Gracing the cover of the January 2014 issue of ESSENCE magazine was none other than the positively fierce Jennifer Hudson. Inside, she talked about it all — from her successes, to her love life, to maintaining her faith.
ON HER SUCCESSES:
Since busting onto the scene back in 2004 on as a finalist on the third season of American Idol, Jennifer Hudson has seen both her share of success and times of tragedy. She had her debut movie role back in 2006 in Dreamgirls as Effie, a role which earned her both an Oscar and a Golden Globe and also earned a Grammy for her debut album back Jennifer Hudson in 2008. She even made a life change and dropped 80 pounds, subsequently becoming a spokesperson for Weight Watchers in 2010. In 2013, Jennifer hit the silver screen three different times. First, she took on the role of South African icon Winnie Mandela in Winnie, then portraying a heroine addict in The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete and finally acting as a single mother in Black Nativity, a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes’ celebrated play. And later this year, she plans to release her third studio album.
WHEN JENNIFER MET DAVID:
Jennifer and David met in 2007 after a friend a friend introduced him to her. Jennifer has been dating David Otunga (Harvard Law School graduate and WWE wrestler) since and nine months after meeting, he popped the question in 2008 on her birthday.
“I just love being with him. We have so much fun,” she says. “We’ve shared so many special moments, like when we flew down to Key West for a friend’s wedding. I’m on the road so much for work that I didn’t even want to go — a vacation for me is to stay home. But David persuaded me to go and it was just the two of us. We’re usually surrounded by so many people that it’s tough to have privacy. But on this trip we could party with our friends, then just disappear for hours — and we did. We took a boat ride. We went to dinner. We danced at the reception. It was so freaking fun.”
But after being engaged for five years, one can’t help but wonder if the two of them will ever actually tie the knot. Back in 2012, Oprah interviewed the beautiful couple and and asked the question, hoping to squeeze a time frame out of them; they stated the day would happen sometime in 2014 (hint, hint). “Yes, there was a date set, and that date has come around again every year,” Jennifer says. “In fact, the date may keep rolling around. We’ve never broken up. When I’m ready to be married, I will be married. It’s that simple. Everyone should just chill. Our relationship is very strong. We’re both huge family people, and I’m only going to get married once. So I’m not rushing into anything.”
WALKING IN FAITH:
On October 24, 2008, Jennifer’s 57-year-old mother, Darnell Donerson, and her 29-year-old brother Jason Hudson, were found shot to death in the Chicago home that Jennifer had grown up in. Three days later, police found the body of her sister Julia’s 7-year-old son Julian King. William Balfour, Julia’s estranged husband, was convicted of all three murders and given three life sentences without the possibility of parole.
“The grief is like a stain you can never get used to — or get rid of,” she says. “You deal with it a little at a time. I still have those mornings when I pick up my phone and wish I could hear my mother’s voice. She used to call me every day around 9, and I sometimes find myself waiting for that phone to ring again. It used to make me very angry when people tried to talk to me about what happened,” she says. “I’m like, Who are you to even ask me about something so painful? But over the last five years I’ve seen how sharing my story can bring healing. Those who’ve walked in my shoes often come up to me and say ‘Let me tell you what happened to me.’ when you give your testimony, something powerful happens — you find out that you’re not alone.”
Jennifer says that her mom’s presence lives on daily in the wisdom she left behind.
“I spent my twenties figuring out what I wanted to do. But by 30, my foundation was set. I was becoming confident and clear about the path I wanted to take. Now I’ve really settled into myself. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been.”
“The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was a faith in Christ. That’s my stability. My other foundation is family — that’s what my mother taught me to rely on. Family isn’t just part of my life — it is my life. I don’t know where I’d be without their love. It has really sustained me. Everything she said is still with me. ”
Very inspirational and beautiful story.