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‘American Idol’ Pays Tribute to Late Season 5 Contestant Mandisa After Her Death: ‘Heaven’s Gain’

American Idol Pays Tribute to Season 5 Alum Mandisa TK 343
Mandisa. Paras Griffin/Getty Images for AFFIRM Films A Sony Company

American Idol paid tribute to season 5 alum Mandisa on Monday, April 29, following her death at the age of 47.

Former contestants Melinda Dolittle, Colton Dixon and Danny Gokey made a special appearance to sing “Shackles (Praise You)” by Mary Mary during the episode, which was the first song Mandisa performed when she hit the  Idol stage for the first time in 2006.

“I’ve known [Mandisa] for over 20 years,” Melinda shared following the performance. “We started off playing background and sessions together, and she got on Idol and I cheered for her and I came the next season and she cheered for me.”

Danny meanwhile, said Mandisa was a true “cheerleader” of other people’s music, noting that she was someone to lean on when he was dropped by his label — and subsequently picked up by another — years prior. “It just felt amazing and she was always that person,” she gushed of the musician.

The trio also discussed the importance of “Shackles,” with Colton telling host Ryan Seacrest that the gospel song “sums up her life. I think she came in praisin’ and she left praisin’.”

He added, “But our loss is heaven’s gain.”

News broke on April 19 that Mandisa died in Nashville one day prior. “We can confirm that yesterday Mandisa was found in her home deceased,” a rep for the singer said in the statement. “At this time we do not know the cause of death or any further details. We ask for your prayers for her family and close knit circle of friends during this incredibly difficult time.”

David Pierce, the Chief Media Officer for California radio station K-Love, addressed Mandisa’s death as tributes poured in.

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“Mandisa loved Jesus, and she used her unusually extensive platform to talk about Him at every turn,” he said on April 19. “Her kindness was epic, her smile electric, her voice massive, but it was no match for the size of her heart.”

He added, “Mandisa struggled, and she was vulnerable enough to share that with us, which helped us talk about our own struggles. Mandisa’s struggles are over. She is with the God she sang about now. While we are saddened, Mandisa is home. We’re praying for Mandisa’s family and friends and ask you to join us.”

American Idol Pays Tribute to Season 5 Alum Mandisa TK 342
Ray Mickshaw/WireImage

A cause of death has not yet been confirmed, but local authorities believe there is “no indication” of “suspicious or criminal activity,” per a spokesperson for the Franklin Police Department.

Before her death, Mandisa was candid about her ups and downs, revealing in 2017 that her friends intervened during a dark period in her life.

“I came out of the movie theater, this was after years of me being in that dark place and ignoring everybody, and I noticed that my car had a bunch of sticky notes all over it,” she recalled on Good Morning America. “As I got closer to it I realized that those notes said things like, ‘We love you. Come back to us. We miss you.’ And then as I got closer to my car, a group of my friends, who I had shut out, they were there.”

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Mandisa continued: “And they had been waiting at that movie theater as I sat there and watched two movies, not just one, they waited there for over four hours for me. And they pretty much had an intervention and they said, ‘We love you just as you are but we love you too much to leave you that way.’”

Idol fans met Mandisa during the fifth season of the reality competition show, which debuted in 2006. She successfully advanced to the top 10, sharing the stage with standout contestants such as Katharine McPhee, Kellie Pickler and eventual winner Taylor Hicks.

Following her elimination from the competition, Mandisa released her debut album, True Beauty, in 2007. The record achieved a remarkable milestone by debuting at No. 1 on the Top Christian Albums charts and was nominated for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album at the 2008 Grammys. She was nominated for a total of five Grammy Awards throughout her career, winning Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for Overcomer in 2014.

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