Skip to main content

Singing Sensation Mandisa on Trusting God Through Hard Times

Share This article


Mandisa grew up in Citrus Heights, California. At only 7 years old, she was molested. When she was 16, she was raped. Some girls turn to men or drugs to numb the pain. Mandisa turned to food. “Food made me feel comfortable,” says Mandisa. “As I put on weight, men weren’t looking at me.”  

Growing up, her weight left her open to ridicule. Once when Mandisa performed with her high school drill team, a classmate joked that she made the whole gym shake. “I still remember that like it was yesterday,” says Mandisa. Coincidentally, throughout her teenage years, Mandisa’s dad and stepmom took her to church every other weekend and she gave her life to the Lord.  

After high school, she studied vocal jazz at American River College, then went on to Fisk where she graduated with a BA in Music, with a concentration in vocal performance.

Mandisa was a backup singer for best-selling author and speaker Beth Moore at the time she auditioned for Season 5 of American Idol. After making it as a contestant, Idol judge Simon Cowell commented on her weight on television in front of millions of viewers. Mandisa was hurt. When she had a chance to talk to Simon, she forgave him. He was humbled and apologized. Mandisa went on to become one of the top 9 finalists before she was eliminated. Regardless, her singing career took off. Six studio albums later, and over 1.6 million records sold, she made it. 

While on tour and hiking with friends, she realized how out of shape she was and decided to make some lifestyle changes. By eating healthy and exercising she lost 100 pounds. 


Mandisa’s best friend and hairstylist, Kisha, was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with her second son. When Kisha told Mandisa about her diagnosis, she was shocked. Fighting alongside Kisha and believing the Lord for her healing became Mandisa’s focus. It even spilled over into her music when Mandisa wrote “Overcomer,” which was inspired by Kisha. It became an instant hit. 

Yet, after delivering a healthy son, Kisha only lived for one more year. On June 29, 2014, Mandisa got the news that at only 40 years old, Kisha had passed away. She was devastated! Mandisa was certain she heard from the Lord that Kisha would be healed. Not to mention that she left behind a husband and two sons. It was too much to take.

Feeling like the wind was knocked out of her, Mandisa withdrew, wrestled with God, and fell into a deep depression that lasted for years. Food became her comfort again and a year and a half after Kisha’s death, Mandisa gained 200 pounds. Her despair was so painful that she contemplated taking her life.

Mandisa explains, “To be honest, that’s not how I thought things were going to happen. I was disappointed with God. I was mad because as I prayed for her, I believed that God was going to heal her. I’m not the kind of person who shakes my fist at the Lord and yells and screams. I just shut down and started turning to food again for comfort. For years, I was turning to Him for comfort, but I didn’t trust Him anymore, so I isolated and went back to my old friend, food. My loved ones were reaching out and I would ignore their phone calls and text messages. I stopped going to church. I didn’t open my Bible. The enemy had me exactly where he wanted me.”

When Mandisa eventually left the house to see a movie, her friends were outside waiting to confront her. They told her they loved her too much to leave her alone to deal with the darkness and encouraged her to get therapy. She did and that was the beginning of her coming out of the darkness into the light. Psalm 40 spoke directly to her heart. In part it reads, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock."

What also helped her faith was God’s answer to her long-time prayer for her brother’s salvation. “That was God reminding me that he did indeed hear my prayers,” she says. “He was still there, and even though things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to with Kisha, sometimes God says ‘no’ and I’m just learning to be okay with that.”

Mandisa is also reconnecting with people, slowly losing the weight she regained during her depression, and writing and recording songs again. She’s released Overcomer: The Greatest Hits this year and a few singles. 

She also hosts a podcast with the same name as her book: “Out of the Dark.” Desiring to be vulnerable about her journey, she co-hosts the podcast with licensed professional counselor Laura Williams where they discuss mental health issues.  


Share Your Story

Share This article

About The Author

Angell Vasko

Angell Vasko joined CBN in 1999. Acting as Floor Producer and Guest Coordinating Producer for The 700 Club, Angell briefs the cohosts before the live show and acts as a liaison between the control room and show talent during the broadcast.