LOS ANGELES Former "American Idol" contestant Jennifer Hudson won the Oscar for best supporting actress on Sunday for her performance as the spurned lead singer of a female trio in "Dreamgirls."
Hudson's showstopping singing and sympathetic character had made her the odds-on favorite to win the award. It was the 25-year-old's first movie role, for which she also picked up Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild wins earlier this year.
"I didn't think I was going to win. But wow," Hudson said.
She paid tribute to her grandmother "because she was a singer and she had the passion for it but she never had the chance and that was the thing that pushed me forward to continue."
"Dreamgirls," which entered the ceremony with a leading eight nominations, earlier won an Oscar for sound mixing, but lost three other categories, including the supporting actor race, where high-profile favorite Eddie Murphy was edged out by Alan Arkin in "Little Miss Sunshine."
Born in Chicago, Hudson says she learned to sing belting out songs in her Baptist church from age 7.
Just three years ago, she was singing on cruise ships, and her dreams of stardom appeared shattered when she finished seventh on the U.S. television talent show "American Idol" in 2004.
Later, however, she landed the role of Effie White, the hefty, headstrong singer in "Dreamgirls." The movie tells the story of a group of a black female singers loosely based on the rise of pop stars Diana Ross and The Supremes.
Hudson's rendition of the emotional "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in "Dreamgirls" drew standing ovations from some theater audiences.
The other nominees were Adriana Barraza for "Babel," Cate Blanchett for "Notes on a Scandal," Abigail Breslin for "Little Miss Sunshine" and Rinko Kikuchi for "Babel."