Childhood & Early Life
Paula Julie Abdul was born on June 19, 1962, in San Fernando, California, USA, to Harry Abdul and Lorraine M. Rykiss. Her family is of Jewish descent and their ancestors came from Russia and Ukraine. She has an older sister named Wendy.
She studied at ‘Van Nuys High School’ and graduated from there in 1978. As she was an ardent dance enthusiast, she wanted to enter the world of showbiz from a very young age. She learnt ballet, jazz, and tap dance and was largely inspired by Debbie Allen, Bob Fosse, and Fred Astaire.
She was a cheerleader and an honor student in school. At the age of 15, she received a scholarship to attend a dance camp, following which she appeared in the musical ‘Junior High School.’
She enrolled at ‘California State University’ at Northridge, where she majored in broadcasting.
During her freshman year, she was selected from over 700 candidates to become a professional cheerleader or a ‘Laker Girl’ for the popular ‘NBA’ team ‘Los Angeles Lakers.’ The same year, she was made the head choreographer of the ‘Lakers Cheerleading Squad.’ This is when she realized her true calling and left the university to pursue a career in dance and choreography.
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During one of the ‘NBA’ games, Abdul was spotted by some of the members of ‘The Jacksons’ and was immediately offered a chance to choreograph their single ‘Torture,’ which became a huge success.
Throughout the 1980s, she was bombarded with opportunities to choreograph the music videos of a number of celebrities and singers. She was the official choreographer of The Jacksons’ ‘Victory’ tour.
In 1988, she released her debut pop album ‘Forever Your Girl’ which became a huge hit. Three years later, she released her next music album ‘Spellbound,’ which became one of the highest-selling albums at the time.
In 1995, she released another pop album titled ‘Head Over Heels’ under ‘Virgin Records.’ Some of the singles from the album became hit club anthems.
In 1995, she released a dance-workout video titled ‘Paula Abdul’s Get Up and Dance!’ Three years later, she released a second video titled ‘Cardio Dance,’ which also became a huge success.
She took a break from the music industry and began choreographing sequences for a number of theater and film productions, such as ‘Reefer Madness’ and ‘American Beauty.’
In 1998, she appeared as herself in the TV film ‘The Waiting Game.’ In 1999, she appeared in an episode of ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.’ The same year, she played ‘Sasha’ in ‘The Wayans Bros.’
In 2000, she entered the music industry and released the album ‘Paula Abdul: Greatest Hits,’ a compilation of all her songs to date.
From 2002 to 2009, she was part of a judging panel alongside Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson for the hit American reality series ‘American Idol.’ During this time, she released another CD titled ‘Greatest Hits: Straight Up!’ and also started her own jewelry line, ‘QVC.’
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In 2009, she hosted a cheerleading reality competition on ‘MTV’ called ‘RAH!’ She also came up with the single ‘I’m Just Here for the Music.’ The same year, she confirmed that she would not be returning as a judge for ‘American Idol.’
In 2011, she was taken on board CBS’s dancing reality show ‘Live to Dance’ where she served as the judge, creative producer, and mentor. The same year, she appeared as a judge alongside Simon Cowell on the show ‘The X-Factor.’ Singer Nicole Scherzinger and music executive L. A. Reid were the other two judges on the show.
In 2013, she appeared as a guest-judge in the tenth season of the dance reality show ‘So, You Think You Can Dance?’ She also appeared as a judge on ‘X Factor Around The World.’
In 2014, she appeared as the judge on the dance reality show ‘So You Think You Can Dance Australia’ and also served as a guest-judge in the sixth season of the popular reality competition television series ‘RuPaul's Drag Race.’
In 2015, Abdul made a guest appearance on the comedy sitcom series ‘Real Husbands of Hollywood.’
As part of the show’s closing ceremony, Abdul performed a medley of her greatest hits at the 2019 ‘Billboard Music Awards.’
Paula Abdul’s debut album ‘Forever Your Girl,’ which released in 1988, took nearly 64 weeks to peak at the number one position on ‘Billboard 200.’ However, it went on to produce some of her most successful singles, including ‘Straight Up,’ ‘Cold Hearted,’ and ‘Opposites Attract.’ The album was certified multi-platinum and went on to sell 12 million copies worldwide.
Her second album ‘Spellbound’ released in 1991. An internationally acclaimed album, it catapulted her to international stardom with hit singles, such as ‘Rush, Rush,’ ‘The Promise of a New Day,’ and ‘Blowing Kisses in the Wind.’ A triple platinum album, ‘Spellbound’ reached the no.1 position on ‘Billboard 200.’
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Awards & Achievements
In 1987, she won the ‘MTV Video Music Award’ for ‘Best Choreography in a Video.’ Titled ‘Nasty,’ the music video had Janet Jackson performing the dance moves.
In 1989, she won the ‘MTV Video Music Award’ for ‘Best Choreography in a Video’ for her single ‘Straight Up.’
In 1990, she won the ‘American Music Award’ for ‘Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist.’
She won a ‘Grammy Award’ for ‘Best Music Video, Short Form’ for her single ‘Opposites Attract’ in 1991.
She received a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ in 1991.
Personal Life & Legacy
Paula Abdul suffered from reflex sympathetic dystrophy after an accident while going about her cheerleading routine.
She claimed that she never abused prescription drugs and had to be on heavy medication after a car crash and a plane crash that required a number of surgeries and ingestion of painkillers.
In 1992, she married Emilio Estevez, but divorced him two years later.
In 1996, she married Brad Beckerman and the duo divorced two years later.
She has been at the apex of a number of controversies, including her alleged affair with ‘American Idol’ contestant Corey Clark, and relations with co-host Simon Cowell and a younger restaurateur named J.T. Torregiani.
She is an ardent dog lover and has raised awareness of the ‘National Guide Dog Month.’