'American Idol' Crowns Just Sam as Season 18 Winner

The American Idol Season 18 champion crowned Just Sam as its newest winner on Sunday night. Following the footsteps of some of the all-time greats from the series' long run, which includes Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson and more recently Season 17 winner Laine Hardy, the American Idol winner was announced and had audiences at home reveling in the announcement.

With the season needing to make a shift midway through the show following the Hawaii Round at the Aulani Resort, the Top 20 performed from the comforts of their home as opposed to playing on the big stage in Los Angeles. With things operating differently, the show was a bit different over the past few weeks, but it didn’t stop the ultimate winner from coming out on top. It ended up being Just Sam taking the title as the next Idol, outlasting Arthur Gunn in the final top two.

Coming into the night, seven finalists remained. The competition was chopped down by two as Louis Knight and Julia Gargano were on the outside looking in as the top five finalists were formed. Left standing were Johnny West, Dillon James, Just Sam, Francisco Martin and Arthur Gunn.

On finale night, Just Sam first performed "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson before choosing to sing "Rise Up" as her personal choice. The Harlem native had quite the story coming into this as evidenced by her audition round. Just Sam, whose birth name is Samantha Diaz, shared the story of being adopted by her grandmother after being in foster care.


In an interview with Good Housekeeping, Just Sam revealed that she has been conducting the at-home rounds at home in quarantine and not with her grandmother for her safety. She said it was a really hard decision. "I get to stay in California so that my grandmother could be okay and so I don't risk getting her sick," she said in the interview. "I don't have much, just my two suitcases that I had packed about two months ago."

As the winner, Just Sam will have her single for "Rise Up" released on Monday and will also appear on Good Morning America and Live with Kelly and Ryan the same day. American Idol was also renewed for a fourth season on ABC.