Paula Abdul

Missing image
Paula Abdul, in a television interview with Ann Curry, 2003.

Paula Julie Abdul (born June 19, 1962 in San Fernando, California) is an American dancer, choreographer, singer, and television personality who began her career as the head cheerleader and choreographer for the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. Her mother is French-Canadian; her father is of Syrian Sephardic Jewish origin.

She started choreographing the live to tour for The Jacksons, and got her big break as the choreographer for the 1980s videos of singer Janet Jackson. In 1988, she released her debut album Forever Your Girl and, after a fairly long time, became a smash hit star. The album spawned five American Top Five singles (out of just ten songs): "Forever Your Girl", "Opposites Attract", "Straight Up", "Cold Hearted", and "The Way That You Love Me". A remix album, Shut Up and Dance, was also released. The video for "Opposites Attract" featured an animated cat named MC Skat Kat. In a sign of Paula's enormous popularity, even MC Skat Kat went on to record his own solo album later that year, though she did not appear on it.

Her follow-up album, Spellbound, is often overlooked in musical history. Abdul made such an impact in late-1980s music that when her second effort was released in the early 1990s, everyone assumed it would be less successful. Instead, it unleashed the American Top Ten ten hits "Rush, Rush", "Vibeology", "Promise of a New Day", "Will U Marry Me", and "Blowing Kisses in the Wind". The single "Rush, Rush" surprised many fans and critics at the time of its release, not only for its lush, stripped-down production values and engaging lyrics, but also because it was a ballad. Prior to the release of "Rush, Rush", many critics had labeled Paula Abdul as a dance artist with limited vocal range who relied solely on choreography and visually appealing music clips. The album Spellbound, though it retained much of the dance-oriented formula heard on her debut album, included songs from "Rush, Rush" to "Alright Tonight" that showcased her growing versatility as an artist and vocalist. Even more interesting is the funk-laden track "U", which was penned by Prince.

As Abdul's image shifted slowly from "beautiful" to "sexy", gossip began to circulate about her weight. At only 5 ft 2 in (157 cm), Abdul did not have the height commonly associated with dancers and choreographers. In her music video for "Promise of a New Day", camera angles were used to pinch the screen image, and tabloids claimed this was because of Abdul's weight. Then, in an appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards, Abdul did a live performance of "Vibeology" wearing a sequined bustier/swimsuit outfit that revealed she had, indeed, put on weight. This seemed to have a dramatic impact on her popularity.

Abdul took a break from the business and resurfaced in 1993 with an exercise video. In 1995 Abdul participated in an ABC television interview with Diane Sawyer in which she discussed her weight problem and her personal battles with bulimia.

In 1995 Abdul released her fourth album, Head Over Heels. With modest radio hits with the singles "My Love Is for Real", "Crazy Cool", and "Ain't Never Gonna Give You Up", she showed that she was still able to create popular music while moving with the times. The first single off the album, "My Love Is for Real", is unique among her catalogue of songs. Its fusion of R&B and traditional Middle Eastern instruments with its accompanying Lawrence of Arabia-inspired music video had all the trappings of a marketable hit single. However, the single stalled in the American Top 30. In the follow-up to the single "My Love Is for Real", Abdul's image became much more sexual, and she was seen scantily clad in her music video "Crazy Cool", riding a mechanical bull and pouring beer over her t-shirt and breasts. The album did not sell even remotely as well as previous efforts, and it seemed due in great part to her new image. Furthermore, many fans believe the four-year hiatus between the release of the album Spellbound and Head Over Heels may have put a chill on her core record-buying public, affecting the overall success of Head Over Heels.

Nevertheless, the album Head Over Heels remains her lengthiest in terms of the number of tracks. The album also spawned three b-sides: "Didn't I Say I Love You" (B-side to "My Love Is for Real"), "Crazy Love", and "High School Crush". The latter two were featured on the Japanese import album of Head Over Heels, a highly prized and now-rare collectible item among Paula Abdul fans.

Abdul had never had a real career as an actress, barring an appearance as Sherri in a low-budget musical movie from 1978 called Junior High School. In an attempt to revitalize her career as a performer, she began accepting acting roles, starting with the television movie Touched by Evil in 1997. In a genre that is hardly well respected to begin with, her performance (as a rape victim who discovers her boyfriend was her rapist) was rejected by both fans and critics. (In particular, fans were disgusted to see their favorite sweetheart-singer discuss performing fellatio on a character, only to eject the semen into a film canister as proof of his rape crimes.) Another made-for-TV movie, The Waiting Game (1988), was neither panned nor praised.

In the year 2000, the CD Greatest Hits was released. It featured an array of hit singles from all three of Abdul's previous albums, as well as other noteworthy tracks. The song "Bend Time Back Round", included on the CD, had only been heard previously on the 1993 soundtrack of the hit television series Beverly Hills 90210.

In 2002, Abdul was offered the job as one of the three primary judges for the reality TV competition American Idol. Here, Abdul's job was to judge the talent of a group of young amateur singers and eventually whittle the group down to just one performer, the "idol" in question. Abdul, who had seemingly emerged from obscurity, won praise as a sympathetic and compassionate judge (especially as paired with Simon Cowell, who was often cruelly blunt in his appraisals of the contestants' performances). Abdul began to resurface at awards shows and was even given the job of co-anchor on the television magazine program Entertainment Tonight.

On March 24, 2005, Abdul was fined and sentenced to two years' probation for a hit-and-run incident in Encino, California. Abdul claims she did not notice the brief contact between her Mercedes and another vehicle as she was changing lanes.

In November 2004, Abdul had been diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Public concern rose as her behavior became erratic on a couple of occasions—during American Idol as well as during an April 2005 appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, when she appeared to be intoxicated.

In May 2005, ABC's Primetime Live reported second season Idol contestant Corey Clark's claims and corroborating evidence that he and Abdul had had an affair during the season, and that she had coached him on how to succeed in the competition. Abdul has dismissed Clark's claims as lies intended to secure a book deal.

Abdul was married to Emilio Estevez from 1992 to 1994.


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