What you didn't know about MandisaWhat you didn't know about Mandisa

Mandisa performed in the 5th season of American Idol. She racked up quite a bit of popularity and is considered by many to be one of the show’s best contestants.

From the earliest moments of her time on American Idol, Mandisa’s character was challenged and she never gave up.

Mandisa was put to the test almost immediately and her perseverance paid off.

After placing ninth in America’s Got Talent competition, she was able to turn her music into a career. It centered around the American gospel and contemporary Christian styles.

A singer, songwriter, and Instagram influencer, known for speaking candidly about struggles and Christian faithfulness, Mandisa has an important responsibility to counterbalance the many influencers in her generation.

Let’s take a look at Mandisa’s life, how she became famous, how she overcame self-doubt, and much more, all of which we will cover in this article.

Early Life & Achievements

Mandisa Lynn Hundley, born October 2, 1976, is an American gospel and contemporary Christian recording artist known professionally as Mandisa. Her career began as a contestant in the fifth season of American Idol, and she came ninth place.

She’s become the fifth American Idol alumna to win a Grammy Award, for her album Overcomer in the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album category.

Mandisa Hundley was born and raised in Citrus Heights, California during a time when it was difficult to live and survive. When she was younger, she had a rough childhood.

Her parents split up and her dad moved away. She suffered as her mother Ruby worked hard to make ends meet.

“My mom is the strongest woman I know,” Mandisa said. “I don’t know how she managed to keep it all together, but she did.”

While her mother was working, Mandisa would study and go to after-school activities. She loved listening to Whitney Houston music in her curling iron & radio at home. In the shower, she would listen to it for hours on end.

Since Mandisa tried to master the flute, she realized that it would be better for her to join a choir where her potential could shine.

“When I was singing in the bathroom, I thought I was OK,” she said, “but when people started saying, ‘You could be a professional,’ it began to have an impact. Just a glimpse of encouragement really sticks.”

After graduating from El Camino Fundamental High School in California, she went on to study vocal jazz at American River College in Sacramento.

See also How to Become a Gospel Singer and Make a Living from it

Then, She studied at Fisk University in Tennessee and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree specializing in vocal.

Mandisa auditioned for the United States talent competition show American Idol in Chicago in 2005.

Mandisa was billed simply as Mandisa on the show because she self-identified as just her first name. She listed influences from Whitney Houston to Def Lepard.

Idol judge Simon Cowell made a number of comments about Mandisa’s weight after her successful audition. Commenting on red-carpet episodes he quipped, “Do we have a bigger stage this year?” Then, when Paula Abdul commented that Mandisa had a “squeaky” voice, Simon Cowell responded with an unfortunate comparison.

Mandisa would release a 2007 album entitled “True Beauty”. This title was in reference to some of the disdainful comments that drew the ire of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.

Mandisa stepped in front of the judges and told Simon 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 told Mandisa that he was “humbled” and apologized to her immediately.

“They were expecting me to cuss him out or something,” Mandisa said. “They weren’t ready for what I said. But I knew what the Lord wanted me to say, and now I know why.

My entire American Idol journey could’ve ended for me right then. That was redemption. To this day, it continues to be my favorite moment on the show.”

She was among the 12 contestants chosen on March 9, 2006. They were finalists for Season 5 of Idol.

Mandisa was eliminated from American Idol in April 2006. She finished in the top nine that year.

Music career

On July 27, 2007, after being eliminated from American Idol—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 a concert called “Back to Harlem,” which benefits charities.

Mandisa teamed up with Kirk Franklin and tobyMac to create a smooth album Portable Sounds.

See also Life and story of Gospel Musician Naomi Raine

Mandisa’s first album, True Beauty, was released on July 31, 2007, The album debuted at No. 1 on the Christian Albums chart for the first time ever.

Many people were surprised to see a new female artist a the top of the chart. This opened doors to work with many respected producers such as Shaun Shankel.

The title of her second album, Freedom, was inspired by her experience of overcoming an addiction to food. In 2009, she reportedly lost 75 pounds and had a goal to lose a total of 100 or more. In February 2011, she reached her goal.

Mandisa released her fourth studio album, Overcomer, on August 27th of 2013. After the release, it charted at #29 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart. This was Mandisa’s highest entry to date.

Mandisa won the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for Overcomer at the 56th Grammy Awards.

She declined to attend the Grammy Awards and said she did so because of “the alluring pull of flesh, pride, and selfish desires”.

When being in an environment like this is risky physically, spiritually, and mentally, it is easy to see why people might turn their back on music.

In the same year, Mandisa lost a close friend to breast cancer, and she gained back most of the weight she had originally lost. And, as if that wasn’t hard enough, her depression and suicidal thoughts also came back.

This loss, coupled with a deep and personal betrayal by God, led Mandisa into a dark place.

Mandisa was out of the public eye for three years but in 2017, she began to open up about her past and new album “Out of the Dark.” She returned to recording an album in May around the same time as its release.

Mandisa released her fifth full-length album, Out of the Dark, on May 19th. The lead single from the album, “Unfinished”, was released on March 10th. The song reached No. 8 on the Billboard Hot Christian Songs Chart.

Her compilation album of hit songs, Overcomer: The Greatest Hits, came out in February 2020.


In 2006, Mandisa was caught up in a controversy when an article in The Advocate questioned whether she was a proponent of the “ex-gay” movement. Many felt that the way she used her words made it hard to understand what she meant, but in reality, her intent was for people to realize there is a difference between what we call love and lifestyle.

After the interview, Mandisa became the victim of a lot of media attention & interviews both wanting to know her position on homosexuality.

“It wasn’t until I was eliminated and began doing all the media that I was hit with it,” she said. “It was difficult. I cried hourly.

There were a few isolated events when I did interviews, and they really let me have it. People yelled at me.”

However, she doesn’t hold grudges.

“I understand why the gay community feels bitter and ostracized because there are radical ‘Christian’ groups who say, ‘God hates you’ and ‘AIDS is God’s wrath against you,’” Mandisa said, “when the truth of the matter is that God loves gay people just as He loves me, just as He loves anybody.

“The thing that hurt the most,” she added, “is that I was being associated with hate, and that’s not who I am. That’s not what I’m about at all.”

Mandisa sees God’s hand in her situation, even in such a fiery ending to her fairy tale.

“In the midst of it, I lost hope,” she admitted. “I questioned why God would direct me to sing that song, to say those words, but you know, everything had to happen the way it did…. It forced me to deal with some issues I wasn’t dealing with — pride issues, trust issues.

A lot of my ability to trust was circumstantial, and when those circumstances went away, my trust wavered. That was the biggest lesson in it all — learning how to really trust God no matter what.”

During the controversy, Mandisa’s colleagues in the industry were surprisingly silent on the matter.

“What I was left with,” she said, “was being true to myself because I was alone. The only person I could be accountable to was God.”

Conclusion: Mandisa

Mandisa still has many opportunities ahead of her even before she left the competition. She was offered a contract with Ashley Stewart, a New York-based plus-size clothing line only after being eliminated from the show.

Though things did not always go smoothly, Mandisa is thankful for the rewards she’s received along with the hard work.

“I wouldn’t have the platform I have now had it not been for my experience on American Idol,” she said. “I was happy doing session work, but this is the path God has for me, and He prepared me for it. I don’t know what’s coming, but I know He used American Idol as a catalyst to make a path for me.”

Mandisa also released a book with Tyndale House called “IDOLeyes”, It’s a revealing look at Faith, Fat, and Fame.

Mandisa is wise, passionate, and determined. She’s a hard worker with a vision, insight, and drive. More people are recognizing her as someone who can make a real difference in the world because she has the experience to share & wisdom to impart.

“My only focus is on Jesus. I want people to know what Christianity looks like. People have such a skewed vision.

They see certain images and think we’re all fire and brimstone when really we’re just like everyone else.

We just have a relationship with the Savior,” she said. “And so in everything — from the book, the music, the fashion ads — I want people to see what that can mean in life. I want them to think, ‘There’s something about Mandisa. What is it, and how can I have it?’”

So, let us know in the comment section, what do you think about Mandisa.