Professionally known as Just Sam, Samantha Diaz is an African-American singer-songwriter of Liberian descent. Hailing from Harlem, Manhattan, New York, United States, she won the 18th season of the ABC singing reality show “American Idol.”
Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, “American Idol” Season 18 aired on ABC from February 16, 2020 to May 17, 2020 with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie as the judges. Because of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the latter episodes of the show featured Sam and her fellow contestants filming from their homes.
Receiving the highest number of votes, Sam was declared the winner. She outvoted runner-up Dibesh “Arthur Gunn” Pokharel as well as Dillon James, Francisco Martin and Jonny West, who finished in the Top 5.
This made Sam the seventh female “American Idol” winner and the show’s first ever openly gay winner. She is also the fourth African-American female winner of the show following Fantasia, Jordin Sparks and Candice Glover.
Sam was born in Harlem on November 23, 1998 and grew up in the Frederick Douglass Houses in Harlem. Here are 13 more interesting things about the “American Idol” Season 18 winner:
- When she was 6 years old, her mother was incarcerated so her paternal grandmother Elizabeth adopted her and her half-sister Anabelle.
- She tried to have a relationship with her mother after the latter got out of prison but it did not work out.
- While attending Global Scholars Academy in New York City, she made a living by busking on the subways of New York.
- She has been affiliated with The Rock Church in Harlem.
- Her stage name was from her experience in high school when people would mistake her for a boy because of the clothes she wore so she would tell them that she was neither a boy nor a girl and she was just Sam.
- Before joining “American Idol,” she auditioned for “The Voice and “America’s Got Talent” but did not make it to both competitions.
- In 2018, she was featured in “Sam, Underground,” a short documentary filmed and produced by Joe Penney and Ladan Osman.
- In 2019, she had to undergo stomach surgery.
- In her “American Idol” Season 18 audition in Washington, D.C. on October 14, 2019, she sang “Rise Up” by Andra Day, which she sang again in the finale along with “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson.
- She does not speak Spanish but she effortlessly performed “Como La Flor” by Selena Quintanilla in the showcase round of “American Idol” Season 18.
- Because of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, she chose to quarantine by herself in Los Angeles, California instead of going home to Harlem to protect her grandmother.
- She refers to Elizabeth, who was born in Liberia, as her African Queen.
- After winning “American Idol” Season 18, she signed an exclusive record deal with 19 Recordings of Hollywood Records/Industrial Media.