Jennifer-Yvette Holliday (born October 19, 1960, Riverside, Texas) is a two-time Grammy Award-winning African-American singer and actress. She started her career on Broadway in musicals such as Dreamgirls, and later became a successful recording artist. She is best known for her debut single, the Dreamgirls showstopper and Grammy Award-winning R&B/Pop hit, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
Jennifer Holliday landed her first big role on Broadway in 1979. At age 19, she landed a part the same day she auditioned for the Broadway production of Your Arm's Too Short to Box with God. Her performance in that musical earned her a 1981 Drama Desk nomination. Her next role was the role for which she is 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 , 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 the performance. Holliday also performed in the touring company of Sing, Mahalia, Sing in 1986. In 1998 Holliday was featured on the album "My Favorite Broadway Ladies" notice as one of "The Queens Of Broadway"
Jennifer Holliday's version of the song "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" made Holliday a star on Broadway. The version of the song was liked by many fans so much that Holliday was encouraged to transform the song into a hit on Billboard charts. In 1982, a pop version of the song was released as a single. The song became very successful, peaking at number-one on the Billboard R&B Singles chart, and number 22 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. 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 recharted 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. In fact, a dance version of "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" would peak at #6 on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart in 2001.
On October 30, 1986, Paul Simon hosted a Ken Ehrlich-Produced "Gospel Session" originally televised as part of a series of "Cinemax Sessions" featuring Jennifer Holiday, Luther Vandross, The Oak Ridge Boys, Andre Crouch, The Edwin Hawkins Singers and the Mighty Clouds of Joy. The show is kicked off by Jennifer Holiday singing "His Eye Is On The Sparrow" as an amazing tour de force, later she returns to trade off leads with Simon and Vandross on the "Still Waters Run Deep" Aretha Franklin arrangement of "Bridge Over Troubled Waters", a finale of "Gone At Last" by all concerned and finishing it up with "Amazing Grace." 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" 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 (she would soon be much thinner and he would again be heavy and remain so over the next decades). 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.
Popular with LGBT events and fundraisers, acknowledged on her album On and On, the Atlantic Entertainment Groups Director of live Talent Scott Sherman produced and promoted many Jennifer Holliday events for several years acting as both Agent and Road Manager, Holliday went on a series of special tours and promotions, one night only performances, LGBT pride appearances and special fund raising events. Her fans are patiently waiting for her to release new singles, perhaps a full length Club/Dance style album once she gets resigned to another label.
In the 1990s, Holliday lost a substantial amount of weight and talked about her health struggles with depression during promotional interviews. 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 the I?m On Your Side LP and video. The video, unlike most videos, was recorded live. In 1995, Holliday released a gospel album entitled On & On. In a March 2008 interview she revealed that she was in the studio working on a new album to be released later this year.
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 played choir director Lisa Knowles.
In 2001, she sang America The Beautiful on the first WWE pay-per-view to be held after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
On , 2007 she 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 portrayed Effie White in a 2006 film adaptation of Dreamgirls. Holliday had repeatedly expressed her displeasure with the film version of Dreamgirls in the media, after she was not offered a cameo role in the film (one of the other original Dreamgirls cast members, Loretta Devine, was eventually given a cameo in the film version). Recently Jennifer can be seen in a Youtube video singing a duet with Oscar award winner Jennifer Hudson.the two did a live duet at Hudson's concert on April 16 2009 http:www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtDFHXjJ7SU
Holliday married twice. In March 1991, just 2 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." In December 1991, just nine months later, they divorced: the marriage, according to Holliday, "ran out of steam" :"We just didn't know each other well enough".
The second time around, she married a man much like her father. Her second marriage was to Rev. Andre Woods (21 March 1993 - 1995), a minister in Michigan, which was covered by Jet magazine. This husband was a charismatic Detroit preacher who, she says, 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," Jennifer remembers. "The grief was overwhelming." She currently resides in Manhattan, New York.
Holliday 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 Town Hall in NYC and also headlined Equity Cares/Broadway Fights Aids' "Nothing Like a Dame" show at the St. James Theatre where she was accompanied by teenage tap dance sensation Michela Marino Lerman and Hannah Leah Dunn.