Samantha Diaz, known on this season of American Idol as Just Sam,
Formerly a subway singer in New York City, she’s become one of American Idol’s front-runners due to her vivaciousness, empathy, and genuine talent. Ever since she started performing in middle school, her work has revolved primarily around impressing commuters on trains. Filmmakers Joe Penney and Ladan Osman, however, surfaced her talent in a 2018 documentary about her life called Sam, Underground.
Just Sam told the filmmakers that when she was in high school, people would mistake her for a boy because of her clothing. This experience ended up inspiring what is now her stage name.
One of the first people to admire her talent was her grandmother Elizabeth, who adopted Just Sam and her sister, Anabelle, when the artist was only six years old.
She told American Idol in an interview video for Mother’s Day that her mother was in jail for much of her young life. Frequently on the weekends, her grandma would dress Just Sam and Anabelle up to visit their mother in prison. In the Sam, Underground doc, Just Sam explained that her relationship with her mother was complicated. “I wouldn’t want to sing with my mother, like, ever,” she said in the film.
But her close relationship with her grandma means everything to the singer. Elizabeth, who was born in Liberia, is proud of her immigrant heritage, and Just Sam celebrates her by referring to her as “my AFRICAN QUEEN.”
Ever since then, she’s been filming her performances alone in Los Angeles. She said that she misses Harlem and looks forward to when she can return again, perhaps even as a champion following the finale on Sunday, May 17. In the meantime, she’s dedicating many of her performances to her family.
Just Sam, celebrated alone on Sunday after taking part in the finale under lockdown in Los Angeles.
Samantha Diaz, 21, from Harlem, New York, was told she’d won the public vote by host Ryan Seacrest, who was broadcasting from his garage.
She heard the news while clutching an iPad that was connected to a call with her grandmother, who brought her up.
“Can I thank America now?” asked the singer. “My dreams have come true.”
JUST SAM became the winner of American Idol 2020