Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar win was everything we tune in for: a handsome leading man (George Clooney) welcoming a young actress to the Hollywood fold and a teary speech punctuated by gasps of gratitude and sheer terror (and featuring a grandmother). Another beauty of the moment was the lack of mention of Hudson’s race: In recent years, wins by Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, and Hallie Berry have celebrated, rightfully, the emergence of great roles and corresponding awards for African-American actors. With Forest Whitaker, Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, and Hudson all up for Oscars, one couldn’t be race-blind at this year’s ceremony (“It’s a wonderful year to be an African-American actor,” Beyonce Knowles said on her way into the Kodak Theater). But both Hudson and Whitaker accepted their awards without calling attention to the color of their skin.
Except, of course, in her simple statement, “Here’s what God can do.” It’s hard to imagine a Caucasian performer leading with this in their acceptance speech. As in pop music, where Aretha Franklin can sing at church without causing anyone to wonder about her politics, or rappers like Mos Def can proclaim their Muslim faith without it defining their, uh, profile, African-Americans bring God naturally into mainstream events, without risking their popularity. Why? I’ve often thrown this question out to black and white performers alike, and few even attempt an answer.
Hudson’s easy touch with Godtalk also allowed her to slip effortlessly out of a ridiculous exchange with E! reporter Ted Casablanca. Pressed by Casablanca for a few words of advice for fellow pop diva Britney Spears, Hudson said, “All I can do is pray for Britney.” Amen.