Jennifer Hudson may have grown up in a relatively small brood, but according to the 38-year-old singer and actress, she actually comes from a pretty large family. Huge actually.
During an interview with The Guardian to promote her latest film, Cats, Hudson talked about about her family, her relationship with her sister Julia, and their upbringing. It was brought up that the girls, and late brother Jason, were raised solely by their late mother, Darnell Donnerson, because their father was absent. When she was a teenager, the Oscar winner said she decided to track him down to make him a part of her life. He had a lot on his plate, though, including more than 20 other children:
Jennifer Hudson: “He was a bus driver. He drove Greyhound. When I was 14 or 15 – because he has a whole lot of kids; like, 27–”
The Guardian: “Wait, are you serious?”
Jennifer Hudson: “Yes.”
The Guardian: “Jesus Christ.”
Jennifer Hudson: “Oh, yes. Eleven girls, 16 boys. I’m the youngest, or at least in the last two or three. And it was always my dream – because I love family – to have a giant table with all my siblings. Just imagine the giant table! So when I turned 15, we went to go look for our dad, me and my sister.”
The Guardian: “What did your mother say?”
Jennifer Hudson: “She said, ‘If you want to, go ahead.’ Once we found him, he moved in with us and never left us until he died. His name was Sam. He was supposed to drive me to college, but he passed before he could. That was when I was 16. I’m almost 40 now.”
The Guardian: “Have you met all of your 26 siblings?”
Jennifer Hudson: “Not all. But quite a few. I’m trying to count. One of my brothers – half-brothers – passed recently, or was it two of them? My sister Dinah’s around, she was just fussing that she didn’t get to see Patti LaBelle. I said, Dinah, I didn’t know you loved Patti. And they got me Macavity [the cat] for my birthday.”
This very extended family is a blessing considering the loss of her mother, her brother and her nephew Julian, the son of sister Julia, who were all murdered in 2008. Despite that tragedy, Hudson told the publication she was grateful that she didn’t fall apart completely because of it. The birth of her child a year later and the creation of her own family certainly helped.
“Thank God. I think I attribute that first to God, next to [the fact that] when you experience trauma, it comes and goes,” she said. “It’s always there. But it’s a matter of how you deal with it.”
“It would be worse, to me, not to press forward,” she continued. “I’m hearing my brother’s voice say, ‘Jenny, knock it off!’’ He would be angry at me for giving up. Or all the things that my mother instilled in us. She prepared us. She would say, ‘You know, I’m not always going to be here and I want you all to be able to make it.’ She used to say, without family, you have nothing, which is why it’s so important to take care of family. So if I’m doing that, I know I’m pleasing my mother. As for my nephew; that’s where the Julian D King Gift Foundation comes from, because he was strong and very smart. So to live in a way that honors them is what presses you forward. Not to mention, thank God, that I have a child to live for.”
“Of course you still get sad,” she added. “That’s what I go back to: what would my mother say? What would she do?”