MCCC Athlete-turned-Singer Mani Kissling '17 Returns to the Spotlight with Her Single, “Potential”

Story by Brandon Johnson

Hamilton, N.J. – From an outside perspective, when Mani Kissling attended Mercer County Community College (MCCC) and joined the soccer, basketball and cross country teams, you would think she had her sights set on becoming a professional athlete.

But having released her single, “Potential,” the former Lady Viking has taken a decidedly different path – one that she’s been working on her entire life.

“I have been passionate about music since I was a little girl. It was the one interest I had that opened up my creative side and really let me be, me.” Kissling said.

The track, released on April 1, is a breezy, R&B-infused jam that plays close to the sounds of Kissling’s biggest influences. Her sultry vocals lace the track with an Alicia Keys-like timbre, while her upbeat message tinted by wanderlust sparks comparisons to an up-and-coming Rhianna.

Kissling grew up in Hamilton and took private music lessons throughout her childhood. She didn’t resonate with her teacher, however, leading her to branch out and follow her musical passions elsewhere.

“So, I started to act on my passions in middle school where I could audition for plays and participate in choir,” Kissling recounted. She performed in stage productions at Kelsey Theatre and joined the Mixed Select Choir at Steinert High School.

“Despite growing up being so passionate about music, I didn't really let anyone hear my work,” Kissling admitted. “I knew I loved to sing, but I was always super shy about it.”

Stage fright plagued her as early as middle school, fueled by her uncertainty about being able to make a career in music.

“I realized that it was a very cut-throat industry and I wasn't confident that I would ever be good enough,” Kissling said.

Then, when it came time for college, Kissling was locked onto the idea of attending Mercer, which she touted as a school that, “could teach me about the entire music industry.”

However, music at Mercer wasn’t her only focus. Kissling joined the women’s soccer program as a midfielder in 2014, where she helped the team continue its winning ways, making the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region 19 playoffs in back-to-back seasons.

Her talent caught the eye of MCCC Athletics Director John Simone, who encouraged her to take up basketball and cross country as well.

“Mr. Simone noticed early on in my Mercer career that I had true potential to be a leader,” Kissling said. “I never would have thought that trying things out of my comfort zone would really help build my confidence in the long run.”

By 2017 Kissling was a household name, and was honored by the National Association for Girls and Women in Sports at Seton Hall University.

Kissling added that the encouragement she received from then-trainer Lisa Camillone, her coaches and teammates helped boost her confidence during her Mercer tenure – a confidence boost that undoubtedly nudged her towards making the most of her music dreams.

After graduating from Mercer, Kissling took her talents to the Jersey Shore, enrolling in Monmouth University’s Music Industry major.

There, she met two of her closest collaborators, performer Cheeba Hawk and producer Will Saulsky, both of whom she collaborated with to create “Potential.”

“At first, I started just doing background vocals and covers but then Cheeba and I realized we had some serious chemistry,” Kissling said. “The way our creative juices flowed, and our voices sounded together made me realize that I did indeed have potential.”

Though Cheeba and Kissling penned “Potential” during her senior year, the track wasn’t finalized until 2020.

“I have to say, if it wasn't for this lockdown, I think it probably would have been a few more months until I had gotten around to releasing "Potential,” Kissling said. Homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kissling added that she has had more time to dive into her creative process.

Even though she’s three years removed from walking the Mercer campus, Kissling believes attending MCCC is the best decision she’s ever made.

“Believe it or not, there’s not a time in my life that I love more than being at Mercer,” Kissling said. “I had the opportunity to make new friends, network, and have fun even though I wasn't attending a 4-year school.”

“I am so thankful that I talked myself into attending Mercer.”

To stream Kissling’s single, “Potential,” visit Spotify.

Are you ready to help us keep our students on track to finish classes and graduate? Then share and support our MCCC Student Emergency Fund. Donating at, or by texting MercerMatters to 41444, will help keep students enrolled during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every dollar matters!


Donate to the MCCC Student Emergency Fund

Return to Current News

MCCC Home Page

Mani Kissling 1

Mani Kissling's lastest single, "Potential," released on April 1.

Mani Kissling1

Kissling performs at with Cheeba Hawk at Brighton Bar (Long Beach) in April 2018.

Mani Kissling1