By Emily Feimster
In a place like Hollywood where good looks, toned bodies, and smooth moves help make a star, it's nice to see the underdogs starting to take a bite out of the competition. They may not be the best-looking of the bunch, but they've got talent and persistence, which has helped them slowly climb their way to the top. Like most underdogs, you can't help but want to see them succeed, especially since you know their journey into acting couldn't have been easy. Hey, we can't all look like Brad
One of our biggest surprise stars as of late has been Jennifer Hudson, who came in an underwhelming sixth place during her stint on season three of "American Idol." Never would we have believed she would be headed to the Academy Awards - with a good chance of winning, no less. The voluptuous Hudson, whose looks were often criticized by Simon Cowell, appeared to be headed back into obscurity until she found her way into the auditioning room for the coveted role of Effie White in the long-awaited film version of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls." With over 750 women vying for the part, including "Idol's" season three winner, Fantasia, this time Hudson took home the grand prize. She was even ordered to gain weight for the role. Now with a Golden Globe and a SAG Award under her belt, she has no reason to say, "And you, and you, and you...you're going to love me" because we already do.
Another big winner this year - no pun intended - is Hollywood's very own "gentle giant" Forest Whitaker. The 6'2," 220 lbs. actor born with an eye condition called amblyopia, commonly known as "lazy eye," has become THE man around town with an Oscar nomination for his striking portrayal of Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland." The recognition is long overdue for Whitaker, who has been working in the business for over 20 years. Even Whitaker has acknowledged that Hollywood is finally starting to become more diverse in who it accepts. "I think things are progressing. There are definitely changes being made. I also think there's a diversity to the stories being told," said Whitaker at the Academy Awards Nominee's Luncheon.
certainly broke the mold when her show "Ugly Betty" became a huge hit in the United States. Suddenly it was cool to see an overweight, unattractive girl wearing braces on television. The actress herself, though by no means unattractive, looks nothing like her malnourished teen queen counterparts, who seem obsessed by today's latest fashion trends. "She just doesn't care about that. She cares about the work and her family. She's just a neat, hard-working individual. There's no one like her," claims her "Betty" co-star Ana Ortiz. "In fact, she has given me advice. She's always looking after me. She guides us all just brilliantly. She's incredibly smart and talented and motivated, and it rubs off on all of us." And we're happy to tell you that this is one young star who does have the good sense to wear underwear!
ABC's other hit show, "Grey's Anatomy," has also brought forth an unlikely star. Though she is surrounded by Hollywood's McPretties, it is Chandra Wilson who is making the biggest splash with fans and critics alike. The five-foot Texas native has already been nominated for an Emmy and has taken home a SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor. In her acceptance speech, she recognized how she had made it, despite her unconventional looks. "Just to be able to take this thing home to my girls, in particular, and hold it in front of them and say, 'Look, with this skin and this nose, and this height, and these arms,' you know, 'I'm here!'"
Some of our other favorite Hollywood underdogs - well, besides Susan Lucci - are Philip Seymour Hoffman, who had always been resigned to playing the creeps, until winning an Oscar for his portrayal of Truman Capote. Steve Carell became a huge breakout star after years of playing the lowly sidekick. There's the large and in charge Jorge Garcia, who has accumulated a big following since nabbing a starring role on "Lost."
Of course we can't forget the kind, yet nerdy William H. Macy, who finally got his due in 2003 when he won an Emmy for "Door to Door." His wife Felicity Huffman, though very much considered a beauty now, was also constantly overlooked for years. When she got her big break on "Desperate Housewives," she thanked Macy in her Emmy acceptance speech for "taking a chance on a chunky 22-year-old with really big pink glasses and a bad perm."
Now all of our underdog stars are thanking Hollywood for taking a chance on them. It's a good thing too because who else would we be able to root for?