Mandisa Hundley, ‘American Idol’ Singer and Grammy Winner, Dies at 47


Mandisa Hundley, a gospel singer whose strong vocals were applauded on “American Idol” and who later won a Grammy Award for best contemporary Christian music album, was found dead at her home in Nashville on Thursday. She was 47.

The Media Collective, which represented Ms. Hundley, confirmed her death and said in a statement that the cause was not known.

Ms. Hundley performed and produced music with Christian themes. She was a fan favorite on “American Idol” in 2006, but became the fourth of the 12 finalists to be eliminated.

As a soul singer, she spoke openly about her love of God, and her music resonated with fans.

Ms. Hundley famously stood up to Simon Cowell, the “American Idol” judge, who has a reputation for being intimidating. In her video interview for the show, she referred to her audition in Chicago, when Mr. Cowell, in an apparent joke about her weight, said after she left the room, “Do we have a bigger stage this year?”

Ms. Hundley said in the video that, despite the remark, she would still travel to Hollywood and face Mr. Cowell in the final judging.

“When I got to Hollywood, I knew I had to put my game face on,” she said. “I knew that I would finally get to speak my piece.”

“You hurt me, and I cried,” she later told Mr. Cowell. “But I want you to know that I have forgiven you.” Mr. Cowell replied that he was “humbled,” and the two hugged.

Ms. Hundley told The Oklahoman in 2006 that her faith helped her overcome Mr. Cowell’s hurtful remark.

“Food has always been a problem for me,” she said. “When Simon first made the comments, it was a nightmare. But God turned it around. Those words became the impetus I needed to kick-start my plan to live a more healthful lifestyle and get my eating under control.”

She went on to record several albums. Her first was “True Beauty,” in 2007. Her 2013 Grammy winning album, “Overcomer,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Christian Albums Chart. It was her first Grammy Award after three nominations.

Mandisa Hundley was born in Sacramento on Oct. 2, 1976. She sang at church and studied vocal performance at American River College, a community college in Sacramento, and then continued her studies at Fisk University in Nashville.

After college, she worked as a vocalist for the singers Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain.

On her 2017 album, “Out of the Dark,” she addressed her struggles with depression, which she also wrote about in a 2022 memoir of the same name.

“My dream is that this book will be a tool used in living rooms and coffee shops all over the world to help prompt discussions about our mental health,” she told “Good Morning America.”

A complete obituary will follow.

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