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Arts Playlist: A conversation with Jennifer Holliday


Long before American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson won an Academy Award for her star making turn in the movie “Dreamgirls,” another singer named Jennifer captivated audiences on Broadway.


Jennifer Holliday originated the role of Effie “Melody” White in “Dreamgirls” and was instrumental in developing the character.


Holliday won a Tony for her performance and has since released numerous CD’s ranging from R & B to Gospel, in addition to performing in many theatrical productions.


The singer grew up performing in church choir in her native Houston but says one of her bigger influences as a young girl was Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.


“I just loved the way she spoke so when I became an entertainer I thought that diction was very important as well,” she says.  “It’s also important on Broadway. Did you feel the story of the song? Did I do that for you, not just being able to go high and low and growl and all of this other kind of stuff.”


Despite her success on Broadway and as a recording star, Holliday has fought clinical depression for most of her life and tried to commit suicide on her 30th birthday.

“The years after that I was still trying to overcome the battle of darkness,” she says. “Back then people weren’t really talking about depression especially us women in show business.”

But things have got better.

“There’s more awareness,” says Holliday. “The medication is better and I continue with therapy just to keep on top of it.”

The 55-year old singer says she’s candid about her struggle so others may feel free to step out of the shadows.

“Unfortunately there still remains a kind of stigma attached to it,” she says.

For Holliday, cultivating a positive outlook doesn’t necessarily come naturally so she works on it. A key aspect for her lies in performing and making a connection with her fans.

“It is my great desire to bring love through my music and that people feel lifted after hearing me sing.”


This piece is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency dedicated to nurturing and supporting the arts in Delaware, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.


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