"Thank you for you voice and bringing your voice to us on the show," the music legend said to Hudson, recalling their first encounter at her American Idol audition in Atlanta 18 years ago.
"I grew up in the church, in the hood. You grew up in the church, probably in the hood too. Singing is what we love, we grow up loving singing in the church," Jackson shared. "When I heard you when you auditioned, I thought, 'That girl's got something.' And you still got it today, y'all, J-Hud is in her house!"
The EGOT winner credited Jackson for kicking off her journey, saying, "Without this man, I wouldn't be here today."
Jackson noted that Hudson is "proof" for those trying to make their way in their careers because she never gave up after she placed seventh on season 3 of the singing competition series in 2004.
"You knew that you had a gift given by God," Jackson said. "I'm probably more proud of you than any American Idol winner because you didn't win! And look at what you've done. That's the thing, keep going and never give up. Believe in yourself and believe in your talent. You did it, you said, 'Look, this ain't gonna stop me. One door closes, five more about to open.'"
During Cowell's appearance last week, the 62-year-old attributed the show's success to contestants like Hudson, noting that her "combination of talent, determination, and real personality" drove viewers to tune in. "And even though we had that kind of, like, banter, you and I, it was always that. I always knew how determined you were," Cowell added. "You were funny and you took it with grace because you kind of got it. I always thought that about you."
As for the night of Hudson's elimination after her performance of Barry Manilow's 1976 single, "Weekend in New England," Cowell blamed the song choice.
"That night, I will never forget," he said, recalling that all he could think was, "'Who chose stupid 'Barry Manilow Week?' I remember thinking, 'This is not a great song.' Wasn't your fault. And then, of course, what happened, happened."
But Hudson revealed that she wouldn't change her choice that night because it likely helped lead to her Oscar-winning role as Effie White in Dreamgirls sinceManilow structured the song in a similar way to the musical's signature tune, "And I Am Telling You."
"By the time I was eliminated, I felt like I got an opportunity to display who I was as an artist, so I was OK with being eliminated," she added. "And then once I was, I was like, 'You know what? You're walking away with your talent. You're walking away with your gift.' This competition may be over, but your passion isn't. Your love and your drive isn't. Too often people give up and think that's the end of the road and I said, 'No, I'll be back. And I don't know when, I don't know how, but I will sing my way to it.' You know what I mean? And I kept that goal in mind and I didn't give up."
The Jennifer Hudson Show airs weekdays in syndication.