Jennifer Holliday

For the Australian softball player, see Jennifer Holliday (softball).
Jennifer Holliday
Birth name Jennifer Yvette Holliday
Born (1960-10-19) October 19, 1960
Origin Houston, Texas, U.S.
  • Singer
  • actress
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1979–present
Associated acts

Jennifer Yvette Holliday (born October 19, 1960) is an American actress and singer. Holliday started her career on Broadway in musicals such as Dreamgirls (1981–83), Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (1980–81) and later became a successful recording artist. She is best known for her debut single, the Dreamgirls number and rhythm-and-blues/pop hit, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", which won her a Grammy award for Best Female Performance, Rhythm & Blues in 1983. Holliday also won a 1982 Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for Dreamgirls.



Broadway actress

Holliday landed her first big role on Broadway in 1979 at age 19, the same day she auditioned for the Broadway production of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.[1] Her performance in that musical earned her a 1981 Drama Desk nomination. Her next role, which she began to act at 21, was the role for which she became best known: the role of Effie Melody White in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls. Holliday originated the role of Effie and remained with the show for nearly four years after its December 20, 1981 opening. Her performance in the role was widely acclaimed, particularly in her iconic performance of the musical number that ends Act I, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."

Among the acclaim was Holliday's sweep of awards in 1982, including the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical, a Grammy Award for her recorded version of the song, and Drama Desk and Theater World awards for her acting performance. Holliday also performed in the touring company of Sing, Mahalia, Sing in 1985. In 1998, Holliday was featured on the album, My Favorite Broadway Ladies as one of "The Queens of Broadway."

Recording artist

Holliday's version of the song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" made her a star on Broadway and catapulted her to national stardom. In 1982, a pop version of the song was released as a single. The song became successful, peaking at number-one on the Billboard R&B chart, and number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100. She continued to have success as a recording artist through the rest of the decade. Her follow-up song, "I Am Love", became another hit in 1983. Holliday's later R&B hits included. "Hard Time For Lovers" (1985), "No Frills Love" (1985), "Heart on the Line" (1987), "I'm on Your Side" (1991) and "A Woman's Got the Power" (2000). "A Woman's Got the Power" charted at #7 in summer of 1999. However, it re-charted the following year, peaking at #1. She continued to appear on the charts throughout the 1990s, but never had the same level of success she had in the 1980s. Holliday was a featured vocalist on the #1 single "I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner in 1985. A number of her songs became hits on the US Dance charts as well. A dance version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" peaked at #6 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 2001.

Gospel singer

On October 30, 1986, Paul Simon hosted a Ken Ehrlich-Produced "Gospel Session" originally televised as part of a series of "Cinemax Sessions"[2] featuring Holliday, Luther Vandross, The Oak Ridge Boys, Andrae Crouch, The Edwin Hawkins Singers, and the Mighty Clouds of Joy. The show began with Holliday singing "His Eye Is On The Sparrow." Later, she returned to collaborate with Simon and Vandross on "Still Waters Run Deep," followed by an Aretha Franklin arrangement of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," with the finale consisting of all the participants joining in "Gone At Last," followed by "Amazing Grace."
linda A reviewer, whose identity was not known by late February 2011, wrote:

Ms. Holliday's performance and Simon's long-term repertoire of gospel-influenced songbook ("Bridge," "Gone At Last," "Slip Sliding Away," and "Loves Me Like A Rock" [not included here] is the glue that holds the show together. Visually intriguing is the role reversal of a larger-than-life Jennifer Holliday and a waif-thin Luther Vandross.[3] The music, however, is uniformly exciting, mesmerizing and sets the highest-of-high standard for gospel arrangements. You will seldom see a major gospel show without a musical reference to this concert's arrangements.[4]

Holliday became popular with LGBT events and fundraisers, which she acknowledged on her gospel album On and On. Because of this, the Atlantic Entertainment Group's Director of Live Talent, Scott Sherman, produced and promoted many Jennifer Holliday events for several years, acting as both Holliday's de facto agent and road manager. Under Sherman's aegis, Holliday went on a series of special tours and promotions, one-night-only performances, LGBT pride appearances and special fund raising events.

Health concerns and career renewal

In the 1990s, Holliday lost a substantial amount of weight and talked about her health struggles with depression during promotional interviews.[1] Initially, the weight loss was attained strictly by diet. Eventually, in an effort to avoid regaining the weight, Holliday had gastric bypass surgery. After the initial weight loss, she released an LP and video titled I’m On Your Side. The video, unlike most videos, was recorded live. In 1995, Holliday released the gospel album On & On. In a March 2008 interview, she revealed that she was in the studio working on a new album, to be released later that year.[5]

In April 2011, Holliday released a Christian CD titled Goodness and Mercy[6] on her own Euphonic Records label. She produced it in conjunction and cooperation with the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock.[6]

At the St. Louis Muny, Holliday reprised her role of Effie White in their production of Dreamgirls, running on July 16–22, 2012. She says she does not plan to return to the role again.

Television appearances

Apart from her career in the music industry and on the stage, Holliday has also made appearances on primetime television. In addition to appearances on Touched by an Angel and Hang Time, she had a half dozen appearances in a recurring guest star role on Ally McBeal, where she acted out the role of choir director Lisa Knowles, often singing popular ballads.

In 2001, she sang America The Beautiful on the first WWE pay-per-view to be held after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

On June 26, 2007, Holliday made a surprise appearance at the BET Awards, singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in a duet with Jennifer Hudson, who had played Effie White in the 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls, and won an Oscar for her performance. Holliday had not been offered a cameo role in the film and, feeling snubbed, had repeatedly expressed displeasure with the movie in the media. (Another original Dreamgirls cast member, Loretta Devine, did have a cameo in the film.)[7] More recently, it became possible to see Holliday in a YouTube video, singing a duet with Hudson. The two actresses-singers performed their live duet at a concert Hudson gave on April 16, 2009. The YouTube video has been viewed more than 900,000 times as of December 2011.

On October 17, 2011 Holliday appeared on The Wendy Williams Show where, following a sit-down interview, Holliday performed "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" and received a standing ovation from the studio audience.

On May 23, 2012 Holliday performed "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" alongside American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez during the American Idol Season 11 finale.

Personal life

Holliday has been married twice. In March 1991, just two months after she met keyboardist Billy Meadows in a nightclub where she was singing, they married. "He had a great sense of humor and he made me laugh all the time," Holliday says of her first husband. "I had been feeling bad for so long, I wanted to laugh." But in December 1991, just nine months later, they divorced; the marriage, according to Holliday, "ran out of steam." She explained of Meadows: "We just didn't know each other well enough."[8]

Her second marriage, which began on March 21, 1993 and ended in 1994, was to Rev. Andre Woods, a minister in Detroit. Jet magazine covered the marriage in their April 19, 1993 issue.[9] Though Woods was a charismatic Detroit preacher, she subsequently said that even so, he was a player who also ran through her money. Still, Holliday was devastated when, in 1994, that marriage, too, ended, just four months after her mother died of cancer. "It was like experiencing two deaths at the same time," she remembered. "The grief was overwhelming." [8]

Holliday attended Texas Southern University.[10] She later received a Doctor of Music honoris causa from Berklee College of Music, Boston in 2000. In 2001 she was presenter for the tap dance show 21 Below at the Town Hall in New York, and also headlined the Equity Cares/Broadway Fights Aids' Nothing Like a Dame show at the St. James Theatre.

As of late February 2011, Holliday was residing in Atlanta.[11]


Studio albums

Year Album details Chart positions [12][13] Certifications[14]
(sales thresholds)
1983 Feel My Soul 31 6
1985 Say You Love Me
  • Released: 1985
  • Label: Geffen
110 34
1987 Get Close to My Love
  • Released: 1987
  • Label: Geffen
1991 I'm on Your Side
  • Released: July 23, 1991
  • Label: Arista
184 29
1994 On & On...
  • Released: November 8, 1994
  • Label: Intersound
1996 The Best of Jennifer Holliday
  • Released: September 10, 1996
  • Label: Geffen
2000 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Jennifer Holliday
  • Released: October 3, 2000
  • Label: Geffen
2011 Goodness & Mercy
  • Released: April 19, 2011
  • Label: Euphonic / New Day Christian
2014 The Song Is You
  • Released: January 21, 2014
  • Label: Shanachie


Year Single Peak chart positions Album
U.S. R&B U.S. Hot 100 U.S. Dance UK[15]
1982 "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" 1 22 32 Dreamgirls
"I Am Changing" 29
1983 "I Am Love" 2 49 Feel My Soul
"Just Let Me Wait" 24
1985 "Hard Time for Lovers" 17 69 26 82 Say You Love Me
"No Frills Love" 29 87 1
1987 "Heart on the Line" 48 Get Close to My Love
1991 "I'm on Your Side" 10 I'm on Your Side
"Love Stories" 29
1996 "No Frills Love" 1 The Best of Jennifer Holliday
2000 "A Woman's Got the Power" 7 Breaking Through
"Think It Over" 1 Divine Divas
2001 "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (Rosabel with Jennifer Holliday) 6
2007 "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (Jennifer Holliday with Rosabel) 10
"Givin' Up" Why Did I Get Married? soundtrack
2011 "God is Faithful" Goodness and Mercy
2012 "Hold On" Lysistrata Jones
2014 "Touch" The Song Is You

Stage Work

Awards and nominations

Preceded by
Lena Horne
in Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical
for Dreamgirls
Succeeded by
Natalia Makarova
in On Your Toes

See also


  1. 1 2 "A dream shape for the 'Dreamgirl.' - singer Jennifer Holliday". Ebony. 1991.
  2. Roy Orbison's "Black and White Night" was another of the dozen or so in the all-star concert series.
  3. She would soon be much thinner, while he would again be heavy and remain so for most of the rest of his last years.
  4. In 2006, the concert became available on DVD under the title Night of Gospel Glory, "starring Paul Simon & Friends."
  5. Echeverria Jr., Steve (March 28, 2008). (The Herald Tribune) "Nightlife: The original Dreamgirl." Retrieved on April 23, 2008.
  6. 1 2 "CAPITAL ENTERTAINMENT :: Press Release - Jennifer Holliday". April 19, 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  7. Nader, Juli (November 21, 2006). "Exclusive: Jennifer Holliday Says She Created Role in Dreamgirls and Doesn’t Want to Be Forgotten". Retrieved on November 27, 2006.
  8. 1 2 "Find Articles 404 File not found".
  9. "Jennifer Holliday Weds Again, Vows 'This Is The One'". Jet. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company. 83 (25): 34–36. Apr 19, 1993. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved May 21, 2012. Ms. Holliday, 32, recently married Bishop Andre Woods, 38, at his church in Detroit. It is the clergyman's first marriage.
  11. "Jennifer Holliday to Record Track on Lysistrata Jones Album". April 5, 2012. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  12. "Jennifer Holliday - Chart history". Billboard. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
  13. /charts-awards "US Charts > Jennifer Holliday" Check |url= value (help). Allmusic. Retrieved 2013-02-25.
  14. "US Certifications > Kenny G". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
  15. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 254. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
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