Mandisa: ''My life is in His hands, not Simon's.'' The booted ''Idol'' contestant talks to Jessica Shaw about the shocking vote, her song choice, her faith, and much more
Mandisa, American Idol
Credit: American Idol: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Holy Mandisa-size shocker! Who ever thought the biggest voice of the bunch would get booted so early? But sadly, the Nashville native, who had never even been in the bottom three before (and had no business being there last night), hit a bad note with America during country week and got sent home. Though we’re still in shock, we managed to keep it together long enough to ask Mandisa some questions.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I was sitting in the audience last night when Ryan announced your name. The entire place was shocked.
MANDISA I didn’t realize that at the time. But I’ve been hearing the clip over and over again. Everybody gasped at once.

When Ryan put you all in three groups of three, I was thinking that if I were a contestant I’d be psyched to be in the group with Mandisa, because that group would be safe.
Well, apparently not. But I know what you mean. I definitely knew that Kellie’s group was good.

At what point did you realize things might not turn out well for you?
When it was the six of us I got a little worried. I remember season 3, when the ”three divas” [LaToya London, Fantasia Barrino, and Jennifer Hudson] were in the bottom. I started thinking, Wow, this could be the week.

I’ve heard people very upset that America voted the three ”R&B singers” into the bottom three. What do you make of that?
I was really thinking it was just a coincidence. Now I’m starting to sort through things. Country was apparently hard for some people. I don’t think country is that different from R&B, though. You take the twang out and you have an R&B song.

In retrospect, do you wish you’d sung something other than Shania Twain’s ”Any Man of Mine?”
No — I love that song. I wanted to come out and show personality and have a fun, upbeat song. [But] America and the judges didn’t like it. They just thought it was kind of flaky. In retrospect, I stand by my song, but everyone is saying it’s all about song selection.

Are you ever going to listen to that song again?
I really do love that song, but it probably would be hard to listen to it now.

Miles, the American Idol stylist, said you’ve gotten more free clothing sent to you than any other contestant ever.
I was shocked about that. I couldn’t believe it. I would think that of all the contestants, I would get the least. You should see the racks of clothes they have for me. I didn’t know there’s so much good plus-size clothing. Where has all of that been when I’ve been shopping?

After you put Simon in his place, telling him he hurt you but you forgave him for saying the show needed a bigger stage to hold you, you became an instant hero to big girls everywhere. Did you hear that a lot?
I heard from a lot of people, especially the big girls. They were always telling me how proud they were of me and how they saw me as a role model. I was not setting out to do that. I’m confident in who I am. At the same time, I recognize my weight is something I have to deal with. I love who I am, but I’m also working to become a better me.

What was your favorite performance?
”I’m Every Woman.” Up until that time I’d done a rock song and a country song. I was just trying to prove I wasn’t one to be put into a box. The other songs I was just trying to show my style, but that’s my kind of music.

What did the judges say to you last night after the show?
The judges were very encouraging. They had a lot of advice for me. They all said not to give up, and this is just the beginning for me. I take that very seriously from them. Especially Simon — he doesn’t say that stuff lightly.

Of course, Simon was also the one who went on and on about your bad song choice. Did you get angry at him about that?
That was hurtful. But I’m not so much angry. It hurts to hear stuff like that. [In] the press today he’s been very vocal about hating my song. That doesn’t feel the greatest. But you just deal with it. I can’t look at it now and have regrets.

Next page: Mandisa on the post-show dinner and the perception that she’s anti-gay

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American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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