Mandisa: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of the Talented American Idol Star

At the age of 47, Mandisa, the Grammy Award-winning singer who first gained recognition as a competitor on season 5 of American Idol, passed away on Thursday, April 18.

A spokesperson for the singer confirms to PEOPLE that Mandisa was discovered dead in her home yesterday. “At this moment, neither the cause of death nor any other information are known. We kindly need your prayers during this extremely trying time for her family and close-knit group of friends.”
Mandisa, who was up in Citrus Heights, California, studied music in college before going on the show as a contestant in 2005.

The fifth season of the reality competition show, which debuted in 2006, brought her widespread attention as a soulful singer with a captivating personality. She cracked the top 10 along with fans’ favorites Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler, Chris Daughtry, Paris Bennett, Elliott Yamin, and eventual winner Taylor Hicks.

Judges Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Chaka Khan praised Mandisa on the show for her renditions of Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” She was eliminated in the top 9, and she even expressed forgiveness to Cowell for making fun of her size.

Despite being eliminated from Idol, Mandisa continued her pursuit of success.

In 2007, she released her debut album, True Beauty. Mandisa achieved a historic first when her album debuted at the top of the Top Christian Albums rankings, making her the first new female artist to do so in the 27-year history of the chart.

The first six albums Mandisa would release in her career, including the critically acclaimed 2008 holiday album It’s Christmas and her most recent release, 2017’s Out of the Dark, were together titled True Beauty.

Mandisa received nominations for four albums: True Beauty (2009), Freedom (2011), What If We Were Real (2011), and Overcomer (2013). The first two albums were nominated for best pop/contemporary gospel album, while the latter two were nominated for best contemporary Christian music album. She was nominated for best gospel/contemporary Christian music performance in 2014, the same year she would win the prize for her song “Overcomer.”

Over the years, the singer has worked with many well-known people, such as TobyMac, Michael W. Smith, Jordan Feliz, Jon Reddick, Kirk Franklin, and Matthew West. All of these people have complimented the singer on her talent and generosity, both on and off stage.

But there were ups and downs for Mandisa with her fame.

She described her struggle with sadness and anxiety after losing a close friend to cancer in her 2002 memoir Out of the Dark: My Journey Through the Shadows to Find God’s Joy. She referred to this time as her “deep dark” era. She withdrew herself, turning to food for solace as her health deteriorated.

It rocked the foundations beneath me when mom died. I fell into a dark hole of melancholy. In 2017, Mandisa told PEOPLE, “I went back to my old ways, which is food.” She added that she had put back the additional 75 pounds on top of the 120 pounds she had previously lost.

Mandisa turned into a recluse at that time. She recalled, “You’re fighting shame and you don’t want to leave the house.” “Most of the time, I stayed home alone. I got up, walked downstairs, settled into the recliner, and spent the entire day watching TV. The only time I left was to get McDonald’s since I was sick of getting pizza delivered.

At her lowest, she even gave suicide some thought. Mandisa remarked, “I felt so hopeless and so miserable.” “I am a woman of faith; I think that heaven exists and that I will be with Jesus in paradise when I depart from this life. During that difficult time, I began to hear statements like “You’re in so much pain.” You might be with Jesus in heaven right now if you commit suicide.

Her friends organized an intervention that helped make her aware of the truth about her mental health condition and set her on the path to starting to deal with the emotions she had absorbed.

In her book, she writes, “The darkness felt a little less dark.” “I noticed a tiny flicker. The light was starting to show through.”

The platinum-selling singer continued by praising the deep bonds she has with her wide range of pals.

“During my life I’ve been drawn into friendships with all types of people — some very different from me,” Mandisa stated. Men, women, singles, married couples with children, millennials, more’seasoned’ people, and all ages in between have all made up my tribe. Being around by individuals who are different from you teaches you so much and makes you a richer person. During my difficult experiences, I’ve occasionally been taken aback by the individuals God has sent to console and support me. I get to be there for them occasionally as well. That’s the main focus.”

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