When Jennifer Hudson auditioned for Dreamgirls in 2005, the odds seemed long. She had little acting experience, and her only moment in the national spotlight was a short stint on American Idol, where she finished a paltry seventh. Imagining this modest girl from Chicago acting beside Jamie Foxx, Beyonce Knowles and Eddie Murphy in one of the decade's biggest musicals was difficult. But Hudson had a golden voice. Like '80s pop star and key influence Whitney Houston, she relied upon a gospel-inflected approach that projects both grit and refinement. When she belts out the chorus to "And I'm Going To Love You" during the film's dramatic climax, the line between artist and art is satisfactorily blurred, and Hudson is Dreamgirls' heroine Effie White. Her breakthrough performance in that movie earned her instant critical acclaim, the audience's adoration and a 2007 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. More films (including the Sex and the City movie), some modeling and -- finally, in 2008 -- Hudson's debut album followed.