‘American Idol’ Star Opens Up About Having Over 2 Dozen Siblings


Heavy A large family gathers at sunset

When singing sensation and talk show host Jennifer Hudson says she has a large family, she’s not kidding. One of the most successful alumni in “American Idol” history, Hudson opened up during a podcast interview on June 19, 2024, about having more than two dozen siblings.

During her appearance on the “Your Mama’s Kitchen” podcast, Hudson, 42, was asked by host Michelle Norris about past reports that her dad had a large number of children.

“Yes, a lot of us,” Hudson replied. “Apparently he had 27 children.”

Jennifer Hudson Dreamed of Meeting All of Her Siblings When She Was Young

Jennifer Hudson

GettyJennifer Hudson.

Hudson grew up in Chicago, born in September 1981 to Darnell Donerson (née Hudson) and Samuel Simpson, per IMDb. Hudson was the couple’s third child, according to People; when she arrived, they were already parents to another daughter, Julia and a son, Jason. But before Donerson’s three children were born, Simpson fathered 24 other children, People reported.

Though she hasn’t met all of them, Hudson told Norris on the “Your Mama’s Kitchen” podcast that her abundance of half-siblings was never a family secret, recalling that the fact she had so many siblings was “what we were always told.”

Hudson’s parents were estranged for much of her life, according to People, but she decided to look for their dad when she was 15 years old, with help from Julia, in hopes of finding their other siblings.

In 2019, Hudson told The Guardian, “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 sisters found Simpson working as a Greyhound bus driver, and convinced him to come live with them for the remainder of his life, she told The Guardian.

“Once we found him, he moved in with us and never left us until he died,” she explained. “His name was Sam. He was supposed to drive me to college, but he passed before he could. That was when I was 16.”

When talking to Norris, Hudson confirmed that she’s since learned she is, indeed, the youngest of her dad’s 27 kids.

“That’s a lot of children,” Hudson admitted on the podcast. “We found quite a few of us. When my grandma on his side passed, my siblings over there were like, ‘Y’all got a sister that can really sing, you should meet her. And eventually we all came together.”

Jennifer Hudson’s Mom, Brother & Nephew Were Killed in 2008

Jennifer Hudson, Darnell Hudson

GettyActress in a Supporting role winner Jennifer Hudson (L) and her mother Darnell Donerson (R) are pictured during the Governor’s Ball following the 79th Annual Academy Awards presentations at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, in February 2007.

Hudson takes family very seriously, especially since her mom, brother Jason, and her nephew – Julia’s seven-year-old son, Julian — were killed in her family’s Chicago home in 2008, per ABC 7. Julia’s ex-husband, William Balfour, denied he was involved but was found guilty by a jury that October, the outlet reported, of killing all three in a “jealous rage.” He is serving life in prison without parole for the murders, per the outlet. 

Though their deaths were devastating, Hudson was determined to carry on, telling The Guardian, “It would be worse, to me, not to press forward. 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.”

In honor of her nephew, Hudson set up the Julian D. King Gift Foundation to support underprivileged kids, and often posts on social media about him, her mom and her brother. When she participated in the 2024 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, she dedicated the game to her late brother, People reported. 

She remains close with Julia, who has appeared multiple times in the audience on “The Jennifer Hudson Show.” Hudson also has one son, 14-year-old David Daniel Otunga Jr., and told Norris she wants her son to know what it’s like to have a big family.

Hudson said she tried hard at “making sure he has his cousins’ circle and that base and foundation. That’s part of why I had moved back to Chicago, because I wanted him to have the surroundings of his family around him growing up.”

Now that they’re back in Los Angeles, she told Rollins, “He has cousins that come in and out. One of them is here right now. And so to keep that family burning … he has that same upbringing.”