Where is Just Sam now? Her post Idol struggles detailed

Samantha Diaz, known by her stage name Just Sam, won season 18 of American Idol. Her win felt all the more extraordinary considering that she mostly performed in her hotel room in Los Angeles due to coronavirus restrictions. Sam’s participation introduced her to the world, and she hoped that winning would usher in musical success. 

Before American Idol, Sam lived with her grandmother in an NYC project and sang in the subway to raise money. She memorably brought her busking box to her audition before the Idol judges. 

Unfortunately, Just Sam’s star faded after American Idol due to conflicts with her record label.

Sam released a couple of songs independently in 2021 and has returned underground

In 2021, Just Sam released two singles: Africando and Change, a song about breaking the cycles of violence. Sam shared on Instagram that the pain of losing loved ones to violence inspired her to write Change

“I felt it heavy in my heart to create music that was going to be for the people that were lost,” Sam shared. “All of the people that this song is going to be dedicated to were murdered.”

Sam lamented her losses and the losses of everyone else having to say goodbye to loved ones due to gun and gang violence. She continued:

“To think about how many people are burying brothers, mothers, sons & friends across this world due to gun violence and gang violence, it truly hurts my heart. I truly do hope to inspire people and get this message out there. Too many lives have been lost, but when will it end?”

Sam’s situation has forced her to return underground. In late July 2021, she released videos of herself singing on the subway, surprising online fans who hadn’t learned of her split with Hollywood Records. 

Sam stated in the comments that the videos posted were recorded before and after American Idol. “I knew that I would miss the trains… but I didn’t expect to miss it as much as I do,” Sam said (per Talent Recap).

She is struggling to release music after splitting with Hollywood Records

Winning American Idol invariably earns the victor a record deal; Just Sam signed with Hollywood Records. On a since-expired Instagram Live recording, Sam said that she thought it would be easy to record and release music, but the reality was different. 

“That’s not how the world works,” she said. “That’s not how the industry works. It takes time, it takes money that I don’t have. It takes patience.”

Sam said that after parting ways with Hollywood Records, she had to pay the label to claim the songs she’d recorded. Unfortunately, paying for her music proved expensive, and she couldn’t risk sacrificing food and rent for her music. 

“How can I put music before rent, I’d literally be back in the place that I was in before the show if I did that. And I tried, I really genuinely did try to pay off my music, the way that the label suggested after we parted ways. I tried their way and it did not work. I’m doing it God’s way. I’m trusting the process.”

Sam added that Hollywood Records only looked out for its interests, cutting her off from the proceeds of her music. She claimed that the label pulled her Rise Up performance from iTunes to prevent her from earning from streams. “Smart move Hollywood,” she said. 

Samantha’s still making music, but she laments that she invested in herself and ended up broke. “I am making music,” she stated. “I just cannot afford to release music, because mixing and mastering music costs a lot of money.”

Thankfully, Sam said that she was getting help from some people. However, paying most of her bills puts her at a disadvantage. She has no choice but to brave the situation, knowing that no one from American Idol is coming to help. Sam added:

“American Idol is not going to pay my bills. Lionel Richie’s not going to pay my bills. Katy Perry’s not going to play my bills. Luke Bryan is not going to pay my bills. I have to pay my rent. I have to make sure that I’m eating every day, which is hard to do.”

Despite her sad experience after victory, Just Sam is still a fan of American Idol

Just Sam still follows American Idol, despite her sad story post Idol success. In 2021, she talked to Talent Recap about the show’s unexpected decision to allow the top 10 of 2020 to battle it out for a spot in the top 10 of 2021.

“Juicy it was definitely juicy,” Sam said. “Just bringing back Arthur Gunn, Faith Becnel, and Cyniah [Elise]. That’s juicy. That’s really good stuff right there. That’s great for television.”

Sam rightfully predicted that fans would vote for Arthur Gunn to contest for victory in 2021. Gunn was the runner-up during Sam’s triumphant season. “If he made it to [the] top two, then he still has his top-two fans,” Sam said. 

Diaz said that she was a fan of all contestants but believed Gunn would win. However, a week later, she had a change of heart, stating that she was now rooting for Willie Spencer. She said:

“I’m sorry but I really don’t want Arthur to win this year. This year I’m rooting for Willie Spencer or I just hope that a newer contestant wins. Maybe if someone who didn’t make to top 5 came back instead, I’d feel better about all of this. I said what I said.”

Willie Spence performed brilliantly but fell short at the final hurdle. He was the runner-up as Chayce Beckham won American Idol season 19. Sam’s yet to offer her thoughts on the ongoing 20th season of American Idol