Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 17th 2014 Contents B10
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, March 17, 2014
With her first solo album in two
decades, Jennifer Holliday is on
the comeback trail. But the singer,
best known for her Tony-winning
performance as Effie in the orig-
inal Broadway production of
Dreamgirls and the iconic rendi-
tion of And I Am Telling You I m
Not Going, wasn t always sure she
wanted her career resurrected.
The spotlight had been difficult
for her: She has dealt with clinical
depression, multiple sclerosis, went
blind for three months, filed for
bankruptcy and attempted to com-
mit suicide on her 30th birthday.
She was dropped by her label when
her weight went up to 400 pounds.
"It was devastating for me as
an artist and human being," said
Holliday, also a Grammy winner.
"People say you have a gift from
God, but still saying, No. Things
went terribly downhill. Not having
a label, being overweight, music
and life in limbo. Those were very
hard times for me."
Big expectations were set for
Holliday s career following her suc-
cess with Dreamgirls in 1981. The
singer s 1983 debut album, Feel
My Soul, which was produced by
Earth, Wind and Fire bandleader
Maurice White, received positive
reviews. Two years later, her fol-
low-up album, Say You Love Me,
featured Michael Jackson as a co-
writer and producer on the opening
track, You re the One. But she was
unable to generate any major hits
to boost her career as a solo artist.
Holliday believes she came up
in the wrong era of music when
being overweight was unaccept-
able, especially during a time when
music videos were beginning to
"The music industry turned
(against) those of us who were real
artists," she said. "When I was
with Geffen Records, I weighed
almost 400 pounds. The label told
me that I had a great voice, but
wasn t marketable having a weight
image. It s not like today where
Adele could come out, sing and
Yet over the years, Holliday sur-
vived without producing another
hit record. She had theatre and
symphony performances along
with a recurring guest star role on
Ally McBeal and appearances on
Touched by an Angel. She teamed
up with the Rev Raphael G
Warnock for a joint gospel album,
Goodness & Mercy, in 2011.
"I ve been able to work without
a record," she said. "So in some
way, I got a little comfortable. ...
But music itself had changed. So,
I didn t see much purpose. But
when it comes to getting your
music out there or your story out,
it s a lot easier."
So at 53, Holliday has just
released her sixth album, The Song
Is You, released in late January.
These days, she s more at peace
through her faith and prayer. She s
lost more than 200 pounds and
trimmed down 20 inches following
gastric bypass surgery in 1990 and
years of living a healthier lifestyle.
Holliday said appearing on
American Idol with finalist Jessica
Sanchez in 2012 breathed new life
into her music career.
"It fueled me a lot," she said.
"Even though people Google me
all the time, I didn t want them
to look back so far to see some
recordings of me. That fact that
maybe I should be singing again."
When Holliday first returned to
the studio, she felt like a "dinosaur."
It took some time to learn some
of the contemporary audio work-
stations such as Pro Tools, but
eventually she became more com-
Holliday has gotten more
involved with social media net-
works like Facebook, Twitter and
Instagram. She had trouble at first
because it was hard for her to take
the harsh criticism dealt her way.
But in time, Holliday saw the ben-
efits of promoting her music with-
out a major record label. It gives
"Back in the day, if someone at
the record label didn t care or like
your music, it never got to the
public. It just got shelved," she
said. "You can take your case to
the public such as YouTube and
other forms of social media where
they can vote on you. If nobody
likes you, then that s just fine. If
20 more people like you more than
the other ten, then you have a
Original Dreamgirls star
makes return to music
After battles with
depression and obesity
returns with a solo
album. AP PHOTO
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