The self-proclaimed ‘J-Hud Army’ that helped mob Idol-Dreamgirl Jennifer Hudson at New York memoir-signing

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Jennifer Hudson appears to sign her new memoir/self-help book (Dan Rosenblum)
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Monday night, 19-year-old Lisa Leone learned on Twitter that actress and singer Jennifer Hudson was going to be signing her new book at Barnes & Noble on Fifth Avenue and 46th Street. So, she did what any superfan would do: She and her sister, Nina, got on a bus and showed up yesterday afternoon.

“She inspires me in a lot of ways,” Leone said. “I’m hoping to do acting when I grow up and she did some acting and she just helps me believe that I know I can do it.”

To make sure she could get the chance to tell Hudson so, Leone had a card tucked into the book.

“Just in case I can’t get that much out when I see her,” she said.

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The signing coincided with the release of Hudson’s new book I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down, part-diet book and part-memoir. Since she first broke out as a finalist on American Idol in 2004, Hudson has appeared in Dreamgirls and The Secret Life of Bees. But despite critical acclaim for her music and her acting (she’s won a Grammy, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, among other awards), she’s been more conspicuous in another role lately: That of self-help guru. Last year, she lost 80 pounds and became the spokesperson for Weight Watchers.

As over a hundred people lined up in front of the store’s Fifth Avenue entrance, sections of the store’s second floor were cleared of bookworms and turned into a frozen zone. The “Photography and Art” section was blocked with green ropes and shrouded with white curtains. A security detail cased the store.

Then, she arrived. Behind the barricades upstairs, a line of photographers took shots and yelled directions for Hudson to move and look right, then look left.

“Jen, give us a sassy look with your hand on your hip,” one of them yelled. “There you go!”

She posed with the book and sat down for more snaps, but after a couple of minutes her handlers ended the photo session. By the time Hudson sat down to start signing fans’ books, many of the photographers had packed up their equipment and were leaving.

Rick Findura, 29, from Pompton Plains, N.J., was one of the first on the line. He said he bought a book for himself and for his mom.

“I’m big into Academy Award winners, so here’s my chance to meet an Academy Award winner and read a book, I like reading,” he said. “So it’s a perfect storm of opportunity.

“She’s very talented,” he added.

Outside, three fans who had just met her waited to plot their next move, hoping for another brush with the star. They knew each other from showing up to events like this one and kept in touch online.

One of them, 29-year-old Ondrea Gilbert (at left, with Stephanie Parker and Ted Amoroso), came into town from New Jersey to see Hudson. She said Hudson knows her as “Dimples” and couldn’t count the number of times she’s seen the actress, but estimated it at over a dozen.

“The favorite part of the day was just actually waiting in line,” Gilbert said. “We get to talk about what we love about her so much, singing the songs and all that, and that’s what the fun part of that is. Of course, to see her as well, but because we’ve been doing this, coming out to see her for a long time, we love that.”

“J-Hud army, we call it,” added 44-year-old Ted Amoroso.

He wore a black T-shirt with and image of Hudson holding her Academy Award. He said he’d been camped out at the store since 6 a.m. and had a small stack of photos of him meeting Hudson during her recent surprise party.

“Rain, sleet, hail or snow, we are here,” said Gilbert.