‘American Idol’ Winner Just Sam Working on Comeback After Return to Subway Singing

Just Sam (Credit: YouTube/American Idol)

After revealing that they were back to performing in New York City subways for donations, 2020 American Idol winner Samantha “Just Sam” Diaz says a comeback is underway.

The 24-year-old singer spoke with TMZ Live on Friday, and shared that winning a singing competition like American Idol isn’t always what everyone imagines, especially under unique and challenging circumstances.

“I was the only American Idol in history to win in the middle of, or the beginning of COVID, and everything was shut down,” Sam said. “People didn’t want to work directly in studios right away. People were still trying to figure out how to get back to whatever ‘normal’ was going to be, and it took a few months before I even got into the studio.”

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The non-binary artist also admitted to blindly signing a recording contract, which made things more complicated.

“I definitely know now I have to read more, contracts are something serious,” Sam said.

After posting videos on Instagram last month and admitting that they were singing in the subway to make ends meet, Sam said things are finally looking up.

“Lil Durk reached out to me, just to show love. I was recently on Timbaland’s live on TikTok,” Sam shared. “So many people are reaching out and I have opportunities that my team and I are working on collaborations, that we’re working on making happen soon.”

When Sam won season 18 of American Idol, they signed a record deal but left without releasing an album, and ended up owing the label money. Last year Sam posted a since-deleted video of themselves singing while wearing a uniform and working in a coffee shop.

Raised in Harlem, the aspiring artist got their start performing on subway trains.

Sam’s story was documented in the 2018 short film Sam, Underground, directed by Ladan Osman and Joe Penney. The film explored Diaz’s life, including being adopted by their grandmother and having limited contact with their birth mother.