Mandissa Lynn Hundley was born on October 2, 1976 and grew up in Citrus Heights, California. She is a graduate of El Camino Fundamental High School and received a music degree with a concentration in vocal performance from Fisk University in Tennessee. She has been singing ever since she can remember and has also expressed her interest in acting. Before auditioning for season 5 of American Idol, she was working as a backup singer for Beth Moore, a well-known Christian writer and public speaker. Mandisa considers Jesus as her personal hero and had plans of becoming a Bible teacher. She enjoys the music of Alicia Keys, Beyonce, India Arie, Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder and John Legend.
When Mandisa auditioned for season 5 of American Idol, her amazing performance did not spare her from American Idol judge Simon Cowell
's harsh remarks about her weight, a problem that Mandisa has been struggling with for most of her life. She made her feelings known to the British judge while she was being deliberated upon for the semifinals, and Simon quickly apologized for what he said. Her performances during the semifinals were outstanding, consequently putting her through to the Finals. However, it was then that she met another controversy, this time regarding her sexuality. The comments she made after her rendition of Mary, Mary's "Shackles," sparked speculations that Mandisa may indeed be gay, but she immediately cleared up the confusion during an interview. The week following the controversial remarks, Mandisa became the fourth finalist eliminated, with the judges citing that she made a very poor song choice with Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine."
A day after her elimination, Mandisa appeared in the highly popular comedy talk show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She then went on to sing "I Don't Hurt Anymore" at Live With Regis and Kelly and then with Gladys Knight at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. On the Christian album Portable Sounds, Mandisa worked in collaboration with tobyMac and Kirk Franklin. In 2007, her book IdolEyes was published by Tyndale House and her first album, under the EMI group, was released.