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European edition, Sunday, August 5, 2007

Mandisa made her mark on “American Idol” history when she confronted sharp-tongued Simon Cowell.

When standing before the judges to find out whether she had made the cut for the final 24, Mandisa confronted Cowell about insensitive comments he’d made about her weight. However, she didn’t launch into a bitter diatribe. She extended forgiveness — something he hadn’t even asked for.

“I forgave him because I believe so firmly that that’s what Jesus did for me,” said Mandisa, who just released her debut album, “True Beauty.”

“That’s what I should do for other people. I mean, I didn’t have that much of a choice to stay true to what I believe in.”

Expressing that forgiveness felt “like redemption,” she said.

“Honestly, it could have ended for me right then. My journey on ‘Idol’ could have ended. ... I felt like it was the voice of some of the other people he had belittled in the past but would never ever see him again.”

Mandisa is one of nine finalists from last year’s edition of “American Idol” to land a recording contract — the most successful of whom, Chris Daughtry, recorded the nation’s best-selling album so far this year. However, Mandisa is the only one who has entered the contemporary Christian market in earnest.

“True Beauty” hit the stores Tuesday, but the disc’s first single, “Only the World” has been out for more than a month. It quickly ascended to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Singles chart. It’s a catchy, upbeat song about how we have problems in this world but “the best is yet to come.”

Mandisa said the best thing that came out of her “American Idol” experience was being able to follow through on the dreams she had as a child in Sacramento, Calif.

“It opened up so many doors for me,” she said. “I just wanted to be a singer and that I got much more. I was a singer with a record deal and I was an author with a publishing deal and I was a model with a modeling contract. And that’s more than I even saw for myself. And I know that wouldn’t have been possible if not for my time on ‘American Idol.’”

However, some unpleasantness also flowed from the experience.

“I went through a very, very dark time after my elimination, for several reasons,” she said. “One, I didn’t want to be eliminated. And, two, and probably more importantly, I went through a big controversy.”

Some viewers mistakenly believed a comment about “lifestyles” was a reference to homosexuals.

“It was really difficult for me because I felt like I was really hated by so many people,” she said. “… I went into a very dark depression and turned my back on everybody who loved me, including the Lord.”

But while lying in bed one night, she felt like God was trying to get her attention to let her know that he loved her, she said.

That experience drew her to the song “God Speaking,” which softly ponders how the Lord can speak through circumstances.

“I felt that so clearly and, that song, I could not have written that any better. … That’s my favorite song on the CD,” she said.

While creating the album, Mandisa worked with a number of writers and discussed her life and faith, struggles and triumphs.

“The result was that I got all of these songs that felt like they were so ‘me’ that I could have penned them myself,” she said.

The title track may best encapsulate the message Mandisa offers in the album and in her book “IdolEyes.”

“The title track, ‘True Beauty,’ that’s just such an important issue for me,” she said.

The song offers an R&B vibe as it takes aim at “visions of perfection” and the “gospel of Vogue” and explains that we should let the world see the true beauty that God sees in us.

“I believe that we live in an age where young girls and women are looking at magazine covers and beauty pageants and music videos and trying to live up to that image and it doesn’t exist. It’s not real, especially on magazine covers, ” she said.

“I really do believe that one’s inner beauty can shine from the inside out and it can change somebody’s countenance.”

It’s the same message that Mandisa delivered to America when she extended forgiveness to Simon Cowell.

For more info:www.mandisaofficial.com

Today’s Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry.

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