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Between the liner notes

Mandisa's American Idol Moment

By Raquel Dunn with Renelle Richardson
The 700 Club

CBN.comHer soulful sound and winning smile not only captured the hearts of America but the judges on American Idol too. But it wasn’t just Mandisa’s singing that made a statement when she appeared on the fifth season of the hit show.

American Idol host Simon Cowell commented on the singer’s size saying, “Do we have a bigger stage this year?”

“It was my worst fear come true,” says Mandisa, “because it’s been the biggest struggle of my life and because it’s something I feel so vulnerable about. For him to have said that and for it to air on national television -- I was devastated. After the show was over, just a bunch of my friends gathered around me and they began to pray for me. They began to pray for Simon. They asked the Lord to have mercy on him, and they began to ask the Lord to help me to forgive Simon. I realized in that moment that this was about so much more than me and my hurt feelings."

Mandisa began to realize that this was an opportunity for her to glorify God.

“It’s funny, because the producers were setting me up,” she remembers. “As soon as we got there, we were all in a room, and the producers said, ‘This episode is all about reaction.’ Then the producers looked directly at me and said, 'If Simon says something mean about you, you tell him off. You let him have it.' They know that you’re going to tell them off, so you just say whatever you want to and we can bleep out anything that is not TV friendly. I just thought, ‘Oh, trust me. I’ve got some words for him.’ It’s not what they expected, but I did it because it was what the Lord wanted me to do."

“You hurt me,” she said to Simon on that show. “It was painful. It really was. But I want you to know that I have forgiven you. You don’t need someone to apologize in order to forgive somebody. I figured that if Jesus could die so that all of my sins could be forgiven, I could certainly extend that same grace to you.”

Simon said he was humbled and gave Mandisa a hug.

“I knew telling him that I forgave him would kind of disarm him, if you will, and that he would be graced. I didn’t know if he had ever felt that before,” says Mandisa.

Forgiveness is a main thread that seems to be run through Mandisa’s life.  She came from a broken home, and when she was young, her dad moved half-way across the country.

“As a child I started to wonder if it was my fault,” says Mandisa. “Did I do something that made dad leave?  I was only two years old, but as I grew up, I just started questioning that sort of thing.  I started feeling like I had to perform in order to warrant his love. At that point I think I started wrestling with feelings of abandonment and -- not having a father figure in my life -- he is still a very big part of my life, just not right there with me.  I just started turning to food in order to comfort.”

Mandisa realized that she needed to forgive her father.

“When I realized that he was able to go on and live a very happy life, it was holding me back. I did not want my unforgiveness to have that affect on me, and I have learned that forgiveness is just as much for the person that is forgiving then for the person being forgiven,” says Mandisa.

But it wasn’t just abandonment issues that drove Mandisa’s food addiction. As a teenager, Mandisa was raped.

“When that happened at 16, it was like a floodgate opened. I started to eat and eat and eat.  I think I was sort of shielding myself off from anybody else that could harm me,” says Mandisa.

It took a long time, but Mandisa says she was finally able to forgive her rapist.

Since American Idol, Mandisa has been a busy woman. She started modeling for Ashley Stewart -- a plus size clothing line.  She’s making progress with her food addictions.

“I have to choose between eating something healthy or driving through the Krispy Crème,” she says.  “Every time that I do that I get stronger and stronger. Every time that I face it and I am victorious, I am able to reflect on that the next time and that gives me more strength.  It’s choosing to get up half an hour earlier and exercise. Those are all healthy lifestyle changes that I need to make as opposed to dieting.” 

Mandisa has also written a book, Idoleyes .and her first CD True Beauty hits stores in a few weeks.

“I think the Lord allowed me to go through a lot of difficult times before American Idol,” she says. “And while I was on it because there are so many other people that can identify with it. So I thought it was important for me to tell my story and be completely honest about it and we get free together. That’s what I think it’s all about. Everything is possible with God.”


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