“American Idol” Alumnus Mandisa dies at age 47

By Linda Loons

(courtesy FOX TV)
Mandisa at The American Idol Experience in 2009. By Jyle Dupuis from Canada, CC BY-SA 2.0, https commons.wikimedia.org


Mandisa Lynn Hundley (/mænˈdsə/) (October 2, 1976 – April 18, 2024), known mononymously as Mandisa, was an American gospel and contemporary Christian recording artist. She began her solo career as a contestant in the fifth season of American Idol finishing in ninth place. Her album Overcomer won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album; she was the fifth American Idol contestant to win a Grammy.

On April 18, 2024, Mandisa was found dead at her home in Franklin, Tennessee, at the age of 47. The Franklin Police Department announced the following day that they had opened an investigation into her cause of death. At her memorial service, Mandisa’s father John Hundley stated she was found unresponsive on the left side of her bed and speculated she had been unable to call for help with her phone on the right side of the bed.

American Idol

In 2005, Mandisa auditioned in Chicago for the United States talent competition television show American Idol. After referring to herself as “just Mandisa”, she was billed on the show as “Mandisa”. When she provided background information to the show’s producers, she said that her musical influences were diverse, 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 Paula Abdul commented that Mandisa had a “Frenchie” growl to her voice, 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 was one of the reasons Mandisa entitled her 2007 album, True Beauty.

She performed a rendition of Chaka Khan‘s “I’m Every Woman” which drew praise from all three judges. Mandisa was among the 12 contestants chosen on March 9, 2006, as a finalist in Idols fifth season. She was eliminated from American Idol on April 5, 2006, in the top nine (she, Paris Bennett, and Elliott Yamin were in the bottom three). None of them had previously been in the bottom three). She, like most of the eliminated contestants, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno a day later.