One of the best singers to ever grace the American Idol stage, Mandisa (real name: Mandisa Hundley), is about to release her second studio album since being introduced to the world through American Idol Season 5. But the big girl that once prompted judge Simon Cowell to cruelly remark, “We’re going to have to get a bigger stage” has found freedom from a food addiction that she says kept her overweight. And it is in the spirit of that break from her past that she titled her new album “Freedom.”
She told CNN that she had lost 75 pounds and wanted to lose 100. And she is into exercise. She also said that her faith in god helped guide her into her new lifestyle. “It’s more than the physical and more than what I am eating. It’s a spiritual change.”
She told CNN that she had long ago forgiven Simon his caustic remark. He had complimented her on how good she looked last season. She had lost just a few pounds then. “It’s sort of like your dad who you really want to please. I want to please him and show him that I am doing well.”
Mandisa finished ninth on American Idol Season 5, far lower than many (including this writer) thought she would and far lower than she deserved. But in a group that included the talents of Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington, Chris Daughtry, Katherine McPhee, Elliott Yamin, Ace Young, Paris Bennett, and Taylor Hicks, who would ultimately win the competition, it might not come as such a surprise in 20/20 hindsight.
The 32-year-old old co-authored an autobibliographic account of her food addiction and how her faith was challenged but also strengthened by her American Idol experience. It was released in May 2007.
Mandisa’s first album, “True Beauty” was released in July 2007. But it wasn’t the blow-you-away R&B everyone was expecting. It was a brilliant Christian album. It peaked at #1 on the Hot Christian Albums chart and #43 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It has sold 160,000 copies to date. “True Beauty” also garnered Mandisa a 2008 Grammy nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year. And the Gospel Music Association has honored her with three Dove Awards nominations in the past two years, New Artist of the Year and Female Vocalist of the Year (2008 and 2009).
While promoting her album and singles from “True Beauty,” Mandisa also recorded a couple of Christmas albums, 2007’s “Christmas Joy,” an EP, and 2008’s “It’s Christmas,” which contained 11 tracks, including the four previously released on “Christmas Joy.”
The new album will also feature Christian pop tracks. “Christian music is the music that comes the most naturally for me,” she told CNN.
Mandisa is still a big fan of American Idol. Who is she rooting for this year? Danny Gokey.
“Freedom” will hit stores on March 24.