Samantha Diaz (age 20), a subway singer from Harlem, New York who wants to be known as “Just Sam”, had a remarkable audition on American Idol Season 18 (2020).
Just Sam lives with her sister and grandma in a public housing project and earns money by singing in trains. Her grandmother adopted her and her sister since their parents weren’t in their lives when they were growing up. Just Sam said she just wants to give back to her grandmother for taking care of her. She thinks that the opportunity of joining American Idol “is gonna change my life.”
On audition day at Washington D.C., Just Sam promised herself, “I’m gonna sing like I’ve never sang before.”
Facing American Idol judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, Just Sam started singing “You Say” by Lauren Daigle but was so overcome with emotions that she had to stop twice because her crying choked her up.
The American Idol judges told her to take her time and all of them got up from their seats to hug her. Luke Bryan said she thinks Just Sam will be amazing. When Just Sam said “It feels like a dream,” Katy Perry said “No, this is the good dream.” Lionel Richie said, “We believe in you.”
Just Sam asked if she can do her usual spiel when she sings on the train. And when the judges agreed, Just Sam continued with her audition, this time she sang an amazing cover of Rise Up by Andra Day.
Luke Bryan said, “A lot of people come here and they haven’t lived the struggles you have. You have those qualities in your voice to tell stories, and you could sing really beautifully too.”
Katy Perry said she loves Just Sam’s personality and that her voice is good. “Remember to sing where you came from and sing to where you wanna go.”
Lionel Richie asked if Just Sam ever felt safe. She said she feels safe when her grandma hugs her. She said she’s grateful, and then said sorry to the judges, saying she’s a cry baby and became emotional again. She said she’s not used to people caring without needing or just pretending to care.
“The reason I asked you that question is because I want you to feel safe,” Lionel said. He pointed to the other judges and said, “Uncle Luke, Auntie Katy and Papa Richie,” then hugged her again. He said, “We got you. And I want you to rely on us to coach you through this. And forget about winning. You’ve already won.”
Then, Just Sam asked to pray with the judges. After their short prayer, Katy Perry exclaimed, “We’ve been saved again!”
When the door opened with her friends waiting outside, Just Sam was holding her ticket to Hollywood and everything exploded.
Holding her ticket in hand, Just Sam said she’s going to make her grandmother proud.
American Idol Season 18 will premiere on February 16, 2020 on ABC television. Ryan Seacrest will continue his role as the show’s host and Bobby Bones will return as the in-house mentor.
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