In celebration of Gospel Heritage month, American Idol contestant and award winning singer Mandisa Lynn Hundley shares how music got her through a particularly dark time after the death of a friend.


Mandisa Lynn Hundley was almost too old to audition for American Idol, but for series five - 15 years ago - the producers decided to increase the age limit to 28 making space for the unknown gospel singer to take her place on the stage. She is now a Grammy award winning Christian artist and an inspiration to many. But the journey hasn’t been easy. When she first took to the stage Simon Cowell commented on her weight and in the years since she suffered a devastating bereavement. But God - and gospel music - got her through.

Mandisa’s 2013 album Overcomer was inspired by her friend Keisha. She said: ”She [Keisha] was pregnant with her second child when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted a song to help her stay in the fight. I really believed that God was going to heal her. She was so encouraged by that song. Keisha was able to deliver her child, and had one year with him before she passed away.”

“I harboured some anger with the Lord, as I couldn’t understand why he didn’t heal her.”

The tragic turn of events led Mandisa to spiral into a dark and desperate time. It was during that period of acute pain that she started writing her next album Our of the Dark. She said: ”I harboured some anger with the Lord, as I couldn’t understand why he didn’t heal her. I sank deeper into depression. Some friends gathered around me, and they forced me to get some counselling. I was considering taking my life; that’s how bad things were. That’s when the Out of the Dark theme was birthed because I thought about all those reaching out to me. God pulled me out of that pit.”

She continued: “I very much miss my friend; I still wish that she were here. However, in Revelation 12:11 it says: ‘They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.’ That scripture is talking about martyrs. We are living in a very small part of our lives right now. When you look at eternity, I know Keisha’s story continues on. Right now, I just have a finite view of what life is.”

“I was considering taking my life; that’s how bad things were.”

Another verse that is particularly moving for Mandisa is Psalm 40. She said: ”It’s my testimony. It says: ‘He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he…put a new song in my mouth.’ I feel like my testimony is especially found in verse three: ‘Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.’ If people can identify with my story, see the fingerprints of God through it and can put their trust in him, that makes it all worth it.”

Mandisa is the fifth American Idol alumna to win a Grammy Award for her album Overcomer in the Best Contemporary Christian Music Album category. Her book Out of the Dark is available now. Find out more at 

To hear the full interview, download ‘The Profile’ podcast

Follow Mandisa on Instagram