Confetti didn’t rain upon Samantha Diaz when “American Idol” crowned her the winner Sunday night.
Instead, the 21-year-old subway singer from Harlem was standing alone in a rented Los Angeles apartment when host Ryan Seacrest, who was hosting from his own home, crowned her the winner of the latest season of “American Idol.”
Sunday night was the first time in the show’s history that a winner was crowned remotely.
When the novel coronavirus initially suspended the show’s production in March, Diaz — who goes by the stage name Just Sam — opted to stay in California rather than return to her grandmother’s home in New York City, according to Billboard.
The show ultimately decided to continue on with the live shows — but not without some major adjustments. The new format would involve contestants performing remotely from their homes and the entire crew working remotely, the Deseret News reported.
But there would still need to be a live announcement of the show’s winner during the final moments.
“That’s going to be interesting,” showrunner Trish Kinane told the Washington Post. “Let’s hope the Internet gods are with us.”
No one was there to hug Just Sam when Seacrest declared her the winner. But the singer, who was visibly shocked by the victory and repeatedly shouting “What?!” was clutching an iPad that showed her grandmother dancing and celebrating on video chat.
According to Billboard, the singer held up the iPad and said: “My dreams have come true. My grandmother is good. Thank you so much, America!”
Just Sam’s emotional audition for “American Idol,” which aired in February, has more than 3 million views.
“I feel like this opportunity, it’s going to change my life,” the singer initially said before her audition. “I’m going to sing like I’ve never sang before.”
Despite her popularity on the show, Just Sam’s victory was a surprise outcome, as 22-year-old Nepalese-American singer Arthur Gunn was the show’s frontrunner, according to the Washington Post.
The Post also reported that the finale ended in “mild chaos” as Seacrest looked dazed announcing the winner.
And as Just Sam celebrated, shots of the judges showed Lionel Richie giving a standing ovation; Katy Perry laughing as she disconnected her microphone pack; and Luke Bryan slowly clapping while looking off-screen, the Washington Post reported.
“American Idol” will return for a fourth season on ABC, according to Billboard. A premiere date has not yet been announced, and it is unclear if the show will wait until auditions can be done in-person or continue to film remotely, according to Entertainment Weekly.