‘American Idol’ Honors Late Singer With a Special Tribute Episode Featuring ‘Idol’ Alumni

american idol tribute to mandisa
Credit: Disney/ABC

American Idol paused for a moment on Monday evening to remember one of its own with a special tribute episode dedicated to honoring the late singer, songwriter, and recording artist Mandisa.

mandisa hundley

Credit: X/MandisaOfficial/Canva

‘American Idol’ Loses One of Its Own

Mandisa Hundley, known simply as “Mandisa” to her fans, was a contestant in Season 5 of American Idol. She was also named among the season’s Top 10 performers. Following her elimination from the show, Mandisa released True Beauty, her debut album, in 2007.

Mandisa’s first album then debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Christian Albums chart and earned her a Grammy nomination–the first of five the singer and songwriter would eventually receive over the course of her career.

mandisa on american idol

Credit: @mandisaofficial X/ABC

In 2013, Mandisa won Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for her 2013 album, Overcomer. The album was received well by audiences and critics alike. Ultimately, Mandisa released five albums and a Christmas compilation. She also routinely collaborated with other Contemporary Christian Music recording artists, including Dove Award- and Grammy Award-winning Christian recording artist TobyMac, and singer, songwriter, and choirmaster Kirk Franklin.

tobymac and kirk franklin

TobyMac (L) and Kirk Franklin (R)/Credit:

But on Thursday, April 18, news that the 47-year-old musician had been found dead in her Franklin, Tennessee, home shocked her friends, family, and fans.

The next day, the Franklin Police Department opened an investigation into her death. Though an autopsy was completed, the cause of the late singer’s death is not known, and authorities have said it could be eight to twelve weeks before results from the autopsy are released.

A memorial service to celebrate Mandisa’s life was held at Brentwood Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee, over the weekend. During the service, Mandisa’s father, John Hundley, delivered his daughter’s eulogy and also shared some of the details about her final moments.

mandisa's father speaks at her memorial service

Credit: Brentwood Baptist Church, Tennessee

‘Idol’ Pays Tribute to Mandisa

Then, on Monday night, American Idol honored Mandisa with a special episode dedicated to remembering the late singer.

american idol tribute to mandisa

Credit: Disney/ABC

Images of Mandisa adorned the auditorium and served as the backdrop for the stage, where Idol alumni and Christian and gospel singers Colton Dixon, Melinda Doolittle, and Danny Gokey returned to honor the late American Idol star.

The trio performed a song titled “Shackles,” a song made popular by the Christian recording group Mary Mary, during the tribute episode as fans lifted their hands, clapped, sang along, and cheered.

american idol mandisa tribute

Credit: Disney/ABC

At the conclusion of the tribute performance, Idol host Ryan Seacrest joined the trio on the stage, remarking that the performance was quite fitting as a remembrance to Mandisa. In 2006, the late singer sang the song as a contestant on American Idol, saying the song carried great meaning to her, as it was “a testimony that there’s nothing too hard for God.”

ryan seacrest on mandisa tribute episode of american idol

Credit: Disney/ABC

“I’ve known her for over twenty years,” Melanie Doolittle said. “We started off singing background in sessions together. And then she got on Idol, and I cheered for her, and I came the next season, and she cheered for me. That is my girl through and through.”

Danny Gokey told Seacrest that Mandisa “was a fan of people.”

“She was a cheerleader for other people’s music,” Gokey added, referring to a time when he was dropped from a record label. “[She] had the biggest voice for me.”

performers tribute show mandisa american idol

Colton Dixon (L), Melanie Doolittle (center), and Danny Gokey (R)/Credit: Disney/ABC

Colton Dixon told Seacrest that “Shackles” was representative of Mandisa’s life.

“I think she came in praising, and I think she left praising,” he said.

You can watch the performance below.


“We’re going to miss her,” Dixon said to American Idol host Ryan Seacrest, “but our loss is Heaven’s gain.”

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!

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