On this episode of Yahoo Finance Presents, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson sat down with Yahoo Finance's Alexandra Canal to discuss her partnership with Mastercard that empowers Black female business owners. She also discusses the return to live music and entertainment, as well as her role in the upcoming film 'Respect,' where she stars as Aretha Franklin.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: August officially marks National Black Business Month, and Mastercard is continuing its partnership with Oscar and Grammy award winner Jennifer Hudson to help lift the voices of Black female entrepreneurs. And the one and only J. Hud Joins us now. Jennifer, thank you so much for joining us today. I'm so excited to talk to you. Let's start with this partnership. Tell me a little bit about the initiative and what drew you to it.
JENNIFER HUDSON: It's all about supporting and encouraging Black women business owners, which I think is amazing and it inspires me. I'm so happy to see the support being put behind Black businesswoman owners, and that is what brought me into this because it's something I'm passionate about as well.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: And you had the chance to virtually meet some of the entrepreneurs featured. Through your conversations with them and just your overall involvement in the program, what do you think are the biggest challenges, the biggest hurdles, that are facing Black female business owners today?
JENNIFER HUDSON: Oh, wow. That's an interesting question. I'm sure there's many. But just the lack of awareness of the businesses and lack of support. Which, again, is why I think this is amazing to draw attention to it and to let people know how much creativity is out there in the Black communities, and how much support is needed for it as well.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: And how do you think this drives this initiative, goes that extra mile to really get that done.
JENNIFER HUDSON: But highlighting it. By creating a platform for it and advocating for it, and putting a voice out there to let people know that it's there and that it needs support. It's great things happening, and there's so much creativity out there and passion in these people, in their businesses and in their efforts.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: That's awesome. It is interesting too during this time, because there's been a lot of talk of performative allyship, in the wake of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement at large. Especially among some of these bigger companies, with critics saying sometimes these initiatives or these change policies they don't go far enough to really creating the change that is needed. So when it comes to you and when you're choosing these partnerships and these companies to put your name behind, what exactly are you looking for?
JENNIFER HUDSON: Exactly that. I like real things, you know. Things that move the needle. Things that has substance, and that's why I think this is an amazing partnership. And things that are lasting, and making an impact, making a difference. So that is not only specific to one period of time or one group of people, but actually investing in things that are worth being invested in and giving the time that it needs the attention, the support, the love, all of those things. And that's definitely what Mastercard is doing. It's definitely what they're doing.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: And I've got to mention that through this partnership you will be performing at the Apollo Theater, the very first live musical performance there since March of 2020. We also got the news today that you'll be headlining a concert out in New York City with Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, just to name a few. So as live events return, what has the recovery story looked like from your perspective, and how has the industry changed as a result of COVID?
JENNIFER HUDSON: Wow. Well, I'm still figuring that out because it's quite new to me as well. I think we're all in-- That's the most amazing thing to me about the pandemic, it's something we've all been through. So I could ask you the same question, like what has it been like. So I think we're discovering it as we go and planning our feet again. It's almost like a new start in a way and a new discovery of what's going on in the world or how we're going to approach it and move forward. But yeah, I don't really know-- I'm still figuring it out for myself.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: Yeah. And have you seen an uptick, have things gotten busier and busier as--
JENNIFER HUDSON: Yes. Oh my God. That part. That part because I feel as though we're playing catch up, making up for the things that we missed from last year. Because it's like we're picking up where we left off. Then we're dealing with what was already planned, and then what's to come. So I think we're all extra busy. I don't know if you find it to be that way, but at least I do. And then we're just thrown back into it, versus being able to temper out of it. Because think about it, we've all been sitting still for a whole year, and now the world is back open and we're all hitting the ground running.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: Everyone's trying to make up for what they missed in 2020, right?
JENNIFER HUDSON: Exactly. Yes.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: And the Apollo Theater too, there's so much history behind that. How excited are you to be performing there, what are you looking forward to when it comes to that event?
JENNIFER HUDSON: It's always a honor to sing at the Apollo. And I've done it before, but it's something that you can never get used to and it's super exciting. I think it's every singer's dream to want to do it. So I'm so excited. And this is like, even as a performer, one of the first times singing live in front of a live audience too, which is exciting because I think we've all missed that as well. And then it being the Apollo once again, which is, again, a singer's dream to be able to do. And what it's around. Supporting and celebrating all the Black entrepreneurs, women and the power that that brings, and celebrating it through Aretha Franklin's music with the anthem "Respect." We're going to have a good time, ma'am, that's for sure.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: And that's a perfect transition to my next question. We have to talk about your new film "Respect." You do play Aretha Franklin. In fact, she actually personally asked you to take on the role. So what has playing her-- what did her lessons teach you about breaking down barriers and just finding your true authentic voice?
JENNIFER HUDSON: That is exactly what the whole premise of the film is about, which I think will continue to empower women even more because it did that very thing for me. And that's what I walked away with, wanting to own my voice that much more. And it wasn't until Aretha owned hers, that we got our queen of soul, you know. So it's like, what queens lies within us if we own our own voices. And she overcame so much. And when I filmed the film the thing that was in the back of my mind, is like, I know we all have a respect for Ms. Aretha Franklin, but by the time they get to the end of this film, I want everyone to have a newfound respect for her. So I just, I can't wait to see how many more women this film will inspire through her legacy.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: I am so excited. I know already that I'm going to be dancing in my seat throughout the entire movie, so very, very pumped about that. And as an audience member, as a viewer, what can they take from this film, the lessons of this film, and how can they apply that to the issues that we're facing today in 2021?
JENNIFER HUDSON: You know what's interesting about that, there's so many things in the film that is still so relatable to today. While filming, I will have moments like, wow. A lot of the things we're tapping into and recreating feel so relevant to today. So I think that people will find so many relatable subjects in different scenarios and things throughout the film. But it's a matter of perspective and what your takeaway is, what you're looking for, when you see the film. But there's so much in there to walk away with, again, that I think will encourage, will inspire, will motivate, redirect. But that's the power of the queen of soul. Ms. Aretha Franklin.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: Amen to that. And when you were channeling her, playing her, portraying her, what was the biggest challenge for you in doing that? Because she is such an icon, I can only imagine the pressure. How did you rise to that occasion and really calm yourself down and bring yourself into the role as well, because you're an icon in your own right too.
JENNIFER HUDSON: Thank you. One, overcoming the fact-- OK, it was also my dream to play her. But the fact that like, Oh my God, Aretha Franklin said Jennifer you do this, but it was her encouragement that got me through it. And now the challenge, though, was being a woman in that time frame, versus the era in which I come from. And women didn't exist the same way we do today back then. So it took a portion of me to say, OK, how did women exist back during that time. So what was the conditions, the circumstances, the time, the era, in which they grew up in, which is completely different from ours. You know what I mean? So it took a bit of research to channel that to get clarity and the understanding of how women existed during that time. So that was a process in itself, which was very challenging. Because we have more space today. As you see, we're celebrating and acknowledging so many women through Mastercard, and things like that. They didn't necessarily have that back then, you know? As much support or space to take up. So it was a challenge to understand their position then to be able to channel her in the era in which she came up in.
ALEXANDRA CANAL: I love that. And you know what? That's what we're doing in 2021. We're all accomplishing our dreams. "Respect" to hit theaters on August 13th. Jennifer Hudson actress, singer, Oscar winner, Grammy winner, I could go on and on. Thank you so much for joining us.
JENNIFER HUDSON: Thank you for having me.