On Jan. 30, Jennifer Hudson made what she believes to be her first-ever visit to Cream City. The Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar- and Tony-winning superstar was greeted with a snow storm, and didn’t have much time to explore the city, but promised to return soon.
“Girl, you ain’t been in Milwaukee – you need to get out here,” Hudson says to herself, noting that she’ll be back someday.
She was in town promoting “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” her popular talk show featuring celebrity interviews, human interest stories and, of course, lots of singing.
During her visit, she sat down with Milwaukee Magazine to talk about growing up in the Midwest, her favorite moments from the show so far and just how loud she can sing.
What were your favorite moments from the first season of “The Jennifer Hudson Show”?
Oh my God, so many things! Pastor Luke I loved, singing with Shirley Ralph I loved, singing to Marilyn [Freeman] I loved – just to name a few. And I love those little singing moments with different guests that come out. Halloween was fun! I’m just having a ball; it’s a lot of fun.
What made you want to host a show?
Because I love people and I love talking and I just love seeing people come together in positivity. I call the show the happy place now. [Some people are] here to celebrate. That’s one thing I also love about the audience – we have people come in and they say, “It’s my wedding anniversary,” or one lady came in an it was her 103rd birthday. The fact they choose to celebrate those special occasions in their lives with me, I love that.
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What about the special people in your life? How has your family embraced the show?
They love it! My sister watches it every single day. I love that she does that, and my son loves it. He don’t care about nothing else mamma has done, but he told me that when I got the show, “I had no idea that you were this famous! This is amazing.” He’s cheering it on; he loves it. And every blue moon I hear him on his phone – you know how kids watch everything on their phone – and I can hear him on his TikTok and he’s watching clips from the show. And I’m like, “Have you seen Dream Girls?” [and he says] “What’s that?” But he knows the show.
This visit, Milwaukee greeted you with a snow storm. How are you handling the weather?
Yes, honey! I love it because it feels like Chicago – it feels like home to me. And I miss it, although I come home on weekends. There’s people [who say], “Oh, you live in L.A.,” but no, I still live in Chicago. A Midwest girl I will always be, so being here is giving me a piece of home. And I’ve always looked at Milwaukee and Chicago as one and the same. It’s the same place in a way.
What would you say to artists who are from the Midwest who look up to you and your career?
A lot of talent comes from the Midwest, remember that. Just know that whatever you choose to do, obviously it’s possible. For me though, you have to go abroad no matter where you’re from. Get out there and explore. Because it wasn’t until I worked on a Disney cruise line that the ball really got rolling for me. I was able to expand myself and learn from being in other places and spaces, [then] bring it back home to Chicago. It’s good to get out and explore whatever that craft is, that talent is. I recommend that for everyone.
Having a daily show is such a big commitment. What made you want to take it on when you’re already at such a high point in your career?
I love people. And I come from a very talkative background – we talk as much as we think. And also, I’ve been running around nonstop for 20 years. My first break was the pandemic, and I was so grateful to come back to the Midwest, be at home. I feel like this is a new chapter in my life, and I think it’s the perfect time and timing to be able to settle, do what I love to do, have a career doing it, and be settled and be more stationary. Because in music, you travel a lot, or film you may be set up at one spot for a nice little short amount of time. But to be able to get in the car, drive up the road, go to work and go home to the same bed – that baby is a dream. And then to be able to sit and meet different people every day – because that is my favorite part about what I do, is that I’m always inspired by what peoples’ passions are – so each day I get to sit on the couch and learn different things that I’m intrigued by or what others may be interested in. And that makes me interested in it.
And how does your faith play into the show?
Oh my God, well you know that’s embedded in me, so it will always be present. I always say that I am walking in my faith and floating on my favor. That is what this season, this chapter of my life is about. And just knowing that I’m touching the hearts of different people, or people saying [that] watching the show lights up their day and lifts their spirits, that’s a sign of everyone coming together in goodness. Being able to sing to America live on the show and comfort her, that right there is the essence of my heart. It’s what I want to do, what I feel like my calling is and if that’s what it’s about, I’m satisfied.
And one last, kind of random question for you: Just how loud can you sing?
That is hilarious! It is so loud that growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I would be upstairs in my mother’s attic singing, and my brother and sister would go outside and people would be like, “Yo, we heard your sister singing from like blocks away.” And I’m in the house. And I was like, “They can hear me?” That’s how loud I sing. Or Tyrese Gibson would say, when we did a movie called Black Nativity, he was like, “Yo, I can feel the sound waves on my face, I could feel her voice blowing my face away.” And the nickname for it is “the freight train.”
This interview was edited for length and clarity.