Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to honouree Aretha Franklin at the Pulitzer Prize awards ceremony on Tuesday, 28 May.
Bad weather had caused Hudson’s flight to be cancelled, but she said she felt the spirit of the Queen of Soul — who refused to fly but travelled by tour bus to concerts and events — and instead drove nearly 13 hours to New York to make the luncheon.
“I looked up and I thought, ‘You know what, it’s like Aretha’s spirit is in me. She didn’t believe in flying, she would drive,’” Hudson said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I got here in time, five minutes early to sing, because I wasn’t going to miss it. Honey I said, ‘If I got to walk, if I got to crawl, I’m going to get there.’ And here I am — so it’s in my heart.”
Jennifer Hudson embodied Franklin’s spirit and vocal prowess as she brought the ceremony to church with a rousing, fiery performance of ‘Amazing Grace,’ bringing the audience of journalists to their feet.
“She’s always with me, I feel,” Hudson said of Franklin. “I always keep her in my mind and in my heart, and try to lead in a way that I know that she would want me to.”
Franklin, who died last August at 76, was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize Special Citation honor Tuesday, becoming the first individual woman to earn a special citation prize since the honor was first awarded in 1930. The Pulitzer board said the award was given to Franklin for “her indelible contribution to American music and culture for more than five decades.”
Collaborator and close friend Clive Davis and longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn accepted the honor on behalf of Franklin’s family.
South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel won the prize in public service for its coverage of last year’s mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and staff were killed. Pulitzer Prizes were also awarded to the staff of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for breaking news reporting, the Los Angeles Times for investigative reporting, while Reuters and The Associated Press were both honored for international reporting.
Jennifer Hudson posed for photos with the students at the luncheon held at Columbia University, which also featured performances by Damien Sneed and Brandie Inez Sutton.