Samantha Diaz, known as Just Sam, won season 18 of “American Idol” in 2020.
A native of Harlem, New York City, Sam told the “American Idol” judges about her background singing for money on subway cars in her emotional audition. Lionel Richie got up out of his seat to hug her after she sang, telling her he wanted her to feel safe with him, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan.
After winning “American Idol,” Sam eventually went back to singing on the subways, leaving some fans concerned. On an Instagram post with videos of Sam singing in subway stations, one fan commented, “For the love of God please don’t let this happen somebody please pick her up.” Another wrote, “You won Idol. You should be right up there with the others.”
In 2022, Sam revealed in a series of Instagram stories how she went broke paying off her old music label and how she’s still struggling to pay her bills.
‘American Idol Isn’t Going to Pay My Bills,’ Says Sam
On her Instagram story, Sam revealed that her “American Idol” win didn’t make the process of being a professional recording artist any easier. “I thought it was gonna be easy. Just go to the studio, record, put out music,” she said. “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.” (via Just Jared).
Although Sam signed with Hollywood Records after her stint on “Idol,” she left the label without ever releasing any music. “I’m not even going to tell you guys the amount of money that I had to pay after leaving the label to claim songs that I had already recorded,” she said on Instagram. She says she is still making music, but can’t afford to release it at the moment.
“Mixing and mastering music costs a lot of money,” she said. “And I invested in myself and ended up broke. That’s the truth. Not broke, broke – like I’m living. I have my own place.”
“I have people who are helping me. I’m putting out music when I can and when it’s ready,” Sam said. “It’s just hard because I’m coming out of pocket and I have bills to pay. And ‘American Idol’ is not going to pay my bills. Lionel Richie’s not going to pay my bills. Katy Perry’s not going to pay 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.”
Sam Revealed Hollywood Records Took One of Her Performances Off of Streaming Platforms
In her Instagram stories, Sam told her fans that it wasn’t her choice to take her performance of “Rise Up” by Andra Day off of streaming platforms. “Hollywood Records did that,” she said. “I don’t know the logistics behind it. I don’t know the legal side of things. But I believe that when we parted ways, in order for them to keep 100% of the money that was made from ‘Rise Up,’ I think they had to pull it from streams so that I wouldn’t get a cut, which is smart. Smart move Hollywood.”
She explained that her label did give her an option to pay them off for her music, but that it was too expensive to see it through. “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,” she said.