Was First LGBTQ ‘American Idol’ Winner Just Sam Forced To Hide Her Sexuality To Win The Show?
American Idol Season 18 winner Just Sam has officially come out, and she’s reportedly the first openly LGBTQ singer to win the show. The New York Post reported the milestone last month, and Sam has since posted about Pride Month.
The 20-year-old, whose real name is Samantha Diaz, also recently shared a cute Instagram snap with someone who might be her girlfriend.
Rolling Stones wrote in 2016, “Gay, lesbian and transgender performers have won Grammys, Oscars and topped the charts, but they will never win American Idol.”
They were wrong. But they were also sadly right. In 2020, we had our first LGBTQ+ winner, Just Sam, America just didn’t know it yet. While American Idol showcased all sorts of contestants there was always a special sort of meanness reserved for auditioners that fell into the queer end of the spectrum. “If you showed up in drag, if you lisped, if you were a boy winking at Simon instead of Paula, you were easy fodder for the cameras, but you weren’t going far.”
While some forget that the series had its first openly gay contestant in Season 1, Jim Verraros, who only made it as far as the Top 10. When The Advocate found his online journal, where he was public about his sexual orientation, and requested an interview, the show allegedly made Verraros delete the journal.
He came out publicly the next year. 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,” the article said and we couldn’t agree more.
Season 2 had Clay Aiken, who reached the Number Two spot while still being in the closet. “No matter if a performer was still in the closet during their run or not, Idol treated everyone as if their LGBT identity wasn’t part of their package for the show.”
Adam Lambert was the first drop in the discussion for the representation of LGBTQ+ contestants on American Idol. Although he wasn’t closeted in his private life, and when pictures of him kissing an ex-boyfriend surfaced during the season he didn’t deny them or diminish them. But no contestant has ever stood on the American Idol stage and said “I’m gay, vote for me.”
Just Sam had that chance and she didn’t take it. Maybe if she did say it out loud and proud, she won’t have won. And that is just the sad reality that probably Samantha couldn’t ignore.
Although her pride post made us all proud, it is still a metaphor that even though you march with a pride flag, your workplace’s unsaid rules still hold you back and the world around you still hasn’t caught up.
‘American Idol’ Winner Just Sam Comes Out As LGBTQ
Just Sam addressed her sexuality in an interview with the New York Post in May, saying she doesn’t want to put labels on her orientation, but she’s apparently not interested in men.
“I am a child of God, so that’s always gonna be first. That’s actually the only label that I ever want to have,” Sam told the publication. “But I like what I like, and that’s just that, you know? And it’s not men. Like, at all.”
She echoed a similar sentiment on Instagram earlier this month, sharing a photo of herself gazing down at a woman on the subway. Sam wrote, “I LIKE WHAT I LIKE,” adding the hashtags #LoveisLove, #pridemonth, and #pride.
Sam also posted about the subject on Twitter this week. She wrote, “I kissed a girl and i Liked it,” quoting Katy Perry’s iconic song. She added that “now some of the world don’t like it,” but shared, “They say it’s wrong, i say it’s right. God will still accept me tonight.”
Is This Just Sam’s Girlfriend?
The woman in the photo Sam posted earlier this month appears to be actress Shana Deandra, who recently attended a Black Lives Matter protest with her.
Shana has several posts on her Instagram featuring Just Sam, including one where she congratulates her for winning American Idol and calls her a “gift from God.” She also has a highlight on her Instagram stories from the protest they attended.
In another post, Shana and Sam chat in the car together. Shana captioned it, “My shadow.” However, it’s not clear if the pair is dating or just friends. One commenter wrote, “Sweet friendship,” and Shana replied, “yes.” She also didn’t reply to a comment asking if they’re dating.
Either way, we’re glad Sam is comfortable sharing her truth with the world, and wish her the best as she navigates her music career.