One of the most commercially successful contemporary Christian and gospel vocalists of the late 2000s and early 2010s, Mandisa, born Mandisa Lynn Hundley in 1976, grew up in Sacramento, California. She sang in her church and eventually studied vocal performance at American River College. Later, she continued her musical studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. After college, Mandisa found work as a session and backup vocalist for such name artists as Trisha Yearwood and Shania Twain. In 2006, she competed during the fifth season of American Idol and gained a following through performances of Alicia Keys' "Fallin'," Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman," and Mary Mary's "Shackles (Praise You)."
After her elimination from American Idol, Mandisa quickly plugged herself into the contemporary Christian and gospel markets. In early 2007, she appeared with Kirk Franklin on tobyMac's Portable Sounds. Later that year, she released her debut album, True Beauty, on which she was joined by the Fisk Jubilee Singers and tobyMac. It topped Billboard's Top Christian Albums chart. She followed it with a holiday recording, It's Christmas, and released her second proper studio album, the Grammy-nominated Freedom, in 2009. Her output became less gospel-oriented, rooted more in straight-ahead CCM. What If We Were Real (2011) was also nominated for a Grammy, while Overcomer (2013) took the award for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album. ~ Matt Collar & Andy Kellman