Local Star ‘Just Sam’ of Douglass Houses Wins American Idol


Just Sam held an iPad in a FaceTime call with her grandmother as she learned the results.

Just Sam, a 21-year-old local musician who got started by singing in the subway, has won American Idol, the nationwide talent search to find undiscovered superstars.

Just Sam is from the Douglass Houses, a NYCHA-owned complex with 18 buildings between West 100th and 104th Streets. Residents there were big fans and helped inspire others to root for Sam, whose full name is Samantha Diaz.

Because of the coronavirus, Just Sam listened to the results on Sunday night by teleconference along with the rest of America. She held an iPad with her grandmother on FaceTime — a sign of just how connected she is to her family.

She gained a big following in New York, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer even posted updated about Just Sam in her daily coronavirus briefing — a small bit of happiness at a tough time.

Our reporter Michael McDowell was listening with Just Sam’s family. He shot the video below of their reaction, and we will have a longer story later today.

ART, NEWS | 21 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      Congratulations, Sam!

    2. Linda says:

      Congratulations,Sam! You nailed it, and are a bright and welcome inspiration, especially during this time of sadness and isolation. Best wishes to you from the UWS, NYC and New York State!

    3. Lady Di says:

      this is the best news I’ve heard in weeks! Am not far from the Douglass houses and I know they are no picnic. It is life-affirming to hear that this tenacious young woman has been able to overcome so many obstacles and managed to “keep the faith”. May this be a door opening to amazing things for her.

    4. D-Rex says:

      Some beautiful news for the neighborhood.

      Congratulations to Just Sam! (and Grandma!)

    5. CCL says:

      Incredible voice. Inspirational story. Happy for her and for all of us who needed a boost!

    6. AC says:

      Way to keep the UWS on the map! Well done young lady!

    7. Alison Pepper says:

      So delighted for Just Sam! Look forward to seeing our neighborhood celeb back home! Congratulations 🎊

    8. NYYgirl says:

      SO happy to see this outcome!!!! And especially now <3

    9. Judith says:

      She’s phenomenal!!! Amazing story and an amazing talent!!! So thrilled for her…and her grandmother too!

    10. Tracy says:

      Beautiful young person, beautiful voice. Uplifting for all of us.

    11. Cmartens says:

      So happy to hear! Congratulations Sam!

    12. Robin Rice says:

      We are absolutely thrilled that Just Sam won. She deserved it 100 per cent!

    13. JS says:

      Wonderful!! Nice news.

    14. Latrisa says:

      I am so happy Just Sam won ,she deserve it! She work so hard to get where she is now, and thanks to all of us who voted her in. Now she got greater work ahead of her. So go make songs for we Americans can by all your CD’s and we will see you next season for the final. I am still crying happy tears for you Just Sam!

    15. Janet Mac Millan says:

      I was so happy that Sam won. She was so deserving and had my vote through the whole season. We’re all so proud of you, Sam. Enjoy your new career and the sharing of it with your grandmother. 💖 Congrats!

    16. ST says:

      Yay!!!! Great News for New York and the Upper West Side. Congratulations and well done.

    17. carmen says:

      God bless this young lady. My husband is from Douglas Projects too. His father raised his family there. He was one of the first families to live there upon the opening of Douglas Projects. He also was blessed to have gotten job there as a housing custodial worker.I lived in the nearby Projects Wise towers. I know her and her family’s struggle and was reallll. God bless this young lady. I’m a believer you have to struggle a bit so you can have the ability and perseverance to work hard for your comings… and she did. God bless her grandmother for supporting her and her beliefs. The sky has no limits, REACH AS HIGH AS YOU CAN.
      Just Sam! ♥️ ct

    18. Ellen says:

      Something extraordinary does happen even in the midst of the pandemic. Good Luck to Sam and her family–go girl, fulfill your dreams.
      UWS Resident

    19. Linda Gaston-Sanders says:

      Congratulations Just Sam. I’m so proud of you.

      Love, Linda

    20. Kevin says:

      Congrats Sam from Connecticut you were my favorite from your first audition