American Idol‘s Season 18 winner, Samantha Diaz (better known as Just Sam), made a comeback on the show, performing on stage for the first time in years. Blavity reported that the singer had revealed that she’d returned to busking in New York to get by. 

According to Decider, Diaz sang Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time” while on the Idol stage on Sunday. The performance marked the first time Diaz was awarded the opportunity to perform on Idol, as the COVID-19 lockdowns forced participants in 2020 to submit their performances from home.

“This is way better than an iPhone from home,” they quipped to host Ryan Seacrest.

The performance blew judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie away.

“I ain’t got notes,” Perry said. “But, what I will say is, you 100% deserve that confetti. It was long overdue, and it looks so great on you. I’m just so proud of who you’ve become.”

Bryan added, “I’m so glad you had your moment. It’s so nice to sit here and hear your voice again in this room. You go through everything it took, from home to get you to win American Idol, for you to have your moment in time, it was really, really special.”

Richie added he felt like a “proud papa bear.”

“I’m so proud of you. I know the challenges that you’ve been through, and you have charmed us all,” Richie said. “The fact that you have now come back all grown up and solid as a rock, I can only say, God has his hands firmly on you.”

Diaz’s moment is well deserved. As previously mentioned, the singer has candidly expressed her struggles following her 2020 Idol win. They revealed in 2021 that they had parted ways with their label, Hollywood Records and 19 Recordings, and a year later, in a since-deleted Instagram post, that they were “broke” after attempting to finance an independent music career.

Since then, Diaz has signed with new management, and producer Timbaland and rapper Lil Durk reached out to work with her, The Washington Post reported.