Respecting Our Elders

Everyone’s psyched about Dreamgirls.

The film is garnering incredible Oscar buzz, I just saw the three biggest stars of the film – Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, and Beyonce – on the cover of Vanity Fair. (Think fast, when was the last time you saw a black face on the cover of any mainstream fashion magazine? I couldn’t think of another such cover this year. PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong!)

As excited as I am to see Dreamgirls, some of the items I’ve been reading about the film are upsetting to me. First of all, the media has jumped all over this supposed Beyonce versus Jennifer Hudson feud.

Both stars deny any tension, although Beyonce’s quote, “I mean,” said Knowles, “I wish I could’ve gained 20 pounds and played Effie,” is just ridiculous. Effie is about more than just gaining 20 pounds. Effie is about heartbreak and struggle. All I’m saying is, as a woman who has battled weight issues and identifies with Effie, Beyonce’s flippant comment rubbed me the wrong way. She could never, ever, ever be Effie. I’ll get off my Team Chunk soapbox now.

I found Greg Braxton’s fascinating LA Times article about Jennifer Holliday to be even more upsetting. Jennifer Holliday’s life has been defined by Dreamgirls, the musical that made her a Tony Award winning star at age 21. And now that the film is set to be the next Hollywood sensation, the original stars are being cast aside.

Loretta Devine is the only original Broadway cast member to make an appearance. I know there are two sides to every story – perhaps the execs at Paramount and Dreamworks had bad experiences with Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph, I don’t know. According to Jennifer Holliday, she was never asked to be in the film or to do publicity.

It leaves a bad taste in my mouth that Jennifer Holliday isn’t making a cameo in the glitzy adaptation, and claims to have been “uninvited” to the film’s premiere.

It’s even worse that the media and advertising has been using Holliday’s version of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” to promote the upcoming film.

In the LA Times article she laments:

Why is it necessary for them to wipe out my existence in order for them to have their success?” Holliday said. “It’s scary that they can be so cruel. I know it’s business, but why do they have to go to this extreme? I’m a human being. I need to work too. Why do I have to die to make them a winner?

That, Miss Holliday, is a story as old as Hollywood itself. Young stars are shoved into the spotlight while older acts get overshadowed and ignored.

Think of Ruth Brown’s struggle in the Eighties, to recoup the royalties from the record companies that made their fortunes from her talent. Thank God that the Rhythm and Blues Foundation exists to give respect and financial assistance to forgotten R&B artists who worked hard and were robbed by terrible contracts from the Forties to Seventies.

This awesome MSNBC article highlights the real life forgotten girl groups who helped to inspire the film.

Money and occasional recognition can’t possibly assuage the sting of being literally replaced and erased. The frustration of hearing your voice and talent being used to promote something you’ve been shut out of. Holliday’s co-star, Sheryl Lee Ralph is more philosophical about the snub, explaining to the LA Times : “For us to be so much a part of theatrical history and then to be treated like we did nothing is heartbreaking… I don’t take offense. It’s just show business, baby. I wish them every success.

But that doesn’t make it right. I have loved Jennifer Hudson since American Idol. I can’t tell you how many times my friend Lauren and I voted for her that season. Jennifer Hudson didn’t win Idol, and she’s had to fight to get the respect she deserves. This role was clearly meant for her – sorry Fantasia, Effie was never the right role for you.

Dreamgirls has shaped Jennifer Hudson’s life as well, in this Boston Globe interview, she confesses how Holliday influenced her. “I didn’t know anything about ‘Dreamgirls,’ ” said Hudson, sitting in a Boston hotel suite. But she was a big fan of Holliday’s recording of the show-stopping, pathos-drenched ballad “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” She liked it so much that she knew when she graduated from singing in the church choir with her grandmother that she wanted to play “Jennifer Holliday” on Broadway.

Now that she’s playing Jennifer Holliday on the silver screen, I hope that Jennifer Hudson reaches out to her idol to record a duet or something. At the inevitable Academy Award performance, it would be wonderful to watch them share the stage and belt out the ballad that shaped their careers.

It would be even more poignant if they dedicated that performance to the late, great Florence Ballard – the real-life inspiration for the role who left the Supremes in 1967, was horribly screwed over by Motown, and died penniless at the age of 32. Today, she’s a footnote who is referred to as “one of rock’s greatest tragedies.”

Jennifer Holliday has lost 200 pounds, but her voice is still as enormous as ever. I found this video of her looking slim and fabulous, and singing her heart out.

I for one hope that the lyrics actually mean something for her. I hope that it’s a declaration of intent, and that she doesn’t go anywhere. This woman simply has too much talent to just be swept under the showbusiness rug like so many others have been.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Comments

  1. off hand, beyonce was on Elle’s cover for December, I believe.

    okay devil’s advocate – since when are the stars of the original payed homage to in a remake? that’s not the norm for any movie remake, why should it be so for dreamgirls? i think jennifer holiday’s gripes are ridiculous. the only thing i can see her point on is them using her version of the song in promotions. they should’ve used hudson’s. other than that, this is not your movie, j.holliday.

  2. I have become hopelessly devoted to Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose, simply because they are talented, fabulous, and had to work very hard to land their roles in Dreamgirls. Not to dismiss anything Beyonce has done, as she is a wonder to watch when she’s performing, but it seems (from the articles I’ve read and the interviews I’ve heard) the role of Deena Jones was simply handed to Beyonce.

    Reading that People article and watching her body language on Oprah after Ms. Winfrey gushed about JHud’s talent only confirmed that Beyonce is not used to taking the backseat. From my perspective, she is feeling extremely insecure about all the attention Jennifer Hudson is receiving. It really surprised me when the Golden Globe nominations were announced, and she was nominated for Best Actress, because everyone seems to be in agreement that Jennifer Hudson is the reason to see the movie.

    Jennifer Holliday has every right to be angry. She created this role and should be recognized as such.

  3. I don’t see why they’re owed a role in the film. They made the play a hit — over 20 years ago. I don’t need to see the three originals in some sequence where they hand off the torch to the new girls symbolically. Jennifer Holiday must need a little extra income and is salty because she expected to get it from the movie. She’s quick to say that “And I Am Telling You…” isn’t the only song she can sing — yet gets upset when she’s not included in the Dreamgirls movie?
    We’ve moved on.

  4. Hey Summer! I should amend my earlier statement to read “when was the last time you saw a black face on the cover of any mainstream fashion magazine, BESIDES Beyonce.” I miss the days when models like Naomi and Tyra would be on the cover of Vogue.

    I see your devil’s advocate point here, Hollywood doesn’t pay homage to old stars until they die, and then their photo gets applause at the Academy Awards ceremony. Still, it’s odd to me that Loretta Devine would get some respect, and there’s none for the two other original stars. Jennifer Holliday seems like a fragile and emotional person to me, that interview made mention of her previous bouts of depression and a suicide attempt. But I’d be salty and sensitive if I heard my voice being used to promote something I was left out of as well. I am just saying that fame is so fickle. The showbiz industry is so ready to find the next big thing that sometimes real talent (that should always stay in style), gets overshadowed by hype and hubbub.

    Checkmymelonie, I ready that Beyonce worked hard to get cast as Deena, lost weight and dowdied herself up to get the director’s respect. But if I was a Hollywood exec, I’d hand her the role myself. She’s the meal ticket here, and her name recognition will bring in box office results. I’m so proud of Jennifer Hudson (and Anika Noni Rose, although I know a lot less about her), and I can’t wait to see the movie regardless!

  5. I have to agree with Summer and RKJ. Movies are remade all of the time, so why does the original cast feel that the film version of Dreamgirls owes them so much? Unlike the Broadway production that was chock full of unknowns, the movie is full of well established stars. Nobody from the original play has gone on to any more prominent roles with the exception of Loretta Devine anyway.

  6. I’m totally conflicted about the Jennifer Holiday situation. While I believe it would have been a nod of respect and reverence to Jennifer and the other cast members for their earlier performances to be acknowledged in some way in the new movie, I don’t think they were OWED that. In the LATimes article, Jennifer speaks about the EFFie role & the song And I’m telling you, as being her legacy. I mean no offense to her but if that one role and song is what you’re building your legacy on, as a singer, that’s not much of a legacy. And lets be frank, this is show business. Its about making money & while Beyonce and a young sensation like Jennifer Hudson will pack the theatres, Jennifer holiday and Sheryl Ralph won’t. Everyone has their day; someday Ms Knowles will be sitting back lamenting about some now singer borrowing her style or how she’s not getting her due. Unfortunately, I don’t think Jennifer H, for whatever reasons, realized her full potential after the Dreamgirls production. But that was over 20 years ago and its high time she moved on.

  7. Jennifer Holliday, I feel, is simply looking for some recognition for a role she helped to define, and there is nothing wrong with that. Her explosive performance of ‘I’m telling you’ has definitely left its mark. When you think of Dreamgirls the only person you see is Jennifer Holliday. As far as Beyonce is concerned, she really wants to reach Diana Ross’ status. I think the fact that Jennifer Hudson is receiving all the attention and great reviews bothers her. Her comments just very well may be rooted in jealousy.

  8. * also, I forgot to mention that Broadway legend Chita Rivera, who originated the role of Velma Kelly, made a cameo in the film version of Chicago.

  9. Beyonce has been getting the side eye from me since her Destinys Child days. there was an obvious effort to push her as the lead. always the blond one and always the one in the middle.i think that being in the background is a position she should familiarize herself with, humility is an asset to longevity.

  10. once again, i agree with u coffy. there’s something we’re all starting 2 recognise (some of us saw it long ago) about beyonce that isnt true or endearing…

    u can only hide the truth 4 so long.

  11. I’ve spoken on this before. It would’ve been a nice gesture if they included the elder Jennifer. NICE. But there’s no obligation, rule or law that says it would’ve been anything more than that. I’m just saying.

  12. I’m happy for J Hudson. She got kicked off Am Idol to land where her true destiny lies. As for Beyonce, her comment about gaining 20 pounds to play Effie is beyond UGLY. To me, Beyonce is absolutely beautiful and she’s very talented, but she’s fake. I gather that she says what agents tell her rather than speaking from the heart and to me, it shows. It’s a good thing she’s not running the show or I’m sure her Dreamgirl co-stars would be replaced by folks who are less formidible (like what happened repeatedly in Destiny’s Child). Regardless, she has accomplished a lot . . . top selling artist, songwriter, fashion line, etc. For her to start trippin’ is just childish and jealousy at its peak. By the way, Afrobella, standing O to J Holliday (Utube video).

  13. maybe Mama Tina never gave Beyonce the, “you’re not always going to be the prettiest, most talented, best dressed,” etc conversation. young people especially young women need to hear that speech often. hell there are some grown women who need to be introduced to the speech also.

  14. coiltastic says:

    Bey always seem to have her foot in her mouth. She is collecting quotes of her inability to find the right words for good publicity. I know I am not that old but am old enough to remember dreamgirls from back then but I sure don’t. I do remember “I’m telling you” though. When i see the commercial running on tv I am highly annoyed when Jennifer Hudson’s name is not spoken but all of the other “top stars” are. That to me proves that the rumors are grounded on something, it isn’t just the media pitting the women against each other. We have heard about Bey’s bossiness, wanna-be-the-one-at-all-times-ness, and her big bad daddy scaring off any other girls with talent to let Bey shine. I wish the chic would just take about a 5-10 year hiatus and gives us all a break.

  15. Considering the big hit that Dreamgirls was back in the day would it have hurt Hollywood to extend an invitation to Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph? I guess Hollywood aint about being gracious – but the fact that normally the originators of a role aren’t so acknowledged when remade means nothing. Shoot – all three ladies are still in the business, right? It wouldn’t have been too much.
    And I’m surprised that Jennifer Hudson didn’t know anything about Dreamgirls apart from Jennifer Holliday’s song. My mother went to see that on Broadway back in the day, and I grew up listening to recordings from the show, and seeing the playbill in a box of memorabilia. The movie, at least for me, means a lot because Dreamgirls is like one of those legendary classics… you know?
    And don’t be surprised IF Ms. Hudson isn’t performing the “And I Am Telling You” song for the Oscars. I think if B could actually garner a best actress nomination for the Golden Globes (and don’t even get me started on that bs)than who knows what’s gonna go down for that show. *SMH*

  16. Black Honey says:

    SLR and JH should be hoppin’ mad. On the Tom Joyner Morning Ralph let it be known the play started as animprov piece and she developed the character of Deena. There was no script. The actors sold away their rights for $1. So in view of that she deserves at least some recognition.

    Finally, Miss Beyonce is constantly putting her foot in her mouth. I think it’s the direct result of her relationship with ego maniac also known as Jay-Z. She’s still really young. Give her 5 years to regain some humility.

  17. Also remember Flo Ballard was over shadowed by Diana Ross because Diana was having an affair with Berry Gordy the father of her first child…just saying.

  18. loved your post bella! i think many people are looking at this film all wrong. to me it speaks volumes about the mentality of a people. when will smith made Ali i don’t remeber this much controversy and muhammad is still alive. the same with jamie foxx and Ray. but people forget….those are real people. dreamgirls may have been a play BASED on a real life group(the supremes), but it wasn’t called Supremes. i read an article in the wall street journal tuesday about david geffen the orginal producer, and he said they altered enough of the storyline to just touch upon the trials of a female black group. the cast of the broadway dreams will always be groundbreaking because they were first in a time where black women, especially darker skinnned black women, were rare, but it wasn’t a play about the people who acted in the roles. beyonce is not playing sheryl lee ralph, she’s planning deena. although jennifer holiday bodied the role of effie completely, jennifer hudson is having her chance to show how good she can embody effie now. i know that when i go see the film i’m looking at how believable they made the dreams, not to see if jennifer can hit the same notes as holiday can. if this were a true biographical film, i can understand this uproar, but its not. its just a film version of a broadway musical, just like chicago was. and queen la didn’t originate the role of momma thorton, but she acted as if it was written for her. i hope these new dreams do the same.

  19. If anyone should get a cameo, Diana Ross and Berry Gordy should definitely.

    It’s their story.

  20. **** also, I forgot to mention that Broadway legend Chita Rivera, who originated the role of Velma Kelly, made a cameo in the film version of Chicago.*****

    Hey there Afrobella,

    I think you’ve got apples and oranges here. Chita Rivera is a bona fide legend. She’s been in the business for well over 50 years and the producers of Chicago were justly honored to have her in the film. Jennifer Holiday – no offense – is a one hit wonder. Love her singing “And I’m Telling You”, but that’s all you’ve heard from her.

    That said, I do believe Sheryl Lee Ralph about signing a bad contract and creating the roles – black performers (powerless and often new) have done that for years.

    At the end of the day, Dreamgirls is owned/controlled by the Michael Bennett estate and David Geffen, not the performers. It should be a lesson for young performers now. Especially singers since record labels are now requiring that they sign over some of the profits from ringtones to get a deal.

  21. There is way too much hype about this movie & I am thinking that it cannot be that damn good. I am mos def a Beyonce hater & not shamed to say.

    Initially I said that I was not going to see Dreamgirls because Beyonce is in it, but now I am intrigued to see Jennifer Hudson et al. Other than her ass shaking, I am not interested in what Beyonce does; I am yet to see any real talent from her other than…

    In regards to the original stars of the stage play, I really think that they should have been given some play in reference tot he movie, after all as many have mentioned, they shaped the roles.

    Yes this is show business blah blah blah but we are talking about a black movie based on a black play & we should always recognize those who paved the way to our own success. To me it is a matter of basic respect.

    One sad & last note: I bet many of the kids & 20 somthin’s never even heard of Dreamgirls & I hope J Hudson wins that Golden Globe, which would be so awesome for her.

    Bygbaby

  22. Hey Bella!!

    Love the website!!! I wanted to address the comment that you put in your article about Beyonce and the whole 20 pounds thing. As a member of the CGU, I was somewhat offended by the comment, that is until I read the actual article where the quote was taken from. I am by no means a stan for Beyonce, but I think the quote was taken out of context. Beyonce’ explained that she wished she could have played the role of Effie if only to sing the signature song. I don’t think she was in any way inferring that gaining the weight would all that was necessary to play the role. As a matter of fact, she talked about the director’s belief that she could even play Deena. Just wanted to throw it out there from my perspective.

  23. I read many blogs and just can’t understand all the negative energy directed as beyonce. she always seems to be a gracious, nice professional and i work in the entertainment business and have never heard differently. she’s also enviably focused and hard-working. given the way the business is now, she’s smart to make her money and build her career while folks are still interested.
    as for jennifer hudson, singing one song very very well and making it memorable does not a career make. ooops, i meant jennifer holiday but truthfully they could both meditate on that.

  24. Black Honey says:

    Let’s stop harping on the fact the playing the character of Effie was the high point of Ms. Holiday’s career.

    Just because someone is just a one hit wonder or only won one award doesn’t mean that their contribution to American popular culture is less significant. Ralph Ellison only published one novel. So did Harper Lee. Are we supposed not to take them seriously as artists because they weren’t as prolific as others? I don’t think so.

  25. I’ve heard the reason the show wasn’t called the Supremes in the first place, was that Berry Gordy and Diana wouldn’t allow it. They at one time wanted to make their own story…don’t know if this is true or not.

  26. WOW!!!!!!
    what a voice, what a voice!!….
    she looks great and sounds simply fabulous!!!!….
    although it is time for the next generation to get their piece of the dreamgirls pie….nothing can or will ever take away from Ms. Holiday’s spectacular show stopping orginal performance….I do hope, however, that she decides to give of her pure, raw and God given singing gifts beyond her past in dreamgirls…she has sooooo much more to offer the world….and with bated breath the world waits……

  27. AmatureVoice says:

    It must be nice to be young and have so much time to hate and envy show business folks their good fortune and talent.

    The KEEPING IT REAL crowd does so much to embarrass Black Folk and to keep up looking like we didn’t deserve or respect the fruits of our people’s struggle for us.

    Beyonce is nobody’s fool. Always well spoken and beautifully turned out. Always elegant and graceful. She is the product of a fiercely strong, proud and family unit.

    The hate is only represented of a regression of grade school yard antics. The pretty girl who seemed to have everything, but was still nice to everyone.

    If Beyonce did utter those words, it is only because she realizes what choice roll the part of Effie is. She is acknowledging what a great part it is. She is acknowledging that to play that part you have to be pretty talented yourself.

    Apparently, she wasn’t hungry enough for it.

    Beyonce has been in this business for a very long time. She is poised and prepared and business savvy enough to know her role was a small one compared to Jennifer’s and that playing the part of Deena wasn’t going to be the starring role.

    So stop the hate. Behave like Jennifer and Beyonce. Be classy, poised and positive. Stop showing so much self-hate, jealousy and regret.

  28. I just read up a little on the whole Jennifer Holliday saga and it seems she just didn’t want a Cameo, she wanted to redo the whole Effie part. I loved Jennifer Hudson in the part of Effie. Loved her loved her loved her!!! I was peeved that Beyonce was being nominated and being proposed for Best Actress!!!! How? Effie was the main character in Dreamgirls.
    I agree that we need to acknowledge that we stand on the achievements of giants, but the giants need to give way for others to do greater things. I think Jennifer Holliday is being immature to imagine that Effie cannot be played by someone else or that she should always feature in any Dreamgirls production. She did a good job in the original and Jennifer Hudson proved that she was equal to the task if not better. Jennifer Holliday should have been supportive of a more wide reaching dreamgirls instead of griping about how “she wasn’t even offered a cameo.” Immature. She rally shpild have been supportive of another actor in the lead.
    And to digress, isn’t it odd that the two leads in dreamgirls share the same first name? So in the next remake, 20 years from now, we should await another Jennifer being born now? Maybe I should name my daughter Jennifer….

  29. I think it’s unfair that Jennifer Holliday has strived for years to accomplish a status of respectability; then have someone mimic her song and obtain emmys, awards, and recognition from the sweat of someone elses brow. I’m not hating, but Jennifer Hudson is not that great of a singer.Have you seen the American Idol rewinds? She’s no Belinda Doolittle!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] It was more than I had hoped for. That sealed the deal for me, I’m a JHud fan for life! And now I’m FINALLY gonna have to go see Dreamgirls – I was out of the country when it opened, and I haven’t found the time to go see it yet. But I think a Sunday matinee sounds just about perfect this weekend!   [...]

  2. afrobella says:

    [...] while ago, I wrote about Jennifer Holliday and her legacy in Dreamgirls being deliberately eroded. Well Jennifer Hudson hasstronger opinions than I do. [...]

Speak Your Mind

*