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DREAMGIRLS
Paramount Pictures
Jennifer Hudson, center, shown with Beyonce Knowles and Anika Noni Rose, is living her dream in "Dreamgirls."
Access Hollywood
updated 12/17/2006 10:02:39 PM ET 2006-12-18T03:02:39

“My dream has been, just as much to be famous and to sing for the world one time, is to play in ‘Dreamgirls’” - Jennifer Hudson, April 2004

Nearly three years after making that comment to Access Hollywood, Jennifer Hudson’s “Dreamgirls” wish has come true.

The “American Idol” reject turned Golden Globe nominee is a perfect example of what can happen when you believe in yourself. And now that she’s on the verge of superstardom, Access Hollywood paid a visit to her hometown to chat with the people who know her best.

Then, we surprised Jennifer with an impromptu reunion filled with well wishes for Chicago’s new hometown hero via videotape.

First up to send a message, Jennifer’s Godmother Debra.

“Jennifer, we’re so proud of you,” Debra said.

Next up, her former high school principal Dr. Barbara A. Hall.

“Congratulations on your Golden Globe nomination,” Dr. Hall told Jennifer, much to Hudson’s delight.

“Oh my God!” she beamed as she watched the messages. “This is a huge surprise!”

When Access visited her childhood city of Chicago, we discovered the girl behind the “Dream.”

Jennifer was a student at Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High school, graduating in 1999. Principal Hall remembers Jennifer as a “Dreamgirl,” even back then.

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“She was a real bubbly personality, just smiling and singing all the time. She would walk down the hallway singing, just happy. She was a happy student,” Dr. Hall told us.

In fact, one of those halls will soon be renamed Jennifer Hudson Boulevard.

“Oh my God! This is the first I heard of that,” Jennifer said. “That is such an honor.”

During high school, Jennifer performed in musicals, both on and off campus. Her very first professional role was in a production of “Big River.”

And it’s no surprise Jennifer sang loud and proud in the school choir. Music director Shari Nichols-Sweat recalled Jennifer’s need to lead.

“She would always say when the junior choir would be singing ‘I want to lead a song. Would you let me lead a song?’” Nichols-Sweat shared.

Jennifer is Dunbar’s most celebrated alum - and there’s even a shrine in her honor where future Dunbar stars can dream.

“I hope one day my career could start and I could be in Hollywood with Jennifer,” current Dunbar student Shakora Wilson told Access.

But it was in church where Jennifer’s mom took special notice of her daughter’s talent.

“When she was about 17-years-old, she sang a solo in church and that’s when I knew,” her mom revealed.

“I get it from my grandmother,” Jennifer told us.

But her Godmother Debra knew she had the pipes much earlier.

“She was sitting on my lap during rehearsal and she hit this high note. I think she was only about 2-years-old and I jumped up and ran to everybody and said ‘This baby is going to sing,’” her Godmother said.

And Jennifer still joins in the choir whenever she’s in town. Thankfully, Jennifer’s cousin Krista Nichols-Alston reports the “Dreamgirl” still has no star attitude.

“When she comes in, she’s just Jenny Gal. She’s just Jennifer,” Krista concluded.

Catch Jennifer in “Dreamgirls” when it opens nationwide December 25.

Copyright 2013 by NBC. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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