The 18th season of “American Idol” kicked off this week in hopes of finding the nation’s next big star and featured a New York City subway singer whose story was so moving the celebrity judges felt compelled to repeat a prayer of surrender to God with her.
ABC aired the testimony of Samantha Diaz, who goes by the stage name “Just Sam,” on Sunday night’s episode of the singing competition. In her promotional package, the 20-year-old aspiring singer from Harlem revealed she was adopted by her grandmother after being abandoned by her parents.
Diaz shared that her sole source of income was singing in the subways which actually provides enough money to support her family’s basic needs.
As she entered the audition room, “American Idol” judges and mega stars Katy Perry, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan warmly welcomed her. Auditioning for "Idol" was a dream come true for Diaz who said the opportunity would “change her life.”
She began her audition by singing Lauren Daigle’s “You Say,” but was so consumed with emotion that she couldn’t continue.
“This is really, really important, what you have, in my opinion,” Bryan told her. “A lot of people come in here and they haven’t lived the struggles you have. You have those qualities in your voice to tell stories and you can sing really beautifully too.”
Perry added, “I love your sweet personality. You do have a really good voice. Remember where you came from and sing to where you want to go.”
Legendary artist Richie asked her, “In your whole life, have you ever felt safe?” Diaz replied, “I feel safe when my grandmother hugs me.”
After simulating her subway introduction, the singer was able to gain confidence and belt out Andra Day’s “Rise Up.”
"I'm so grateful that God put you in front of us," Richie said after Diaz’s emotional performance.
In response to all of the support she was receiving from the judges, Diaz felt compelled to boldly ask if she could pray with the celebrities.
"Can I pray with you guys. Is that OK?" she inquired. “I have a prayer I want to do with you guys.
"So repeat after me,” she told the judges as they all held hands in agreement. “Heavenly Father, Lord make my life brand new right here, right now, with my friends and my new fam.”
Once the prayer was over, Bryan jokingly asked to go get "baptized."
"We've been saved again!" Perry shouted.
Diaz responded, "Thank you, Jesus!"
Perry was raised by Christian parents who are traveling Pentecostal ministers. She started singing Christian music but after not making it in that industry she turned to pop music. She has said that she no longer identifies as a Christian, but she has talked about faith on several occasions during last season's “American Idol.”