Mandisa Defends Outspoken Spirituality, Waits For Ruben's Call

Plus-sized diva says she never intended remarks on 'Idol' to be homophobic.

Considered by many, including Simon Cowell, as a possible favorite to win the fifth season of "American Idol," Mandisa had never been in the bottom three until Wednesday night, when she was shockingly eliminated. The 29-year-old from Antioch, Tennessee, was nicknamed Mandiva, but there was no attitude in her shimmering personality.

Q: On the "American Idol" Web site you wrote that Jesus is your hero because he saved your life. Is there a story there?

A: Not anything in particular, just the fact that I was lost and did not know where I was going, and he absolutely saved me and I'll be living with him in eternity now.

Q: Do you think being more spiritual on camera each week may have hurt your votes?

A: I really have not become more spiritual. I think I had a platform to sing a song that means a lot to me [which was Mary Mary's "Shackles (Praise You)" last week], and I had to take that opportunity. It's absolutely my testimony, and I have no regrets there.

Q: Do you have any theories as to why you were suddenly eliminated?

A: I don't know what ultimately cost me the competition. It could have something to do with my song choice, it could have something to do with my stance on my faith, it could be people thinking I was safe and not voting. I was surprised. I think being plus-sized could have played a factor. My platform immediately had to do with my weight because of Simon's comments. ... All of the women on that stage are absolutely beautiful, and that could have been a disadvantage to me also.

Q: Another theory is that your comments before singing "Praise You" ("To everybody that wants to be free! Your addiction, your lifestyle or situation may be big, but God is bigger") were interpreted as homophobic.

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A: I just heard about that, and it broke my heart because I really do try to live my life according to the value system that you treat others the way you want to be treated. I absolutely hate nobody.

Q: Can you clarify what you meant by lifestyle?

A: I've given in to every food indulgence I have ever had, so that was just me saying that God is freeing me of [that particular lifestyle].

Q: Another thing that added to those rumors was that you listed Beth Moore as one of your heroes, and as a writer and lecturer, she seems to believe gays need to reform their ways. Were you aware of that?

A: I was not aware, but I respect her so much. She has put into my life like no one else. I have the utmost respect for her and she's been a valuable resource for me.

Q: Were you shocked with the bottom three?

A: When we were the six standing up there, the first thing that come to my mind was season three, when the three divas were up there and everyone was shocked. As soon as we went to commercial break, I turned to them and said, 'I just want to remind you about season three and we can't assume what we think is going to happen,' and I was right. I didn't realize until today, but it was three of the soul/R&B singers, so that makes me think it could have been the country theme.

Q: How do you feel about being pegged as a role model for plus-sized women?

A: It's so humbling. I did not set out to be a role model. I was just being me. I think what I stand for is that you can be beautiful at any size. At the same time, I'm also very vocal that I realize my weight is something that I have to deal with, and I am dealing with it. If that makes me a role model, I think that's great. Anybody that's my size, I would love for people to realize that you can be confident in who are but at the same time be working to better yourself.

Q: You said on the show that you sucked your thumb until you were 24. After Wednesday night, did you think about going back to that?

A: [She laughs.] No. I've been delivered from sucking my thumb and will never go back to it. I read a book called "The Financially Confident Woman" that said if you want to break a bad habit you should do it for 21 days. So after 21 days, I felt like, 'Gosh, I can keep doing it.' And it's been five years now.

Q: Rumor is you have a crush on Ruben Studdard. Are you going to call him?

A: I'm not calling him. He needs to call me!

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