Joanne Borgella, who grew up on Long Island and whose singing talent landed her on the TV show "American Idol," died Oct. 18 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan after a 13-month battle with endometrial cancer, her family said. She was 32 and lived on the Upper West Side.
Borgella, eliminated from the seventh season of the singing competition show in 2008 after her performance of "I Say a Little Prayer," was also a plus-sized model and reality television star, most recently appearing on NUVOtv's "Curvy Girls."
"She was always humble about her success," said one of her brothers, Joel Borgella, Jr. 38, of Port St. Lucie, Florida. "She never, ever felt like she deserved anything. She always fought to get to the top."
Borgella was born in Brooklyn. Her father was an OB-GYN and her mother a registered nurse. The family moved to Uniondale when she was still a baby, but later moved to Oyster Bay Cove.
Raised in a religious family, Borgella's faith was central to her life -- and so was singing. She sang at home and in talent competitions, and performed the national anthem at sporting events.
"From 4 years old, all she ever did was sing," said Joel Borgella.
When Borgella was about 12 or 13, she moved with her parents to their native Haiti, but the family returned a few years later, settling in Islip.
Borgella graduated from the all-girls school, Academy of Saint Joseph, in Brentwood and attended Hofstra University, but left after a couple of years to pursue her singing career full-time.
In 2005, she won "Mo'Nique's Fat Chance," a "sexy and sassy beauty pageant" on Oxygen, according to her online biography.
She was signed to Wilhemina Models, modeling for brands such as Ashley Stewart, Macy's and Nordstrom, and her work appeared in Essence, Seventeen and InStyle magazines, the bio said.
After "American Idol," she continued to model, record music and launched a clothing line, her bio said. She also was a talent coach on the MTV reality series "Made."
She was diagnosed with stage 4 endometrial cancer in September 2013, said another brother, Jerald Borgella, 33, of Beverly Hills, California. And despite the chemotherapy, radiation and the news that the cancer had spread, she remained positive. According to her brothers, she would always say: "God's got this."
She married Alex Ramirez, 36, of Manhattan, on Dec. 28, 2013, in a small civil ceremony in Massapequa -- her 97-year-old grandfather was the officiant.
In addition to her two brothers and husband, she is survived by her father, Joel Borgella Sr. and mother, Paule Danielle Ford-Borgella, both of Boynton Beach, Florida; and another brother, Jean Borgella, 36, also of Boynton Beach.
Visiting hours are Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Ave., Manhattan. Services are Saturday at 9:30 a.m.