Jennifer Hudson on Playing Aretha Franklin and The Sunscreen for Her Skin Tone

The multi-hyphenate star spills all her beauty secrets.

Our series The One Thing is a Sparknotes version of the products, rituals, and moments your favorite celebrities and influencers swear by—their go-tos, must- haves, and can’t-live-withouts. So go ahead—take a brief, intimate peek into the lives of your favorites through the things (and people and moments) they hold dear.

Jennifer Hudson needs no introduction. To her legion of fans, she’s affectionately known as JHud, but if you haven’t heard her Grammy-winning voice, you’ve seen (and will keep seeing) her in films and TV projects like Dreamgirls, Cats, and Sex and the City, just to name a few. She also recently signed on to play legend and beauty icon Aretha Franklin in the upcoming film Respect. The biopic is already generating a ton of buzz, so Hudson better get her Oscars speech ready.

When I caught up with the multi-hyphenate at home, she looked better than anyone would've thought possible on a Zoom call. Hudson approaches skincare in the same way she cares for her voice, keeping her routine simple and nourishing. Clearly, it's working. Read on for her beauty secrets, including the makeup look she calls her signature “swoop” and the all-in-one SPF that works perfectly with her skin tone.

The One Thing She Swears By for Glowing Skin

"I got my own nicknames for it: my whip (Olay Regenerist Whip Face Moisturizer SPF 25, $30) and my serum (Olay Regenerist Retinol24 MAX Night Serum, $33). I like to keep things bare minimum but give my skin what it needs, when it needs it, and create a routine around it. Keeping it simplified—nothing too crazy, extreme, or even long, and allowing my skin to be healthy in its original state."

The One Thing She Does to Prep for a Workday

"I do the opposite because when I’m working, it’s always a bunch of makeup. When I’m not, I like it to be clean and clear and for my skin to be able to breathe as much as possible. Keep it moist and natural, even in my hair. I say, 'don’t put no head to this head.' If I put on makeup, I’ll give myself a little eyebrow, a lip, and a little swoop [eyeliner] but nothing on the skin. I like to keep things natural and to a bare minimum, so it’s clear and clean and ready for when I have to work and wear makeup every day. That can come back-to-back, so let the skin breathe when you can."

The One Thing She Learned Playing Aretha Franklin

"Playing an icon such as Aretha Franklin was an experience. Even to this day, I’m still in what I consider 'Aretha School' from playing her. Going back into the era of the 1960s, it’s a whole other world, a whole other time. I had to do a lot of research to prepare: as a musician learning the piano, as an actor learning simple subtleties and how people exist in the room. It varied in so many different ways what I had to pull from and be able to learn from."

The One Thing She Does for Self-Care

"The Olay Regenerist Retinol24 Night Face Moisturizer ($29). For my voice, I also use a humidifier at night because the voice can get dry, and the humidifier keeps it going. Well, that’s the same thing with using my Olay throughout the night to keep my skin rejuvenated. Traveling around to so many different climates affects us in every way, and I’m very in tune with myself. So, to be able to have those things that support me makes all the difference, especially if you’re a person that travels a lot."

The One Thing She Does for Her Mental Health

"I pray for sure. I have moments to myself. I love listening to music. If it’s just me on a regular day, I say, 'if you just let me put my swoop on, I’ll be okay throughout the day.' Days when I don’t have time to do that, I’m just antsy. If I’m in glam and I’m prepared to do a workday, I need my music. That’s when I get to have that moment... something that connects me to me or that’s a part of my routine that I need a piece of every day. Little things like that make a difference for me."

The One Sunscreen That's Key to Her Routine

"The Olay moisturizer ($30) works so well with my skin tone. It doesn’t change my complexion or sit on top of it. I like the lightness; it feels natural. It feels like my skin can breathe, and it works well with makeup. Being a mother and someone who is always doing several things at one time, I like that everything is packaged, and it’s one thing. I don’t have to go get a moisturizer and sunscreen; it’s all one thing. It’s very convenient."

The One Beauty Product She's Wearing This Spring

"That’s a tough question because I could be fine with a lip too. I can’t pick. It depends on the day and what feature we want to highlight the most. Right now, we can’t really show our lips, so it’s all about the eyes and eyebrows."

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