Dylan Coulter

Ever since Jennifer Hudson left American Idol without even winning and went on to win an Oscar for Dreamgirls, she’s been nothing but an inspiration to women of all generations in our culture. She’s a beautiful person, calm and humble, professional and reserved on set—like me. She brings raw talent to both the music and film industries.

After filming Respect with her last year, and watching the parts of Aretha Franklin’s life that Jennifer is playing, I see why Aretha chose her for that role: she saw her younger self in Jennifer. Of course, she picked her for her powerful voice, but she also picked her for her personality—her quiet strength. Aretha had the same type of strength.

Jennifer brings her whole self to everything she does. It’s a blessing. She has developed such an impressive career as a singer and actor because of her work ethic and her professionalism—and of course her talent. Every time I see her, I acknowledge how great she is.

Blige is a Grammy Award-winning and Academy Award–nominated singer, songwriter and actor

More Must-Reads from TIME