‘American Idol’ Winner Just Sam Returns to Subway Singing: ‘I Legit Needed the Money’

Samantha Diaz known to fans as Just Sam, won American Idol in 2020. (Credit: ABC)

After winning American Idol in 2020, Samantha “Just Sam” Diaz has returned to performing in New York City subways for donations.

In a recent Instagram post, the 24-year-old singer opened up about her journey since taking the American Idol title, and expressed her initial embarrassment about returning to performing on the subway for money.

She included a video of herself singing a heartfelt rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Almost Is Never Enough” inside a subway station.

In the since-deleted caption, Diaz wrote: “Back in 2021, I was super embarrassed to be going back to the trains. I didn’t want people to know that I legit needed the money & I didn’t want people to know that it wasn’t optional.”

The singer returned to subway performances after a string of health problems. In August 2022, she was hospitalized with an undisclosed illness, as previously reported. She revealed to her followers in an Instagram Story that her weight had dropped to 100 pounds and said “I seriously need help.”

Just Sam Intagram Stories from Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. (Credit: Instagram)
Just Sam Instagram Story from Friday, Aug. 26, 2022. (Credit: Instagram)

Raised in Harlem, the aspiring artist got her start singing on subway trains.

Her story was documented in the 2018 short film “Sam, Underground,” directed by Ladan Osman and Joe Penney. The film explored Diaz’s life, including her adoption by her grandmother and the limited contact she had with her birth mother.

In 2020, Diaz made headlines by winning the 18th season of American Idol, which had to adapt to virtual performances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her raw talent and emotional performances resonated with the judges and viewers alike, propelling her to victory. She signed a record deal, but left the without releasing an album and ended up owing the label money.

Last year, Diaz took to Instagram to say she had fallen on hard times.

“I thought it was gonna be easy,” she said in an Instagram Story. “Just go to the studio, record, put out music, and that’s not how the world works. That’s not how the industry works. It takes time, it takes money that I don’t have. It takes patience.”

News of Diaz’s latest return to subway singing comes on the same week that American Idol crowned season 21 winner Iam Tongi.