Photos: Ruven Afanador

Sheer Talent
"This dress makes me feel like a mermaid coming out of the water. The detail is gorgeous, and it complements the beauty of the theater," says Hudson, who moved her family (fiancé David Otunga, 6-year-old son David Jr., and a 10-year-old nephew) from Chicago to New York City for her Broadway run. So far the crew is enjoying life in the Big Apple. "We love seeing musicals. We've made it to The Lion King and Wicked already. My son says, 'Mommy, this feels like home!'"

Dress, Mandalay, $2,040. Earrings, Madyha Farooqui. Bracelets (from left), Alexis Bittar and J/Hadley Jewelry. Shoes, Casadei.

Photos: Ruven Afanador

Grand Entrance
"This moment is captivating in every way. The chandelier, the Zac Posen gown, the atmosphere—everything is just so elegant," says Hudson, who plays glamorous blues singer Shug Avery in The Color Purple. When it comes to the star's off-duty style, she prefers something more low-key. "If I'm not comfortable, I'm not wearing it," she says. "I love cardigans and fabrics that flow."

Dress, ZAC Zac Posen, $1,290. Earrings, Joan Boyce. Bracelets (from left), David Yurman and Ash + Ames. Ring (left), Meredith Marks.

"I have butterflies taking on this role, but I like that. I never second-guessed—I just hopped right in." —Jennifer Hudson

Photos: Ruven Afanador

Deco Diva
"This pose is more of a Shug moment than a Jennifer moment," says Oscar winner Hudson, who saw The Color Purple four times on Broadway and twice in Chicago. "She is such a different, funky character for me, and I was very attached to the book and the film." Another transformation? This year Hudson cut her hair short: "I like how the length shows off my neck. And I always need lipstick. My favorite is Heroine by MAC, a great purple!"

Dress, Tadashi Shoji, $688. Coat, Donna Salyers' Fabulous-Furs, $179. Rings (from left), Dionea Orcini Fine Jewelry, Mimi So, and Ash + Ames. Earrings, de Grisogono. Brooch, Jarin K. Bracelets (from top), CB Bronfman, J/Hadley Jewelry, Freida Rothman, and J/Hadley Jewelry.

Beauty Highlight
Dramatic makeup made easy.

CoverGirl beauty ambassador Sam Fine wanted Hudson's makeup to evoke Hollywood glamour, so he opted for a classic smoky eye and bold mouth.
  • Start by smoothing on a powder foundation, such as Tom Ford Beauty Flawless Powder/Foundation.
  • "In order to complement Jennifer's purple gowns," Fine says, "I used a soft brownish burgundy eyeshadow" (CoverGirl Queen Collection 1-Kit Eye Shadow in Raisin). For definition, he traced Hudson's eyes with black liquid liner (try Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen) and finished with black mascara (Maybelline New York The Falsies Push Up Drama is a good one).
  • To create an arresting mouth, Fine used a plum lipstick (try Lancôme Color Design Matte Lip Crayon in Berry Haute), which he topped with a coordinating gloss (like Sephora Collection Oil Infusion Color & Care in Fresh Berries).
  • And to ensure that the chicness extended to her fingertips, Hudson's nails got a coat of Chanel Le Vernis Nail Colour in Vamp, a deep wine.
  • Photos: Ruven Afanador

    Plum Role
    As much as Hudson loves purple, she had to be persuaded to add the shade to her mostly black wardrobe. "My fiancé said, 'You're a girl; you need a favorite color!'" she says with a laugh. "Purple lets me wear color without being too bright." Here, teetering on top of upper-mezzanine seats, Hudson gamely conceals her fear. "If there's a place for me to [meet an untimely end]," she joked, "what better place than a theater?"

    Dress, Marc Bouwer, $4,880. Earrings, Carolee. Bracelets (from left), Jarin K and Alexis Bittar.

    Beauty Highlight
    The secret to perfect finger waves—revealed!

    "This is a very retro look, reminiscent of 1920s flapper style," says Hudson's hairstylist Cesar Ramirez.
  • To achieve it, he began by applying Mizani Foam Wrap Fast Drying Foam mousse to Hudson's wet hair, followed by a layer of extra-hold gel (try L'Oréal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Lock It Clean Style Gel). "The Foam Wrap allows you to mold the hair, while the gel gives additional staying power."
  • Using his fingers and a fine-tooth comb, Ramirez formed and smoothed each ridge, clipping it into place. Next, he let Hudson's hair dry for a couple of hours while she had her makeup done.
  • Once her hair had set, Ramirez removed the clips and misted her entire head with shine spray (we like Pantene Pro-V Color Care CC Shine Spray) for an ultrabrilliant finish.

    "How do I take care of my voice? Plenty of rest, and I drink lots of warm water with lemon and honey." —Jennifer Hudson
  • Photos: Ruven Afanador

    The Glitterati
    Hudson was so relaxed in this sparkly dress that she sang (perfectly on key, of course) Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" while photographer Ruven Afanador snapped away. Speaking of comfort, Hudson let us in on her favorite comfort-food Christmas gift: pound cake made with the recipe her late mother, Darnell, used. "My mother always made it for the holidays, and now my sister does, so it's very special for us to give it to others."

    Dress, Pamella Roland. Earrings, Miriam Salat. Ring, Sandy Leong Jewelry. Thin bracelet, Larkspur & Hawk. Wide bracelet, J/Hadley Jewelry. Shoes, Kate Spade New York. Draped jacket, H&M.

    Beauty Highlight
    Let your bare arms and legs shine.
  • Light bounces best off a smooth surface, so for extra-luminous skin, you'll want to exfoliate first using a body scrub, such as Fresh Cocoa Body Exfoliant.
  • Then lock in hydration with a lotion containing glycerin, like Eucerin In-Shower Moisturizer.
  • If you really want to shimmer, mix a little liquid highlighter (try Bobbi Brown Face Highlighter) into your post-shower body moisturizer.
  • Photos: Ruven Afanador

    Bohemian Rhapsody
    A sequined dress gets even more glam with a statement coat, a floppy hat and flirty heels. "This is something I would wear. It's youthful, with a little attitude," says Hudson. The actress appreciated the passersby who recognized her as she posed for this shot outside the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, where the show opens December 10. "I was like, ooh, New York knows me!"

    Dress, Primavera, $199. Coat, Tadashi Shoji, $808. Hat, Eugenia Kim. Earrings, Dani by Daniel K. Necklace and double ring, Swarovski. Shoes, Kate Spade New York.