Tony Award winning actress/singer Jennifer Holliday is best known for her role as Effie White in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls. Her signature song, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” was later performed by Jennifer Hudson in the 2006 film which earned Hudson an Oscar. But Holliday’s Dreamgirls experience was much different than Hudson’s. During the Braodway run, Holliday was suffereing with clinical depression and her weight ballooned. She weighed nearly 400 pounds. At the age of 30, she attempted suicide (sleeping pills). She spent three months in a sanatorium and was convinced that it was her weight that was causing her depression. She had gastric bypass surgery in 1990 and lost 80 pounds in three months. It took her another year to lose another 100 or so pounds but as Holliday says, “Nobody wanted me small.”
She says David E. Kelley was the first to cast her in her new body as choir singer Lisa Knowles in his popular series Ally McBeal. Today, Holliday is making a comeback on Broadway as Shug Avery in The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre until January 8, 2017. Holliday will be interviewed on Oprah: Where Are They Now? which airs Saturdays at 10pm on OWN.