‘American Idol’ Star and Grammy Winner Mandisa Dies at 47

Getty Images/Slaven Vlasic
Getty Images/Slaven Vlasic

The beloved Christian musician Mandisa, who was a finalist on season 5 of American Idol and won a Grammy, died on Thursday, the Christian rock radio station K-Love announced. She was 47.

A cause of death for Mandisa, whose full name was Mandisa Lynn Hundley, was not released, but a statement announcing her death said that her “struggles are over.”

“Even more than her music, the Platinum-selling singer will forever be known for her huge heart and sincerity,” the statement said. “Mandisa loved Jesus, and she used her unusually extensive platform to talk about Him at every turn. Her kindness was epic, her smile electric, her voice massive, but it was no match for the size of her heart.”

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A native of Citrus Heights, California, Mandisa studied vocal jazz at American River College in Sacramento and music at Fisk University in Nashville. Her debut album, True Beauty, was released in 2007, two years after she was a finalist on American Idol. She enjoyed her best commercial success in 2013, when her album Overcomer won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album—a win that elevated her profile within Christian music to another stratosphere.

During her run on American Idol, she said her musical influences included Def Leppard and Whitney Houston. Her first appearance on the show caused controversy among the judges after Simon Cowell made multiple jokes about her weight.

Mandisa pushed those insults aside, however, and made it to the show’s top nine. She addressed Cowell’s comments before her elimination, but took the high road.

“What I want to say to you is that, yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was painful, it really was,” she said. “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.”

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