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American Idol’s Mandisa, now in contest’s final 24, makes her faith in Christ known

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (BP)–Mandisa Hundley, one of 24 to make the latest cut on television’s No. 1 show “American Idol,” is not ashamed of her faith in Christ and even publicly expressed forgiveness for one of the show’s judges after he sent a biting insult her way.

Mandisa — who prefers to be known by her first name — is a regular worship leader at Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live conferences throughout the country and one of 12 women and 12 men still competing for a chance to win the contest. She has made it known that a brief bout with fame is nothing compared to her relationship with Jesus Christ.

In fact, she put her faith into action recently when Simon Cowell, one of the show’s infamously cruel judges, flippantly remarked about her weight.

“Do we have a bigger stage this year?” he asked on camera after she walked away.

Mandisa, of Nashville, Tenn., responded to Cowell’s comment the next time she appeared in front of the judges.

“What I want to say to you is that, yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was painful, it really was. But I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you and that you don’t need someone to apologize in order to forgive somebody,” she said. “I figure that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you.”

Cowell, getting up to hug her, said, “Mandisa, I’m humbled, really. I’m just so appalling, aren’t I?”

Prior to her involvement with the Living Proof conferences, Mandisa worked at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville in the customer service department and then later as a contract worker for the women’s ministry area, making contacts with some of the people who attended their women’s events.

Chris Adams, women’s enrichment ministry and ministers’ wives specialist at LifeWay, told Baptist Press she knows Mandisa and “just loves her to death.”

“I think it’s obvious from what everyone has seen on American Idol that her love for the Lord just oozes out of her, and when she sings, you know she is just praising the Lord as she does it,” Adams said. “You see it on her face. You see it in her demeanor. It’s just really fun to watch somebody who has that much talent to use that for the Lord. She has one of the widest ranges of styles when she sings. She can do anything from Christian swing to Gospel to praise music to hymns to opera.”

Mandisa, Adams said, has recorded an album that’s a sampling of those styles, although the record has been put on hold until her time in the contest is finished.

“I’m just amazed at the variety of style and how beautifully each one is sung,” she said.

On the description of contestants at www.idolonfox.com, Mandisa said she has been singing as long as she can remember, but if she could no longer sing, she’d most “love to be an anointed and effective Bible teacher.” When asked who her American Idol is, she replied, “An author and speaker named Beth Moore. She inspires me to live more like Jesus and I want to do the same.”

Before she performs, Mandisa said she prays, and her hero is Jesus because “He saved my life.” If she doesn’t make it further on American Idol, she said she will continue to sing for a living just as she does now because she loves it. In other words, American Idol fame is not everything to her.

But if she wins, who will she thank first?

“Jesus! He’s so good to me,” she said.

Mandisa, 29, will compete among the Top 12 Girls on the episode airing Tuesday night, Feb. 21, at 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox. Directions on the show will tell fans how they can call or send a text message to vote for their favorite contestant.

American Idol, derived from the British hit “Pop Idol,” became an instant success in 2002 and has increased in popularity each season. Last year, more than 1 billion votes were received throughout the contest, and millions of viewers made it the top show in television. This season, tens of thousands of singers auditioned in seven cities for a shot at becoming the next winner.

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  • Erin Curry Roach