American Idol Alum Found Dead in Nashville

No word on cause of death for 47-year-old Grammy winner Mandisa Hundley, on show's Season 5
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 19, 2024 2:00 PM CDT
American Idol Alum Found Dead in Nashville
In this undated publicity photo, Mandisa Hundley is shown.   (AP Photo/Sparrow Records/EMI CMG, Kristin Barlowe)

A singer who performed on the fifth season of American Idol nearly 20 years ago died Thursday in Tennessee's capital. "We can confirm that yesterday Mandisa was found in her home deceased," a rep for the singer says in a statement, per People. "At this time we do not know the cause of death or any further details." Mandisa (last name Hundley, though her first name alone served as her stage name) auditioned for the televised singing competition in 2005 and made it to the top 10, shown when the show broadcast in 2006. She sang alongside other favorites like Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, and Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks before placing ninth.

The California native, who grew up singing in church, studied at both Sacramento's American River College and Fisk University in Nashville before putting in time as a session and backup vocalist for such country royalty as Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood, per NBC News. Fisk officials tell the Tennessean that Mandisa graduated with a bachelor's degree in music in 2000. After her Idol stint, she went on to release six albums, including her 2007 debut True Beauty, and saw that album and three others earn Grammy nods. She won the award in 2014 in the best gospel/contemporary Christian category for Overcomer.

There was a dark side to her life, however. Mandisa was hit with deep depression in 2014 after a dear friend died of breast cancer and even thought of taking her own life. "I was so miserable; I felt so hopeless," she told People in 2017. "One of the things I started hearing during that dark period was: 'You're in so much pain. If you take your life, you could be in heaven right now with Jesus.'" She said friends staged an intervention in 2016 and helped her get back to a better place. "Her kindness was epic, her smile electric, her voice massive, but it was no match for the size of her heart," wrote David Pierce, chief media officer for Christian radio station K-LOVE, on social media, per the Tennessean. Now, "Mandisa's struggles are over." (More American Idol stories.)

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