Just Mandisa

As American Idol wraps up its final season, we couldn’t help but reflect on one of our favorite contestants, Mandisa Lynn Hundley. While she didn’t win her season, many remember her because in addition to being outspoken about her faith, the infamous judge, Simon Cowell, made negative comments about her weight on national television. Rather than fire back, we admire Mandisa because not only did she forgive Simon, she used it as motivation to lose more than 100 pounds! When Risen interviewed Mandisa two years ago, we talked about sharing her faith in Hollywood and how she has been able to encourage others with her weight loss.

We asked her about what it was like being on American Idol and using that platform to share her faith.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

I remember the producers on American Idol advising all of us, ‘Don’t try and be anybody other than who you are. If you try to pretend to be somebody else, the audience can see through that. And they are not going to respond to you.’ This is really who I am. I love the Lord with everything in me. He’s the most important person in my life and I can’t hide that, nor would I want to. So it’s naturally who I am, but at the same timer, there are a lot of ‘influencers’ out there for young people and I feel a responsibility to show an alternate route for people to take such as not letting the way that they look, the clothes that they wear or show as much as skin as possible be a way to define beauty for girls, and also not letting what we do for a living define our worth and our value…I want to help that little girl struggling with her weight in high school to know one, that her value does not come from outward appearance, and two; God cares about our bodies and wants us to use them to honor Him. Those were lessons that I never learned growing up. It was either you have no worth because you don’t look like [the girls] on the magazine covers, or you can have it your way and super-size it and have it any way you want to; just be happy and let your heart guide you. For me those were the lessons that I learned. But I actually believe that those are contrary. I believe my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, I believe I can honor God with my body, so it’s less about looking a certain way…for me, knowing I can honor God with my body, is my main focus. 

We asked Mandisa what her weight loss journey has been like including what inspired her and how she inspires others.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Overwhelmingly, it’s the weight. It’s such a struggle, and so many people deal with it that I can honestly say on a daily basis I feel like I’m hearing how certain songs healed them in their weight [struggle], and I love that I can do music that has a funky beat that you can listen to on a treadmill, or even hear in Zumba class. And I love that there is an inspiring message behind it; because it’s a journey that I went through and telling them, they can do this. I also love that people have watched my weight loss journey and they may have felt hopeless, but seeing me on American Idol made a difference. Looking back I’m so thankful that Simon [Cowell] made fun of me-because every fat girl that saw that said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve experienced that same thing.’ Maybe not on national television, but every girls has struggled with her weight has had somebody pick on her, make fun of her, embarrass her and made her want to cry. I am so thankful that happened to me, especially when I did forgive Simon, because I forgave him for so much and now seven years, later to be one hundred pounds lighter. I’m really thankful my journey has been chronicled on national television. I think it gives hope to those women who think they can’t do it. I’m living proof that if I can, anybody can. And my story is not one of ‘I have arrived.’ I’m still working and I’ve come a long way, thank God I’m not where I was, I’m still on this journey and I still have quite a ways to go. 

Each of us has the responsibility of taking care of our bodies-physically, mentally and spiritually. We honor God daily by the choices that we make, the foods that we eat, the activities that we do, and even the rest that we get. Ultimately, as we make healthy choices, we are able to potentially live longer and do the work that He has called us to do.

Risen Reflections

True beauty starts from within. What lies or negative thoughts do you have that you need to replace with God’s truth? It is important for us to take time reading the Bible and praying. It will help adjust your perspective on yourself and others, especially when people criticize you.

Take care of your temple! It might be making healthier choices when it comes to food, going for a walk every day, listening to praise music when you are working out. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Working out is always more fun with friends and saying no to sweets is always easier with some accountability.

Who do you need to forgive? Don’t let your anger or frustration go unchecked. Ask God to help you forgive that person. Who knows it might motivate you to do something great!

To check out our entire interview with Mandisa and her experience on American Idol click here.