The Many Talents of Paula Abdul

Abdul’s Early Life

Paula Abdul is an Arab-American singer, dancer, choreographer, actress, and television personality born on June 19th, 1962. She was born in San Fernando, California, and at an early age, Abdul started to take dance lessons in ballet, jazz, and tap. She went to Van Nuys High School, where she became a cheerleader and an honor student. At the age of 15, she received a scholarship to a dance camp near Palm Springs, and in 1978, she appeared in a low-budget independent musical film, Junior High School. Abdul graduated from Van Nuys High School in 1980 and studied broadcasting at California State University, Northridge. During her freshman year, she was selected from a group of 700 candidates for the cheerleading squad of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball team, the Laker Girls. Within a year, she became the head choreographer and remained with the Laker Girls until 1986.

Eventually, Abdul was discovered by The Jacksons, Michael Jackson’s family. She choreographed music videos for Janet Jackson and became a famous figure at the height of the music video era. 

Nominations and Awards

Abdul was one of the original judges on the television show American Idol from 2002-2009 and has since appeared as a judge on The X Factor, Live to Dance, So You Think You Can Dance, and The Masked Singer. She received choreography credits in numerous films, including Can’t Buy Me Love (1987), The Running Man (1987), Coming to America (1988), Action Jackson (1989), and a few others. She also received many awards and nominations, such as 17 MTV Video Music Award nominations, winning five, and the Grammy Award for Best Music Video for ¨Opposites Attract¨ in 1991. She also received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography twice for her work in The Tracy Ullman Show and her own performance at the American Music Awards in 1990. She was even honored with her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! She was also the first entertainer to be honored with the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards Hall of Fame Award.

Abdul’s Career – 1982-2016

When Abdul was discovered by The Jacksons, she was signed to do the choreography for the video to their single ¨Torture¨. Abdul mentioned feeling intimidated having to tell the Jacksons how to dance, saying how she wasn’t quite sure how she got through it. The success of the choreography in the video led to Abdul’s career as a choreographer of music videos. She also choreographed Janet Jackson´s ¨What Have You Done for Me Lately¨, ¨Nasty¨, and ¨Control¨ videos. Due to the success of the video, Abdul was chosen to be the choreographer for the Jackson’s Victory tour. She also choreographed sequences for the giant keyboard scene involving Tom Hanks’s character in ‘Big’ (1988).

In 1987, Abdul used the money she saved to make a singing demo and signed with the newly formed Virgin Records America by Jeff Ayeroff. Although she was a skilled dancer and choreographer, Abdul was a relatively untrained singer. She worked with many coaches and record producers in order to develop her vocal ability. Abdul later debuted with a solo album called ¨Forever Your Girl¨ in 1988, which would become a big success at the time. The album reached number one on the Billboard 200 chart after 64, staying at that same palace for 10 weeks. The album also set a record for the most singles from a debut album to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States. The album was later certified 7x platinum by the RIAA. At the 32nd Grammy Awards, Abdul won her first Grammy for Best Music Video for ¨Opposites Attract¨. She has also been nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. 

Later, Abdul continued to see success with her second album ¨Spellbound¨ (1991), which sold 7 million copies and scored her two more Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers. Her 3rd single, ¨Blowing Kisses in the Wind¨ reached number six for three consecutive weeks. Abdul also starred in a popular Diet Coke commercial as well in 1991, in the commercial she was seen dancing with a digital image of her idol, a young Gene Kelly. Abdul promoted Spellbound during the Under My Spell Tour, which was named by an MTV contest for fans. The tour had almost been canceled because of an accident during rehearsals but started on schedule in October 1991 all the way to August 1992 when it had concluded.

Abdul entered a brief hiatus from her period of success, dealing with treatment for both personal and also physical issues. Her 1995 studio album, ¨Head over Heels¨, became moderately successful, peaking at number 18 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. The album ended up being her lowest-selling release, selling 500,000 copies in the United States. From 1995 to 1998, Abdul released a dance workout video, co-wrote a song that was later given to Kylie Minogue, appeared in an ABC television film, released a second workout video, and was a choreographer for several films and theater productions.

In January 2010, Abdul presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to choreographer Julie McDonald at the 11th Anniversary show of The Carnival: Choreographers Ball. In November of the same year, Abdul launched and co-founded, which was a website that allowed people with talents to connect to casting directors, producers, and managers as well. 

Abdul’s Show Appearances 

In January 2011, Abdul started to appear on a short-lived CBS reality competition series called ¨Live to Dance¨, in which she was an executive producer on the show. Unlike American Idol, Live to Dance was more about celebration than it was about competition. After the first season, it was canceled. In May 2011, it was announced that Abdul would be re-joining Cowell on the first season of the American edition of The X Factor. In January 2012, though, Abdul announced that she wouldn’t be returning for the second season of the show.  In October 2012, Abdul was a guest judge during week four of the All-Stars version of Dancing with the Stars. On July 9th, 2013 Abdul was a guest judge on ¨So You Think You Can Dance¨ during season ten. In October 2013, Abdul was named as a judge on a revamp of So You Think You Can Dance Australia, which aired on Australias Network Ten from February 9th all the way to May 1st, 2014. She was presented as being a permanent judge for all the episodes of the season, but then later became a permanent judge of the American version of the show starting its 12th show. In January 2017, Abdul announced that she wouldn’t return as a judge for its 14th season due to her tour schedule. In April 2014, Abdul was a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race. In June 2014, Abdul made a cameo appearance on the Australian soap opera ¨Neighbours¨. In 2015, Abdul made a guest appearance on the comedy sitcom ¨Real Husbands of Hollywood¨ during its season 4 premiere. On November 16th, 2015, Abdul won the World Choreography Award along with Charles Klapow, Renee Richie, and Nakul Dev Mahajan. On November 22nd, 2015, Abdul and Donnie Wahlberg presented Favorite Female Artist at the 43rd American Music Awards. Abdul had won the award at the 1990 AMAs.

On August 6th, 2016, Abdul performed a headline set for the first time in 26 years at the Mixtape Festival in Hershey, Pennsylvania. In November 2016, New Kids on the Block announced that Abdul would join them on their tour with Boyz ll Men on their Total Package Tour in 2017. The tour would be her first one after 25 years. The tour first began on May 12th in Columbus, Ohio. The tour ended on July 16th, 2017, in Hollywood, Florida.

During an interview with Elle magazine, Abdul said there were many reasons why she decided to come back to the stage after over two decades. She talked about having injuries in the past and going back to American Idol, and how that had taken up a decade of her life. She went on to say how she had done more television but still always wanted to go back to the stage because she missed it. She had wanted to get back in contact with the people who supported her throughout her career. Abdul had gotten asked multiple times if she would ever go back to the stage, and in the end, she made it a priority to go back. So in July 2018, She announced that she would be going on a solo headlining tour across North America that fall as part of the 30th-anniversary celebration for her debut album ¨Forever Your Girl¨. The tour started on October 18th in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and concluded on June 7th, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Abdul performed a medley of her greatest hits at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards to close out the show. On May 1st, 2019, Abdul announced her first Las Vegas residency, Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl. The first leg started on August 13th and ended on January 2020. On June 7th, 2019, Abdul opened LA Pride. Abdul also performed at the fourteenth series finale of America Got Talent with Light Balance Kids, Brian King Joseph, and Tyler Butler-Figueroa to surprise Cowell. In October 2020, it was announced that Abdul would be a panelist for Fox’s reality competition, The Masked Singer. In April 2021, ABC announced that Abdul would return to American Idol as a guest judge.