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Mandisa, Contemporary Christian Star and ‘American Idol’ Contestant, Dead at 47

Mandisa, the Grammy-winning contemporary Christian artist who enjoyed a successful run on American Idol, died Thursday. She was 47.

The musician, whose full name was Mandisa Lynn Hundley, was found dead at her home, her family said in a statement shared on social media. “At this time we do not know the cause of death or any further details,” the family continued. “We ask for your prayers for her family and close-knit circle of friends during this incredibly difficult time. Mandisa was a voice of encouragement and truth to people facing life’s challenges all around the world.”

Mandisa grew up singing in her church and later studied vocal performance and music in college, including a stint at Fisk University in Nashville, where she sang with the storied Fisk Jubilee Singers choir. After working as a session vocalist for artists like Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain, Mandisa began to carve out a solo career after auditioning for the fifth season of American Idol in 2005. 

Mandisa ultimately finished ninth, earning praise for her performances of songs like Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman” and Mary Mary’s gospel hit “Shackles (Praise You).” But part of her run was also overshadowed by comments Simon Cowell made about her weight during the auditions. Eventually, Mandisa got the chance to address Cowell directly, telling him, “You hurt me, and I cried, but I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you.” Cowell apologized and said he was “humbled.” 

Despite falling short on American Idol, Mandisa rebounded quickly with her 2007 debut, True Beauty, which instantly made her a star in the contemporary Christian music music world. It reached Number One on the Top Christian Albums chart — and even rose as high as Number 43 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart — and earned Mandisa her first Grammy nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album.

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Over the next 10 years, Mandisa released five more albums, all of which were CCM hits, but none more so than 2013’s Overcomer. That album enjoyed wild critical praise and commercial success, winning Best Contemporary Christian Music Album at the 2014 Grammys, as well as Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year at the GMA Dove Awards (the CCM equivalent of the Grammys). Meanwhile, the album’s title track and lead single, “Overcomer,” was eventually certified Platinum by the RIAA.

Mandisa released what would become her latest full-length album, Out of the Dark, in 2017. In the years after, she seemed to step back from music: She released a single, “Ruins,” in 2021, and the following year collaborated with Jordan Feliz and Jonathan Taylor on “Jesus Is Coming Back.” She also published her memoir, Out of the Dark, in 2022.

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