"It feels like having received an award just being chosen to play her and to live my dream to do it, so receiving an award for it is like the cherry on the top," she continued. "It is something I do not take lightly. I feel like we all put our hearts [and] every bit of our energy into this project to pay homage to her legacy, and so this is just a reminder that I get to look at and cherish with that in mind."
The strong praise for her performance has served as reassurance for the actress.
"[Being chosen for the role is] scary at times, you know. That's a huge assignment -- it's not every day you can get up and say 'I'm playing Aretha Franklin,'" she explained. "So, to be acknowledged and received in this way, [it's] like I can breathe now, you know? Because it's an exciting thing [when] you get that opportunity, but when it's time to actually do it? It is daunting [and] it can be very scary... So again, this is like a breath of fresh air."