Los Angeles (E! Online) - As the saying goes, every time an American Idol alum becomes a star, Simon Cowell's ego gets new wings.
"We have our history together, don't we, Jennifer?" the sharp-tongued Brit said to season-three finalist Jennifer Hudson in a video clip played on The Oprah Winfrey Show last week during an appearance by the cast of the upcoming big-screen musical Dreamgirls.
"Now I feel my criticism has probably had a significant part in your career, because the buzz on you is huge," said Cowell, who once suggested that the singer was "out of [her] league" on Idol.
Whether or not Cowell's brand of constructive criticism helped get Hudson to where she is today, the 25-year-old Chicago native never really stopped moving full speed ahead.
Hudson has signed with Arista Records, the longtime home to artists such as Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow, Dionne Warwick and Sarah McLachlan.
She joins fellow Idol graduates Carrie Underwood, Fantasia Barrino, Ruben Studdard and Taylor Hicks on Arista founder Clive Davis' J Records (which merged operations with Arista in August 2005).
"Clive Davis is a legend, and I feel more than honored to be associated with him," Hudson, who will start working on her debut album in January, said. "Because of his vision and hands-on approach, Arista already feels like home. I can't wait for us all to make beautiful music together."
"Jennifer is a vocal wonder, a tremendously gifted artist," Davis said about his new client. "Her extraordinary voice gives her a signature sound and distinguished her from every singer on the horizon today. Jennifer is a very exciting new addition to the Arista family."
While Hudson's sixth-place finish on American Idol in 2004 was a major disappointment for her legions of loyal fans—and prompted the eyebrow-raising comment from Elton John that the vote had been racist—the soulful singer wasn't out in the cold for long.
After a lengthy audition process, Hudson beat out nearly 800 other women, including former Idol champ Fantasia Barrino, for the role of Effie in the long-awaited adaptation of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, out Dec. 15. Hudson not only stars alongside Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Beyoncé, but her character also has one of the production's most memorable songs, the heart-piercing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
Named ShoWest's 2006 Female Star of Tomorrow and one of Variety's 10 Actors to Watch this year, Hudson is already generating major supporting actress Oscar buzz.
Which you can bet hasn't gone unnoticed by Simon Cowell.
"I heard your [version] of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' today, and I would like to be the first to eat a massive dose of humble pie," Cowell said last week. "Because there are good performances and occasionally there are extraordinary performances. That was extraordinary, Jennifer, and I feel very proud for you. I feel we had a very small part in what's happened in your life, and please thank me when you get your Oscar.”
And perhaps she will.
"Simon said to be that you only get one shot at the big time—but you know what Simon, I got shot number two," Hudson said when announcing her recording contract, apparently still thinking about Cowell's mistaken first impression of her. "Any time I am nervous about something I say that if I got through Idol I can get through anything. It helps me calm my nerves."
You gotta love Simon!