Samantha Diaz, otherwise known as “Just Sam“, is a fan-favorite contestant on season 18 of American Idol. After impressing the judges throughout auditions, Hollywood Week and the Final Judgement, Sam earned her spot in the top 20, and has since gotten love from viewers, as well. On May 17, she was named the winner of the show following two virtual performances against four other finalists. In addition to her incredible talent, Sam also has an inspiring back story that has really resonated with fans. Here’s more to know about her.
1. She had a difficult childhood. During her American Idol audition, Sam opened up about her parents not being able to care for her and her sister. The girls were adopted by their grandmother, who Sam has an extremely close relationship. On the May 10 Mother’s Day episode, Sam recalled visiting her mother in prison as a child. Despite all of the hard times in Sam’s life, she’s continued to have a positive attitude and remain optimistic about her future, which is part of what has drawn viewers to her throughout the season.
2. She’s a subway singer. Sam grew up in the projects in Harlem, New York. In order to make money and help her grandmother pay the bills, Sam began singing in New York City subway stations when she was in middle school. She’s been doing so ever since.
3. She almost didn’t get through her ‘Idol’ audition. In the middle of her American Idol audition, Sam broke down in tears due to nerves and feeling overwhelmed by the situation. However, after encouragement from judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, she got through her performance and blew everyone away.
4. She can sing in Spanish. Even though Sam isn’t fluent in Spanish, she’s still able to sing in the language. During her Top 40 performance on Idol, she paid tribute to Selena Quintanilla with a rendition of “Como La Flor” and really impressed the judges.
5. She came up with the nickname ‘Just Sam’ herself. “Growing up, I was kind of a tomboy,” Sam explained. “I would switch up my style a lot. In high school, they didn’t know which category to put me in. I wasn’t a girl, not a boy, but both. And I’m like…Just Sam! You can’t tell them anything else. It sounds perfect. I think I’m going to use that as my stage name forever.”