The world of popular TV and music is a tricky one that's more heavily represented by business executives and marketing teams that study demographics than actual artists, even if said artists are ultimately the products that are being shilled at the end of the day.
What usually happens as a result are certain "cookie cutter rules" that are implemented to make music acts "samey," but is that what happened with Just Sam, winner of American Idol's 18th season?
What happened to 'American Idol' winner Just Sam during her time on the show?
Singer-songwriter Samantha Diaz made history on the show for being the first gay winner of American Idol — however, she didn't come out until after she had won the competition. The Harlem, N.Y. singer-songwriter began giving strong hints as to her sexuality in the summer of 2020, before outright stating it on social media.
Just Sam's Instagram page has also underwent somewhat of a transformation following her American Idol days. She's deleted almost all content pertaining to the show following her win. There are a few posts that hearken back to some of the life-changing moments that the program afforded her.
Sam maintains that Idol did do wonders for her career, and she was signed to Hollywood Records following her top prize win on the show.
She shared on Instagram a screenshot of several Idol mainstays on a monitor with the caption, "If I can do it, you can do it too!" Her other Idol-themed post was a snapshot of her being embraced by Lionel Richie on the program in a birthday post dedicated to the "Dancing on the Ceiling" singer.
In 2016, Rolling Stone wrote, “Gay, lesbian and transgender performers have won Grammys, Oscars and topped the charts, but they will never win American Idol." While that statement turned out to be false, in a way the outlet was still technically right because Just Sam only came out after she was "done" with the show.
Some have speculated that showrunners may have asked Just Sam not to be openly gay, as they reportedly asked former contestant Jim Verraros.
It's said that the Season 1 contestant was asked by producers to delete an online journal where he said he was openly gay. According to Talent Recap, Jim "came out publicly [a year after appearing on Idol]. His response to keeping his sexual orientation private? He said that Idol had thought his sexual orientation would give an unfair advantage. Since this was Idol before social media, American Idol tightly controlled the media leak about contestants. 'Any story outside the Idol narrative was verboten.'"
Clay Aiken, the runner-up for American Idol Season 2, had come out following his tenure on the show. And Adam Lambert's sexuality was pretty much an open secret on the show, but he didn't outright say he was gay or not until a little while after the Season 8 finale.
Where is Just Sam from 'American Idol' now?
Sam has been consistently uploading material to her social media channels, and there's been rumors that she's been "dropped" by Hollywood Records, but there's no official release or statement to confirm those reports. She hasn't released a full-fledged album as of yet under the label, but she has posted some tracks online, like "The Christmas Song," which she recorded with Faith Becnel.