American Idol’s Paula Abdul On Fans Being ‘Pissed’ Over Jennifer Hudson’s Elimination And The Sweet Conversation They Had Afterwards

Paula Abdul on The Jennifer Hudson Show
(Image credit: JHud Productions)

American Idol has served as a launching point for some notable celebrities over the years, even if they weren't the winner crowned in the end. Singer, actress, and EGOT winner Jennifer Hudson is without question one of the most notable examples of post-Idol success, and celebrates her thriving career on a daily basis. Despite her icon status, there are indeed fans out there who are still mad she was robbed of a win on the singing competition, as confirmed by former judge Paula Abdul. 

Paula Abdul appeared as a guest on The Jennifer Hudson Show, in what some may view as something of a full-circle moment between the two. When the subject of her seventh-place elimination during Season 3 of American Idol came up, Abdul shared that fans will still talk to her about that controversial elimination almost twenty years later: 

Oh my goodness, I mean, that was a moment. When you were eliminated, it was like the whole world was pissed. … I'm sure they come up to you, I mean, people still talk to me about, 'God, that night Jennifer Hudson was eliminated.' I go, 'I know.'

Jennifer Hudson's elimination was certainly one of the more egregious and odd eliminations in American Idol's history. Hudson found herself in the Bottom 3 on elimination night alongside LaToya London and Fantasia Barrino. It's been speculated that the three hopefuls ended up in the Bottom 3 due to vote-splitting between fans, as all were praised by the judges for their obvious talents.

One had to go home, however, and it ended up being Jennifer Hudson, much to fans' decades-long feelings of disgust. Fantasia Barrino ended up winning Season 3, but the world clearly didn't give up on Hudson. Paula Abdul recalled the conversation she had with the future talk show host after her elimination, and pointed out how she predicted (if broadly) that Hudson's career would take off: 

I remember interviewing you after, when I was on Entertainment Tonight, and I said to you, 'You know, I have a feeling some amazing things are gonna happen to you.’ 'Remember, I said, 'People that need to win, win. And the people that don't need to win end up winning big time.' And you did.

Two years after her early exit on American Idol, Jennifer Hudson landed the role of Effie White in the movie Dreamgirls, which netted her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and things really took off from there. Following two Grammy wins, several high-profile films, TV appearances, live performances, and landing her own talk show, it's safe to say life turned out pretty well for her regardless of reality TV fates.

American Idol's judges, and the live-show fans who help vote the winners through, don't always get it right, if there's even an objective "correct" answer at play. While the show's creatives might have some regrets about orchestrating a position that put Jennifer Hudson at a disadvantage, it's hard to imagine that Hudson regrets much about the journey that followed. After all, she ended up getting a talk show just like Kelly Clarkson, who was famously the series' first champ. So maybe the idea of winning American Idol has always been overrated.

This story is a great thing for television audiences to think about as American Idol airs its current season on ABC on Sundays starting at 8:00 p.m. ET. Given viewers got it wrong with Jennifer Hudson, perhaps now might be the best time to revisit some of the audition episodes with a Hulu subscription to help be sure the right contestants are being voted for during the live shows. 

Mick Joest
Content Producer

Mick likes good television, but also reality television. He grew up on Star Wars, DC, Marvel, and pro wrestling and loves to discuss and dissect most of it. He’s been writing online for over a decade and never dreamed he’d be in the position he is today.