- Jennifer Kate Hudson
September 12, 1981 (age 39)
- Singer, Actor, Artist, Spokesperson
- Darnell Donnerson, Samuel Simpson
Jennifer Kate Hudson (born September 12, 1981) is an American singer and actress. She rose to fame in 2004 as a finalist on the third season of American Idol, placing seventh. Hudson made her film debut as Effie White in Dreamgirls (2006), for which she received an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also appeared in Sex and the City (2008), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), and Black Nativity (2013). In 2015, she made her Broadway debut in the role of Shug Avery in The Color Purple.
Following her elimination from American Idol and performance in Dreamgirls, Hudson was later signed to Arista Records by Clive Davis and released her self-titled debut studio album in 2008, which was certified gold in the United States, sold over a million copies worldwide, and received a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album. Her subsequent studio albums, I Remember Me (2011) and JHUD (2014), saw continued commercial success with the former also being certified gold in the United States. Hudson received her second Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2017 as a cast member on The Color Purple.
Hudson was the subject of significant media attention in 2008 when her mother, brother, and nephew were killed in a shooting. She resumed public appearances the following year, with a high-profile performance at Super Bowl XLIII as well as other mainstream events. Hudson has been described as a friend of former President Barack Obama, who invited her to appear with him at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills during his first term in May 2009. She also performed at the White House at the "Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" event. In 2013, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hudson has contributed as a coach on the UK and the US version of The Voice from 2017 up to 2019, becoming the first female coach to win the former.
Hudson was born on September 12, 1981 in Chicago, Illinois. She is the third and youngest child of Darnell Donerson (November 7, 1950 – October 24, 2008) and Samuel Simpson (died 1999). She was raised as a Baptist in Englewood and attended Dunbar Vocational High School, from which she graduated in 1999. She cites Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle as her overall biggest influences and inspiration. She has also credited Mariah Carey as being one of her musical "heroes." At age 7 she got her start in performing by singing with the church choir and doing community theater with the help of her late maternal grandmother, Julia. She enrolled at Langston University but she left after a semester due to homesickness and unhappiness with the weather, and registered at Kennedy–King College.
In January 2002, Hudson signed her first recording contract with Righteous Records, a Chicago-based independent record label. She was released from her five-year contract with Righteous Records so that she could appear on American Idol in 2004.
Hudson began dating James Payton in 1999, when she was 18. They separated in late 2007. Hudson met David Otunga, a professional wrestler in the WWE and a Harvard Law graduate, and the couple became engaged in September 2008. In August 2009, Hudson gave birth to her first child, her son David Daniel Otunga, Jr. In November 2017, Hudson and Otunga had split.
On October 24, 2008, Hudson's 57-year-old mother Darnell Donerson and 29-year-old brother Jason were found shot to death inside the Chicago home Donerson shared with Hudson's older sister, Julia. An AMBER Alert was issued for her 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, when Julia reported him missing. Three days later the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed a body found on Chicago's West Side was the nephew; an autopsy indicated he had died from "multiple gunshot wounds". Police charged William Balfour, Julia's estranged 27-year-old husband, with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of home invasion. Convicted on all seven counts against him, in July 2012, he was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole; served consecutively, followed by an additional 120 years for his other convictions.
Hudson's family created The Hudson-King Foundation for Families of Slain Victims, in honor of the three victims. Hudson and her sister created the Julian D. King Gift Foundation in honor of her nephew. It provides Christmas presents and school supplies to families in need in the Chicago area.
Jennifer Hudson currently resides in Burr Ridge, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago.