Photo Credit: ABC/MATT DINERSTEIN
Last Christmas, Jennifer Hudson had just suffered an unimaginable tragedy. After her mother, brother and nephew were murdered in October, the Oscar-winning actress and Grammy award-winning singer took a three-month hiatus to deal with her loss. But Jennifer came back stronger than ever, and this year she returned to her hometown of Chicago to celebrate the season and ring in the holiday with her family and friends on her ABC special, Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas. While she was happy to reflect on childhood memories, the new mom says she’s excited to start her own traditions with her new family, fiancé David Otunga and their 4-month-old son, David Jr. iVillage spoke with the 28-year-old about her holiday plans, her upcoming controversial film project and why she never wants a 24-hour nanny.
What was it like to go back to your hometown for your Christmas special?
It was so fun. It was exciting. I took a bus ride all the way to Chicago with me and my little family. And then we got there and it was so welcoming and so exciting. I didn't even want it to end, it was so fun.
Why was it important to do the special in Chicago?
It was my Christmas special, and I've spent all my Christmases there in Chicago. There was no other place for me to go -- it's the only place I’ve ever known Christmas to be.
Are your fans more enthusiastic in your hometown?
Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, there's no place like home. That's where I started at. That's that base. There's nothing like going back to the drawing board after you've done this and that.
What’s your favorite holiday memory?
There are so many. One is being a kid and going to church. We'd have an evening program and the kids would walk down the aisle, and we'd have to carry candles and sing the Christmas songs. And then they'd give us all Christmas gifts at church, and then we'd go home and we got more Christmas gifts under the tree from Santa. That was the best.
What are you planning for your son's first Christmas?
We are going to start our own traditions. And it's very new. Because this is our first Christmas, I have yet to find out exactly how it will pan out. But I do know we will definitely spend it in Chicago.
Will you do the whole Santa thing, or is David Jr. too young for that?
Definitely. I want him to have his own Santa Claus. I really do.
How has motherhood changed you?
Oh god, I love it so much -- all the time I get to spend with him. He's made me more conscious of my time, more than anything. I'm very selfish when it comes to him; I want him all the time. I don’t want to have a 24-hour nanny or a whole bunch of people over because then I'll never get to spend time with him.
What’s been most surprising about becoming a mom?
It has me nitpicking on people. Before I know it I'm going across to people and saying, "There's something in your hair, there's something on your face." And I'm like, "What am I doing?" But people are like, "That's the mother in you now." And I'm like, "Okay, because I didn't do that before." Now I’m taking care of everybody.
How do you see yourself in your son?
Well, he looks just like me. I'm like, "Finally. Because I didn’t carry you for you to be looking like somebody else." When he was first born he looked exactly like his father -- now he looks exactly like me. And he has a lot of character to him for being so small and so young. Like me, I'm always moving my feet and I look at him and his little feet are just a'goin'. And little things that are so cute. And he tries to sing. I had the piano tuner come over to tune the piano and all of a sudden we hear the baby singing the notes he's pecking out on the piano. He's like, "Oh my god, the baby's actually singing." And I was exactly the same way as a baby. He's taking to music the same way I did.
Do you think he’ll be a singer when he grows up?
We'll see. I would love it if he did.
Do you see more kids in your future?
Oh, definitely. I want at least two more.
You've signed on to play the wife of former South African president, Nelson Mandela in the upcoming biopic Winnie Mandela: A Life. What attracted you to the role?
Her story is so powerful and is so worth being told. I remember when I got the script and I was reading and I was like, "Oh my god." I like to do things that have a message and have a meaning, and just substance and something behind it. And this is definitely, definitely a story worth being told. So, I’m just honored just to be a part of it.
Are you nervous about playing such a challenging character?
Of course, I have to be. Those are not some small shoes to fill. But I'm going give it my all.
Have you thought of a New Year’s resolution for 2010?
I never come up with my resolutions [beforehand] because I always forget until the very last minute. But I always stick to them. My resolution last year was something like: Whatever I’m in the middle of -- in the end, just make it work. Like I don’t care what you got going on, how crazy it gets, you know, whatever you're feeling. Make it work. Make it work for you.
Jennifer Hudson: I'll Be Home for Christmas airs tonight at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Plus: See other celebs who've welcomed new babies this year!
What's your favorite holiday tradition? Chime in below!