“He would always say, ‘Knock it off, Jenny,’ if I was crying or something”
Jennifer Hudson surprised many when, just months after a family tragedy that saw her mother, brother and nephew murdered, she returned to the stage to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XLIII.
But as the "Dreamgirls" star and former "American Idol" favorite sees it, she didn't have a choice — her murdered brother wouldn't have it any other way.
Hudson appears on the Jan. 8 edition of NBC's "Dateline" to discuss the tragedy, among other topics, and tells the show's Lester Holt that she heard her brother Jason's voice, which urged her to undertake the comeback performance.
"I felt as though I had to," Hudson tells Holt. "[J]ust the same as I hear my mother's voice in my head, I can hear my brother's voice in my head. And he– they, like, everybody, it's like, is she ever gonna sing again? Is she gonna– you know? And what was I gonna say to that– I could hear him, like, 'Jennifer–' he would always say, 'Knock it off, Jenny,' if I was cryin' about somethin' or if I was upset, discouraged, mad, 'Jenny, knock it off.' That's what I hear in my head. And it's like, 'Okay, well, what they want me to do? I can either just sit here and mope around, or do what I know that would make them proud.' And that's what I did."
During the interview, Hudson also reveals how she would gave been on the scene at the time of the murders were it not for her fiancé, professional wrestler David Otunga.
"I remember it like yesterday," Hudson recalls. "I was literally pickin' up my bags to walk out the door to go to my mother's house. And he called me, like, 'Can you come out here instead of going, you know?' And I was like, 'Okay, sure.' And that one decision, that one thing, I wouldn't be sittin' here."
Hudson's mother, Darnell Donerson, along with her brother Jason, were found shot to death in Donerson's Chicago home on October 24, 2008; Donerson was 57, and Jason 29. After a search, Hudson's 7-year-old nephew, Julian King, was found in a parked car, after dying of what the medical examiner's office determined to be multiple gunshot wounds. William Balfour, the estranged husband of Hudson's sister Julia, pleaded not guilty to the murders and awaits trial in February.
Watch Hudson's February 2009 Super Bowl performance in the video.