In 2007, American Idol fans knew the name Mandisa. She finished ninth in Season Five of the reality show, singing everything from Whitney Houston to Gospel. But the singer had yet to prove herself in Christian music.
Then, her first record, True Beauty, debuted at number one on Top Christian Music Charts.
A Grammy Award and six albums later, life looks a lot different for 'Disa', 42, whose current radio hit Unfinished reveals a vulnerability not found in True Beauty or 2014's Overcomer.
Mandisa's Out of the Dark album, released in 2017, deals with depression, grief and doubt.
It is a testimony to God's redeeming power, she says. Each song tells a transformation story.
On Saturday (Jan. 12), Mandisa will perform at Winter Jam, Christian music's biggest annual tour. The show begins at 6 p.m. at the Amalie Arena, featuring Newsboys, Danny Goke, Rend Collective and others. Tickets are $15 at the door.
"It feels like everything is full circle," Mandisa said. "I did Winter Jam coming off Idol. I didn't know what to expect on such a big tour. Now, coming back 10 years later, I just feel thankful to still be working in this industry."
I spoke to Mandisa about the years since Idol and making resolutions for 2019.
You took a three-year break between albums. What happened in your life during that time?
I was in a deep pit of depression. I couldn't imagine what I might sing about. I was in such a dark place and I didn't know what to say. I wrote Overcomer for my friend Keesha who was very sick and battling cancer. When she passed away, it sent me into a tailspin. I felt really discouraged and let down by God.
Out of the Dark is my testimony of working through things and finding my way out of that dark place. I wrote the lyrics "You could have healed her. You've done it before." I really shook my fists at the sky.
I had to come to terms with not everything you ask for in prayer are you going to get. The short of it is I found my hope in the Lord again. I learned whatever you go through, God is in the middle of it. He's always in it.
You are very active on social media. You host Devos with Disa on YouTube. Why is it important to you to communicate with fans?
I got into social media a few years after American Idol. There's a lot of good that can come out of it. I can reach people in a way I can't in concerts. I can be honest and talk about things like depression. I can talk about how there is power in the Word.
Did you set goals for the New Year? Or do you plan to take it as it comes?
I definitely don't want to take it as it comes. It's a new beginning. I am looking at this year as a fresh start for me. I have fallen into some old habits in 2018. I haven't made resolutions yet but I am really going to take time to think about my life.
Do you feel particularly inspired by any other female Christian artists?
I'm seeing more variety and more women being heard in the Christian music industry. There are a lot of great women on this tour like Hollyn and Ledger. It's great to see. Off the tour, I love Natalie Grant. She is my hero. I love who she is as a wife and mother. I love how she speaks out against human trafficking on her Dare to Be tours. I just have a lot of respect for her.
Are you involved with any charitable causes?
Because of Natalie, human trafficking. I sponsor children in the Philippines. Knowing I can have an impact on these little girls and boys being taken advantage of is powerful. They are selling themselves to make money for their families. It is important to raise awareness and make a difference.
You speak often about being a confident single woman. How do you encourage other single adults?
It's something I take very seriously. I don't choose to be single. I'd love to be married but the right man hasn't come along yet. I pray for my future husband all the time. I tell people being single can come with a lot of struggles but it also has a lot of benefits. I am content with the state of life I'm in.
In the fall, you headlined the Girls Night Live tour? How does the experience differ from a tour such as Winter Jam?
Girls Night Live is my personal tour. It's all women. It's me and a bunch of my friends. We are in smaller venues like churches not arenas. You can really see and connect with the audience. Winter Jam is a big tour so many people want to be on. And I am so excited to be part of it again.
For more information on Winter Jam 2019, visit 2019.jamtour.com/cities/tampa-fl.
Contact Sarah Whitman at email@example.com