"I've been so fortunate this year with having a talk show, having this journey with you guys," she said. "Thank you so much for sharing your stories, for sharing your time, for sharing your hearts, your love, and coming to see about little old me. I love and appreciate you so much for that."
Hudson, 41, then expressed her joy at being recognized as one of four cover stars featured in the annual People of the Year series.
"This has been a year full of surprises and I cannot believe that PEOPLE magazine has put me on the cover as one of the four People of the Year," she said. "What a way to end the year! Thank you, thank you."
"Congratulations to everyone who was featured in this issue," she said.
It's been a year of exciting milestones for Hudson, who in June became the youngest woman to ever EGOT when she won a Tony Award for her production work on the musical A Strange Loop.
"It's a huge honor and has been an ongoing celebration," she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "I feel like it opens the space for me to be able to pick and choose more of what I want to do, but that's been my whole career. I like to lead by my heart and what I'm passionate about."
Obidigbo Nzeribe Jennifer Hudson
The Dreamgirls star also launched her syndicated talk show, The Jennifer Hudson Show, in September. Though she says the show, just like everything she does, makes her "anxious," she's been enjoying the learning process, as diving into things that scare you is "how we grow."
"I can't say I knew what to expect. I'm still learning as I go," she says. "I think seeing how huge of a machine it is, how many departments it has, meeting the crew and the staff. I've been a guest on a show like this, but to come in from a host perspective and see the entire production, I think that's the most surprising part."