Jennifer Hudson joins Mila Kunis, Quinta Brunson and Matthew McConaughey as one of PEOPLE’s 2022 People of the Year! Look for all four covers on newsstands this week and read more below from Hudson’s revealing interview in the new issue.
As the 17th person to be named an EGOT winner — and the youngest female ever to receive the honor — Jennifer Hudson has a new moniker for herself.
“I call myself 17,” she tells PEOPLE in one of this week’s cover stories. “It’s an ongoing celebration. It puts me in a better position to be able to lend more support. But I feel the same way [about] being a talk show host, to create a platform for everyone, just so we all have a place to feel included, and using my position and impact to be able to just continue to bring everyone together.”
After her shocking exit from American Idol in 2004, the singer, 41, went on not only to star in the 2006 movie Dreamgirls but to win an Oscar for her performance. In 2009, she took home a Grammy for best R&B album (her first of two) and last year nabbed a Daytime Emmy as an executive producer on a virtual reality animated film. In June, Hudson received the Tony for co-producing the Broadway musical A Strange Loop.
“It’s something obviously that I aspired to do, but when it happened, it happened abruptly,” she recalls. “Even when they said ‘Strange Loop’ won best musical, I was cheering for the cast, and then everyone started chanting, ‘EGOT, EGOT!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh my God.’ It takes a long time to process, like ‘Wow, I did that.'”
Now in her new role as host of her own syndicated daytime talk show, Hudson admits she didn’t know what to expect.
“I’m still learning as I go,” she says. “I think seeing how huge of a machine it is, how many departments it has, meeting the crew and the staff. I’ve been a guest on a show like this, but to come in from a host perspective and see the entire production, I think that’s the most surprising part.”
Of all of her achievements, Hudson is most proud of being a mom to her son, David, 13, with ex-David Otunga. “He is so thoughtful and very well-rounded,” she says. “He’s very considerate. He is such a giver and very practical. I think he’s wise for his age. We have our children, you love them, but sometimes they grow up in a way where you’re like, ‘Now I didn’t raise you like that.’ But [even] if he wasn’t my child, this little boy is an amazing human.”
She’s also intent on helping her son follow his dreams as well. “When David was a baby, we lived in this high-rise apartment and had the most beautiful view of the sky and Lake Michigan,” she recalls. “I would face his highchair towards it when he would eat because I wanted him to know ‘As far as you can see, you can achieve.'”
When it comes to her own career, Hudson has learned over the years to always face any trepidation or fear. “Everything I do makes me anxious, but you will always see me try,” she says. “I love breaking new ground. All of it [causes] anxiety and fear — but that’s how we grow.”
So is there anything left on her bucket list? “I definitely want to direct at some point,” Hudson says. “That’s enough, because when I say something, it happens. And I wouldn’t mind touring again. Obviously another album. And then I want to play the piano more. By the time I get out of this chair, I’ll have something else.”
The multi-hyphenate describes her life as “hopping on a roller coaster every day as I hit the ground running,” she adds. “It has its highs and lows and everything in between. But it’s a beautiful, beautiful ride. If God don’t do another thing, he’s done enough. And I am satisfied.”
For more of the exclusive interview with Jennifer Hudson, and PEOPLE‘s three other People of the Year cover honorees, please pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands everywhere Friday.