EW Staff
April 03, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After losing American Idol, Jennifer Hudson told us she was not going. And she was right. Here’s a look at all the singer has accomplished in a few short years.

1987: Early Promise
Hudson, found music young, attending church-choir practice with her mother and grandmother in Chicago. She started singing when she was 7. ”I used to beg for a solo, and when they finally gave me one, I was terrified,” Hudson says. ”I forgot the words, and the congregation had to help me out. I had terrible stage fright. I got over that.”

2004: American Idol
Hudson came in seventh, but performed at the finale with winner Fantasia Barrino.

2006: Happier Times
Hudson attended the New York premiere of Dreamgirls with sister Julia, nephew Julian, and mother Darnell Donerson.

2006: Dreamgirls
Hudson beat out 781 women for the role of Effie White, a big woman with even bigger talent. Her performance of the defiant ballad ”And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” caused movie audiences to applaud and turned her into a star overnight. The role earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

2007: Oscar Night
”I never imagined I would be an actress, let alone win an Oscar,” Hudson says. ”I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Me?”’

2008: Sex and the City: The Movie
Hudson played assistant to Sarah Jessica Parker. ”I didn’t need a Barbie doll,” says SATC director Michael Patrick King. ”I needed someone authentic.”

2008: The Secret Life of Bees
”Jennifer, like Dakota Fanning, never had training,” says Bees director Gina Prince-Bythewood. ”But there’s a realness to her performances.”

2008 Marriage-Minded
Hudson and fiancé David Otunga were engaged on Sept. 12, 2008 — her 27th birthday.

2009: An Emotional Return
On Feb. 1, Hudson belted out a rendition of ”The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl that was watched by almost 100 million people. One week later she won her first Grammy, for Best R&B Album, and delivered a powerful performance of her song ”You Pulled Me Through” that earned a standing ovation.

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