Jennifer Holliday
Holliday in 2007
Holliday in 2007
Background information
Birth nameJennifer Yvette Holliday
Born (1960-10-19) October 19, 1960 (age 63)
OriginHouston, Texas, U.S.
  • Actress
  • singer
Years active1979–present

Jennifer Yvette Holliday (born October 19, 1960) is an American actress and singer.[1] She started her career on Broadway in musicals such as Dreamgirls (1981–83), Your Arms Too Short to Box with God (1980–1981) and later became a successful recording artist.[1] 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", for which she won a Grammy in 1983. She also won a 1982 Tony Award for Dreamgirls.


Broadway actress

Holliday landed her first big role on Broadway in 1979 at age 18, the same day she auditioned for the Broadway production of Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.[2] Her performance in that musical earned her a 1981 Drama Desk nomination. Her next role, which she began to act at age 21, was the role for which she became best known: the role of Effie Melody White in the Broadway musical Dreamgirls.[1] Holliday originated the role of Effie and remained with the show for nearly four years after its December 20, 1981 opening. Her performance was widely acclaimed, particularly in her iconic rendition of the musical number that ends Act I, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."[1]

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,[1] and Drama Desk and Theater World awards for her acting performance. Holliday also performed in the touring company of Sing, Mahalia, Sing in 1985.[1] 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.[1] 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), "I'm On Your Side" (1991) and "A Woman's Got the Power" (2000). "A Woman's Got the Power" charted at number 7 in summer of 1999. It re-charted the following year, peaking at number 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 number one single "I Want to Know What Love Is" by Foreigner in 1985.[1] 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 number 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" 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".

A reviewer wrote:

Ms. Holliday's performance and Simon's long-term repertoire of gospel-influenced songbook ("Bridge", "Gone at Last", "Slip Slidin' 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 & 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 as her 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 fundraising events.[citation needed]

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.[2] 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] later elected United States Senator from Georgia.

At the St. Louis Muny, Holliday reprised her role of Effie White in their production of Dreamgirls, running from July 16 to July 22, 2012. She has stated that she does not plan to return to the role again.[7]

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, Holliday opened Unforgiven by singing "America the Beautiful", which was 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.)[8] 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 1.3 million times as of July 2021.[citation needed]

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.

On October 2, 2018, Holliday surprised the seven year old viral singing sensation, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja on GMA Day, and they performed a duet of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going".[9]

On July 30, 2020, Jennifer Holliday sang “Only What You Do for Christ Will Last” as well as "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at the funeral of civil rights icon and congressman John Lewis at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

In 2022, Holliday competed in season seven of The Masked Singer as "Miss Teddy" of Team Cuddly. She was unmasked on April 13 alongside Duane Chapman as "Armadillo" of Team Good.

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."[10]

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.[11] 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."[10]

Holliday attended Texas Southern University.[12] 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 appeared in the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS' Nothing Like a Dame show at the St. James Theatre in 2002.[13]

As of late February 2011, Holliday was residing in Atlanta.[14]


Holliday suffers from clinical depression, and has spoken out about her struggle with the disorder.[15][16] On her 30th birthday, Holliday attempted suicide by overdosing on pills;[15][16] in an interview with CBS, Holliday stated: "I actually thought my life was over anyway, because I basically had gotten so big; I was well over 330 pounds. I had no record company, I had lost everything, struggling so much, that I was just, you know, I was like, 'I don't think that there's any need to stay here.'"[16]

Holliday has multiple sclerosis.[17]


Studio albums

Title Album details Peak chart positions




Feel My Soul 31 6 24
Say You Love Me
  • Released: August 19, 1985
  • Label: Geffen
  • Formats: LP, cassette
110 34
Get Close to My Love
  • Released: August 18, 1987
  • Label: Geffen
  • Formats: CD, LP, cassette
I'm on Your Side
  • Released: July 23, 1991
  • Label: Arista
  • Formats: CD, LP, cassette
184 29 41
On & On...
  • Released: November 8, 1994
  • Label: Intersound
  • Formats: CD
Goodness & Mercy
  • Released: April 19, 2011
  • Label: Euphonic / New Day Christian
  • Formats: CD, digital download
The Song Is You
  • Released: January 21, 2014
  • Label: Shanachie
  • Formats: CD, digital download
14 46

Compilation albums

Title Album details Peak chart positions

The Best of Jennifer Holliday
  • Released: September 10, 1996
  • Label: Geffen
  • Formats: CD
20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Jennifer Holliday
  • Released: October 3, 2000
  • Label: Geffen
  • Formats: CD
Fresh Takes
  • Released: May 4, 2018
  • Label: Light
  • Formats: CD, digital download


Title Year Peak chart positions Album
US Pop
US Dance
UK Pop
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" 1982 22 1 32 Dreamgirls - OBC
"I Am Changing" 29
"I Am Love" 1983 49 2 Feel My Soul
"Just Let Me Wait" 24 43
"Hard Time for Lovers" 1985 69 17 26 82 Say You Love Me
"No Frills Love" 87 29 1
"Heart on the Line" 1987 48 Get Close to My Love
"I'm on Your Side" 1991 10 I'm on Your Side
"Love Stories" 29
"On & On (Stronger)" 1994 On & On...
"To Teach Me"
"Let Jesus Love You" 1995
"No Frills Love (Remix)" 1996 1 The Best of Jennifer Holliday
"A Woman's Got the Power" 1999 7 Non-album single
"Think It Over" 2000 1
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
(Rosabel with Jennifer Holliday)
2001 6
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"
(Jennifer Holliday with Rosabel)
2007 10
"Givin' Up" Why Did I Get Married? - OST
"God Is Faithful" 2011 Goodness and Mercy
"Get Up, Get Ready"
"Hold On" 2012 Lysistrata Jones - OST
"Touch" 2014 The Song Is You
"Baby, Tonite" 2019 Non-album single
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Theatre credits

Year(s) Production Role Location Category
1980 Your Arms Too Short to Box with God Ambassador Theatre & Belasco Theatre Broadway
1981–83 Dreamgirls Effie Melody White Imperial Theatre Broadway
1995 Grease Teen Angel Eugene O'Neill Theatre Broadway
2001; 2022 Chicago Matron Mama Morton Shubert Theatre & Ambassador Theatre Broadway
2003 Like Jazz Mark Taper Forum Los Angeles/Regional
2014 The Color Purple Sophia Various Mini-Tour
2016–17 The Color Purple Shug Avery Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre Broadway

Additional credits

Awards and nominations

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Holliday has received two awards out of four nominations.[21]

Year Category Nominated work Result
1983 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" Won
Best New Artist Jennifer Holliday Nominated
1984 Best Female R&B Vocal Performance "Feel My Soul" Nominated
1986 Best Inspirational Performance "Come Sunday" Won
Awards Preceded byLena Hornein Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical 1981–1982for Dreamgirls Succeeded byNatalia Makarovain On Your Toes

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 116. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  2. ^ a b "A dream shape for the 'Dreamgirl.' – singer Jennifer Holliday". Ebony. 1991. Archived from the original on December 8, 2006.
  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. ^ a b "CAPITAL ENTERTAINMENT :: Press Release – Jennifer Holliday". April 19, 2011. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  7. ^ Jennifer Holliday to Star as Effie White in Dreamgirls for the ‘Last’ Time at St. Louis' Muny, Retrieved January 14, 2017
  8. ^ Nader, Juli (November 21, 2006). "Exclusive: Jennifer Holliday Says She Created Role in Dreamgirls and Doesn’t Want to Be Forgotten Archived August 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine"., Retrieved on November 27, 2006.
  9. ^ "Video: GMA Day's epic diva surprise for pint-sized singing superstar Malea Emma". ABC News. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
  10. ^ a b "Out Of The Dark - Jennifer Holliday's battle with depression - includes related article on black women and depression Essence - Find Articles". August 27, 2006. Archived from the original on August 27, 2006.
  11. ^ "Jennifer Holliday Weds Again, Vows 'This Is The One'". Jet. 83 (25). Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company: 34–36. April 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.
  12. ^ "Jet – Google Books". Johnson Publishing Company. December 15, 1997. Retrieved January 13, 2017.
  13. ^ "Nothing Like A Dame | Broadway Cares".
  14. ^ "Jennifer Holliday to Record Track on Lysistrata Jones Album". April 5, 2012. Retrieved December 24, 2012.
  15. ^ a b "'Dreamgirl' conquers her demons". Los Angeles Times. February 16, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
  16. ^ a b c "Original "Dreamgirl" Discusses Film". CBS. February 22, 2007. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
  17. ^ "Original 'Dreamgirl' Jennifer Holliday: 'I'm Not Going Nowhere'". NPR. December 12, 2013. Retrieved January 17, 2023.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Jennifer Holliday Chart History. Billboard. Retrieved on November 6, 2019
  19. ^ "Jennifer Holliday - Sverigetopplistan". Sverigetopplistan (in Swedish). Retrieved July 12, 2023.
  20. ^ "UK Charts > Jennifer Holliday". Official Charts Company.
  21. ^ "Jennifer Holliday".