The American Dream: From Growing Up In Projects in Harlem to Becoming First American Idol Winner With African Roots


Liberian President George Weah has applauded the victory of Samantha Diaz, aka ‘Just Sam’, in the just-ended American Idol season 18 finale.

‘Just Sam’ grandmother hails from Liberia.

The 21-year-old former subway singer had a difficult childhood, with her parents not being able to take care of her and her sister. Both girls were adopted by their grandmother and  grew up in the projects, enduring a rugged life

In praising Just Sam, President Weah said her exploits on the world stage, coming after she lived a life of poverty on U.S. streets, demonstrates that “with hard work and dedication, we can achieve any dreams we set out for ourselves”.

President Weah further noted that Liberians and their offsprings who are engaged in different spheres of work are endowed with varying talents that should be celebrated, regardless of which part of the world they find themselves.

Just Sam wowed the show’s judges during her audition and Hollywood week, walking on stage with her trademark, “lucky box,” trumpeting her musical journey as a singer on the city’s subway and herald her comfort zone.


At her audition, Diaz broke down in tears after only singing a few notes of Lauren Daigle’s “You Say.” After a pep talk from Katy Perry, she composed herself, covering Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” to the amazement of the judges.

The road from there has been stellar.

During her performance in Hawaii, Diaz boldly took on Selena Quintanilla’s 1992 hit “Como La Flor,” despite reservations from her Mentor Bobby Bones about the risks of singing a song in a foreign language.

“I trust myself and my ability. I trust that I will impress the judges,” Diaz would later say.