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  • Writer's pictureJoel Caballero


Updated: Apr 27

Mandisa Lynn Hundley (October 2, 1976 – April 18, 2024), known professionally as Mandisa, was an American gospel and contemporary Christian recording artist. She began her career as a contestant in the fifth season of American Idol finishing in ninth place. She is the fifth American Idol alumna to have won a Grammy Award, for her album Overcomer in the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album category. Mandisa has also written two books.

After graduating from El Camino Fundamental High School, she attended American River College in Sacramento, where she studied vocal jazz. Then she studied at Fisk University in Tennessee and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree with a concentration in vocal performance. Mandisa was once a member of famous African-American a cappella ensemble The Fisk Jubilee Singers.

Mandisa auditioned for the United States talent competition show American Idol in Chicago, in 2005. She referred to herself as "just Mandisa," and thus was billed simply as Mandisa on the show. She said that her musical influences ran the gamut from Whitney Houston to Def Leppard. Idol judge Simon Cowell made several comments about Mandisa's weight after her successful audition. He quipped, "Do we have a bigger stage this year?" Then when co-judge Paula Abdul commented that Mandisa had a "Frenchie" growl to her voice (referring to Frenchie Davis, another Idol contestant), Cowell responded that a more apt comparison would be to France itself. The comments and others drew the ire of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, (NAAFA) and would be one of the reasons Mandisa would entitle her 2007 debut album True Beauty.

When Mandisa presented herself to the judges prior to the final cut-down to the season's 24 semi-finalists, she told Cowell: "What I want to say to you is that, yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was painful, it really was. But I want you to know that I've forgiven you and that you don't need someone to apologize in order to forgive somebody. I figure that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you." Cowell apologized to her immediately saying that he was "humbled."

Mandisa was eliminated from American Idol on April 5, 2006, in the top nine, having never previously been in the bottom three. A full year later on July 27, 2007, Mandisa performed the song "I Don't Hurt Anymore" on the TV talk show Live with Regis and Kelly. She also joined Gladys Knight and others at the Apollo Theater for the benefit concert "Back to Harlem," to raise money for various charities. Later she collaborated with former DC Talk singer - songwriter Toby McKeehan (known professionally as tobyMac) and gospel performer Kirk Franklin on the track "Lose My Soul" on Toby's album Portable Sounds.

Mandisa released her debut album True Beauty on Sparrow Records. She spent personal time with the album's writers before the songwriting process began, sharing her vision for the project and what she hoped to communicate through the songs. The lead single "Only the World" was released on May 22, 2007 and became an immediate hit. It topped at Billboard's Hot Single Sales chart and was a Top 10 hit on the Christian radio charts. True Beauty earned Mandisa her first Grammy nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album and two Dove Award nominations for New Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year, both in 2008. Mandisa also wrote her first book entitled Idoleyes: My New Perspective on Faith, Fat & Fame sharing about her own heartaches, joys, triumphs and failures and showing women can be beautiful at any size and that healthy self-esteem and personal beauty come only when they accept themselves as a unique and much-loved woman of God's creation.

Other albums followed include her Christmas album It's Christmas, plus Freedom, What If We Were Real, Overcomer and her last studio album Out of the Dark. Mandisa won her only Grammy Award for Overcomer as Best Contemporary Christian Music Album in 2014. In 2017, she released her final studio album Out of the Dark and in 2022 released her second book named after the album and subtitled My Journey Through the Shadows to Find God’s Joy, a memoir about her struggles with depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide published by K-LOVE Books.

In February of 2020, Mandisa released her only "best of" album Overcomer: The Greatest Hits featuring 14 of her best tracks and one new track, a cover of the worship anthem "Way Maker." After that, Mandisa released four stand-alone tracks: "You Keep Hope Alive" with Jon Reddick and "It's Not Over" featuring fellow American Idol singer Jasmine Murray and Christian worship singer Rita Springer, both in 2020 and solo tracks "Breakthrough" and "Ruins," both released in 2021. Mandisa is also a featured vocalist on tracks by Crowder, Jordan Feliz and tobyMac among others.

Mandisa died at her home in Nashville, Tennessee on April 18, 2024. She was 47 years old.

More information on Mandisa at Wikipedia:


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