NEW YORK – The Gap considered removing smiling portraits of Jennifer Hudson from its new holiday ads after her recent tragedy, but decided to keep the images after the grieving star said she wanted to go ahead with the campaign.
"We felt that it was really important first and foremost to respect what she wanted to do, so as long as she felt comfortable with her campaign being out there, we felt comfortable," Olivia Doyne, director of engagement marketing and public relations for Gap, said Friday.
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The company's new print, store and billboard ads were unveiled Thursday. Several celebrities are featured, including Mary-Louise Parker, Jason Bateman, Rainn Wilson, Ashanti and Seth Myers.
Hudson's photos were taken in July in advance of what was expected to be a busy winter season for Hudson, who released her self-titled debut CD and was featured in the film "The Secret Life of Bees" in October.
However, on Oct. 24, the bodies of her 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donerson, and her brother, 29-year-old Jason Hudson, were found in the family's Chicago home. The body of her 7-year-old nephew Julian King — the son of Hudson's sister Julia — was discovered three days later in a car on Chicago's West Side.
William Balfour, the estranged husband of her sister Julia Hudson, has been questioned in connection with the killings. He has been held on a parole violation, but has not been charged.
After the tragedy unfolded, the Gap considered pulling Hudson from the ad out of deference to the entertainer.
"The minute we heard about the tragedy, we actually contacted her management team to ask if she wanted to participate or if she wanted us to pull her out of it," said Doyne. "They checked in with her and said that she still wanted to participate. It was definitely our first thought."
Doyne said Gap Inc. wasn't concerned that Hudson's presence in the ads would register sadness instead of holiday cheer.
"Her pictures are absolutely gorgeous. She just looks incredible and she's got such this big, beautiful personality and I think (it) came through on the photos really well," said Doyne. "So I really hope that despite all the heartbreak that's been happening, she'll still bring a smile to people's faces."
Meanwhile, Hudson, in her first statement since burying her mother, brother and nephew last week, thanked her fans for their encouragement.
"I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time," the 27-year-old Oscar-winning actress and singer said in a posting on her MySpace page Thursday evening. "My sister and I take great comfort and strength from your love and concern."