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When Mandisa Shared Gospel With Simon Cowell After His Rude Jokes About Her on 'American Idol'

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Simon Cowell — known for his brash and unapologetic persona — made plenty of cringeworthy comments on “American Idol,” and the late Mandisa was at one time on the receiving end of those infamous jabs.

In resurfaced clips, Mandisa, who died April 18, can be seen calling Cowell out for hurtful jokes he made about her weight after her audition for season five of “American Idol.”

Listen to them on the latest episode of “Quick Start” 

Cowell praised Mandisa’s vocals and called her audition “terrific,” but then said, “Could we have a bigger stage this year?” alluding to the singer-songwriter’s size. Then, when fellow judge Paula Abdul compared her to 2003 contestant Frenchie Davis, Cowell shot back, “Forget Frenchie; she’s like France.”

It wasn’t until she watched the audition later that Mandisa, who had already left the room after being advanced to the next level of the competition, heard the mean-spirited comments Cowell made.

In a beautiful moment, Mandisa used what was certainly an uncomfortable confrontation as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus with the famous judge.

“Simon, a lot of people want me to say a lot of things to you,” Mandisa began in the now-famous confrontation. “But this is what I want to say to you. … 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. And I figure, if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you.”

Cowell, for his part, appeared poised for Mandisa’s rebuke, and seemed to take it in stride.

“Mandisa, I’m humbled,” he said, looking somewhat uncomfortable. “Come here, give me a kiss. Give me a kiss. I’m just so appalling, aren’t I? But we like each other now?”

He later added, “I do apologize.”

Ryan Seacrest, the longtime host of “American Idol,” called Mandisa “the woman who did the impossible,” saying, “She made Simon apologize on national television, and we loved it.”

In a later video commemorating her time as a finalist on “Idol,” Mandisa said she and Cowell “had an understanding” because of the confrontation. He went on to shower her performances with praise during her time on the 2006 season of the singing series, which aired on Fox at the time.

Mandisa was found deceased in her Nashville home at the age of 47. So far, an official cause of death has not been disclosed. However, the singer’s father, John Hundley, said during a celebration of life service at Mandisa’s house of worship, Brentwood Baptist Church, that he had been in contact with detectives and does not believe her death was connected to suicide.

While the singer has openly discussed her battle with mental health struggles, Hundley said his daughter was “weak” and suffering from a severe COVID-19 infection at the time of her death.

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About The Author

Tré Goins-Phillips Headshot

Tré Goins-Phillips serves as a host and content creator for CBN News. He hosts the weekly “Faith vs. Culture” show and co-hosts “Quick Start,” a news podcast released every weekday morning. Born and raised in Virginia, Tré now lives along the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he has built his career, often traveling to meet and interview fascinating cultural influencers and entertainers. After working with brands like TheBlaze and Independent Journal Review, Tré began his career at CBN News in 2018 and has a particular passion for bridging the chasm between the secular world and the church