How That Famous American Idol Moment Changed Nazanin Mandi's Life Forever - Exclusive

Nazanin Mandi is an easy woman to admire. The singer, model for Rihanna's Savage X Fenty line, and star of the major studio slasher film Dreamcatcher is having such a moment that Elle magazine declared "2021 will be Nazanin Mandi's year." And oh yeah, this gorgeous Valencia, Calif. native also married her longtime sweetheart — perhaps earth's best male vocalist — R&B superstar Miguel, in 2018. Sounds like life's been breezy for the star on the rise. 

Well, no. Mandi has also been open about her struggles with body image and an eating disorder that nearly destroyed her career and seriously endangered her life. However, she's also reflected on the other time she thought she lost it all. Back in 2002, a teenage Mandi made it all the way to American Idol's vaunted Top 35. That's when a background check revealed she was only 15 years old, one year too young to compete, and she was abruptly booted from the show. 

Mandi sat down with Nicki Swift and opened up about how everything in her life changed that terrible day.

The moment Nazanin Mandi thought her career was over

Maybe the wildest part of Nazanin Mandi's abrupt exit from American Idol in 2002 is that she was ejected over a rule that doesn't even exist anymore. During the first three seasons, Simon Cowell and crew only accepted contestants between 16 and 24. By Season 4, the upper limit was pushed to 28, perhaps as America's reserve of karaoke talent began to run low.

By Season 10, the show changed its minimum age to 15 years old. That has to sting. But back in 2002, a teenage Mandi, her first brush with genuine fame yanked out from under her, admitted she "absolutely" thought her life was basically over. "So everything is dramatic at 15," a wiser Mandi told Nicki Swift. "You think the world is over and that was my only shot and life hasn't even started yet at 15. So yeah, it was definitely a very, very dramatic, sad moment for me."

Mandi's Idol story also made her who she is today — a successful model and showbiz polyglot. One odd job even led to her meeting Miguel at age 18 when she interviewed him for a music documentary, and the two exchanged numbers, per Vogue. In 2019, Miguel produced Mandi's debut single "Forever Mood," a sultry response to her husband's ballad about fidelity, "All I Want Is You," per Just Jared

You can catch her still chasing her dreams in Dreamcatcher, which is available on demand and on digital now.