Jennifer first caught the public's eye during her stint as a finalist on the third season of "American Idol." Her ranking as seventh that season was quite controversial, since she was considered to be a superior singer to many of the finalists who continued with the competition and even inspired Elton John to declare that the whole competition was "racist". While most Idol finalist go on to enjoy varying degrees of success after their initial exposure afforded by the show, Jennifer's career moved in an unexpected direction; acting. In 2006, she landed the role of "Elfie White" in the film version of the musical Dreamgirls, beating out Fantasia Barrino, the winner of American Idol's third season. The film went on to be nominated for eight Academy Awards and winning two, including one for Jennifer as Best Supporting Actress. Included in the cast were several Hollywood A-listers, including Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy.
After the success of Dreamgirls, Jennifer went on to sign a recording contract with Clive Davis' J-Records and released her debut album in January 2007. Her acting career continued with roles in the Sex and the City movie and Winged Creatures. She has also appeared on broadway, performing in the stage version of "Hair".