It’s official: Just Sam (real name Samantha Diaz) is the winner of “American Idol” Season 18! This souful 21-year-old beat out runner-up Arthur Gunn and finalists Dillon James, Francisco Martin and Jonny West at the end of Sunday’s remote finale to claim the most coveted title in reality TV. Just Sam is now the seventh woman to win “American Idol” in the 18 years of the popular singing show, joining a list that includes Kelly Clarkson (Season 1), Carrie Underwood (Season 4) and Maddie Poppe (Season 16). See the updated winners list by clicking through our photo gallery above.
“My dreams have come true,” Just Sam exclaimed from home in Los Angeles, CA. She accepted her title remotely as the entire production had to go into quarantine due to the coronavirus pandemic. (See how live voting was affected.) Just Sam then joined judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan and former “Idol” contestants for an emotional re-imagining of “We Are the World,” the iconic anthem written by Richie and Michael Jackson.
The night started with Just Sam finding out she was in the Final 5 based on last week’s pair of performances: “A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes” as her Disney song and “I Turn to You” as her Mother’s Day tribute. The two aspiring singers who didn’t make the first cut were Louis Knight and Julia Gargano, which meant these talented crooners both tied for sixth place at the top of the show.
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Each of the Final 5 sang two songs as America voted in real time for the winner. Just Sam picked “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” as her celebration song (in a wink to original winner Kelly Clarkson) and “Rise Up” as her winner’s single. Host Ryan Seacrest then announced that Just Sam and Arthur had made it to the Final 2, so Dillon, Francisco and Jonny had to settle for a shared third place.
In our pre-finale predictions video (watch below), Gold Derby editors argued over whether Sunday’s champion would be Arthur, Francisco or Jonny — in other words, we were way off! Did YOU correctly predict that Just Sam would win “American Idol” Season 18? Let us know down in the comments section.