CHICAGO (CBS) — Academy Award winner and Chicago native Jennifer Hudson opened a new weight loss center in the Hyde Park neighborhood on Tuesday.

Hudson, a spokesperson for Weight Watchers, was joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in an effort to raise awareness about healthy living and the fight against obesity.

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As CBS 2’s Mai Martinez reports, Hudson brought that message home to Chicago on Tuesday, at a weight loss center named in her honor.

With thundering applause filling the room, Jennifer Hudson emerged from behind a blue curtain at grand opening of the “Jennifer Hudson Weight Watchers Center” at 1350 E. 47th St. in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

“Weight Watchers is like my extended family and Chicago is also my family, so I love bringing the two together,” said Hudson.

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Hudson said she hopes her weight loss success will inspire others, especially women in the African American community to explore healthier food choices and lifestyles.

Many, including Hudson’s sister Julia Hudson, said it’s working.

“I lost 42 pounds and my goal is 100, so I’m going to come back here to the new center and I’m going to get to my goal,” Julia Hudson said.

“It helps me to know that I can do it too,” said Kirtana Taylor.

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According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, African American women have the highest rate of obesity – with four out of five considered overweight or obese.

Many believe that, in Chicago, the problem is due in large part to the lack of healthier food choices in so called “food deserts”.

It’s something that Emanuel said must change.

“Ultimately we’ve got to make sure that people have access – throughout the city, regardless where you live – to fresh fruits and vegetables and meats, because this is about weight loss, but it’s also about a different lifestyle,” Emanuel said.

“Start here at home in Chicago, with health, with education, with dreams, and so we just want to see everybody soar,” Jennifer Hudson said.

The words really struck a chord with Sheila Jones, who has already lost almost 24 pounds after being inspired to do so by Hudson’s weight loss, which was at 80 pounds earlier this year.

“I was very happy about Jennifer and what the mayor had to say because, really, we’re not born to die and, just because we’re poor and the underclass doesn’t mean we should,” said Jones.

A portion of the proceeds from the center will go to the Julian D. King Gift Foundation. Hudson created the foundation in honor of her 7-year-old nephew, who was murdered in October 2008 along with Hudson’s mother and brother.

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Julian’s mother, Julia Hudson, said she thinks it’s wonderful that her sister is giving back to the community in this way.