In late 2008, after Hudson's mother, brother and nephew were killed in a shooting, Hudson stepped out of the limelight for three months. Hudson resumed her public appearances in 2009, and has since performed at the Super Bowl XLIII, the Grammy Awards, American Idol, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Jennifer Hudson has been described as a friend of President Barack Obama, who invited her to appear with him at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills in May 2009. She also performed at the White House at the "Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" event.
Jennifer Hudson was born on September 12, 1981, in Chicago, Illinois. She is the third and youngest child of Darnell Donnerson (November 7, 1950 – October 24, 2008) and Samuel Simpson (died 1999). She was raised as a Baptist and attended Dunbar Vocational High School, from which she graduated in 1999. She cites Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, and Patti LaBelle as her overall biggest influences and inspiration. At the age of 7, she got her start in performing by singing with the church choir and doing community theater with the help of her late maternal grandmother, Julia.
In January 2002, Hudson signed her first recording contract with Righteous Records, a Chicago-based independent record label. The company's president, David Johnson, and his staff put Jennifer Hudson through a full year of artist development working 5 days a week on live performance, stage presence, songwriting, on-camera interviewing, charm school etiquette and physical fitness. She was released from her 5-year contract with Righteous Records so that she could appear on "American Idol" in 2004, but Jennifer credits David Johnson with teaching her "so much" and preparing her for the successful career she is enjoying today.
In September 2006, Jennifer Hudson performed the song, "Over It," live on Fox Chicago Morning News. In the interview she stated the song would be included on her debut album, to be released in early 2007, however this was before she was signed to a record label. In November 2006, Jennifer Hudson signed a record deal with Arista Records. On The Oprah Winfrey Show, Hudson announced plans to enter the studio in March 2007. Hudson said on The Tyra Banks Show, on February 23, 2007, that she just finished the first song for the album. Jennifer Hudsonalso recorded a song called, "Stand Up", which was available for preview on her fan website which was produced by Chicago natives Earl Powell and Herman Little III, who arranged the song. The power-ballad would later become available on the deluxe edition of Jennifer Hudson's self-titled album as a bonus track.