On Sunday, American Idol crowned Samantha Diaz—professionally known as Just Sam—as the season 3 winner. This was the third official season of the singing competition show after its reboot on ABC in 2018 following a 15 season run with FOX.
The winners were announced live “at home” as the show ran its final episodes online, with contestants performing from their homes, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 21-year-old singer beat runner-up Arthur Gunn—a 22-year-old Nepalese singer-songwriter—to the surprise of many of Gunn’s fans and even some of the judges.
During the finale, Just Sam belt out hits such as “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by American Idol season 1 winner, Kelly Clarkson, and “Rise Up” by Andra Day—the song that wowed the judges during auditions and landed Diaz a spot in the competition. The evening ended with a special virtual performance of “We Are the World” by Just Sam, Idol judge, Lionel Richie, Ruben Studdard, Katherine McPhee and other Idol greats.
The subway singer from Harlem was raised by her grandmother and is only the second Latino American Idol winner after season 10 winner Scott McCreery, a country singer who is part-Puerto Rican.
Just Sam’s story is one of adversity and triumph in a world that can make it difficult for young, scrappy artists from inner cities to make it big. The Liberian-Latina singer graced the ears of New Yorkers everywhere and rocked the American Idol stage. Now, she’s on to shake the world. While awaiting new music from the season 3 winner, fans can find comfort and inspiration from Just Sam’s past performances on the show, including her rendition of “Como La Flor.”