Paula Abdul (age: 56) is an American dancer, choreographer, singer, actress, former Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader, and television personality known for her singles Straight Up, Forever Your Girl, Cold Hearted, Opposites Attract and as judges on American Idol, The X Factor, Live to Dance, and So You Think You Can Dance.
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Paula Abdul Bio
Paula Abdul (born June 19, 1962) is an American dancer, choreographer, singer, actress, and television personality. She began her career as a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers at the age of 18 and later became the head choreographer for the Laker Girls, where she was discovered by The Jacksons. After choreographing music videos for Janet Jackson, Abdul became a choreographer at the height of the music video era and soon thereafter she was signed to Virgin Records. Her debut studio album Forever Your Girl (1988) became one of the most successful debut albums at that time, selling 7 million copies in the United States and setting a record for the most number-one singles from a debut album on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Straight Up”, “Forever Your Girl”, “Cold Hearted”, and “Opposites Attract”. Her six number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 tie her with Diana Ross for seventh among the female solo performers who have topped the chart.
Abdul was one of the original judges on the television series American Idol from 2002 to 2009, and has since appeared as a judge on The X Factor, Live to Dance, and So You Think You Can Dance. Notably, she received choreography credits in numerous films, including Can’t Buy Me Love (1987), The Running Man (1987), Big (1988), Coming to America (1988), Action Jackson (1988), The Doors (1991), Jerry Maguire (1996), and American Beauty (1999). She has received five MTV Video Music Award nominations, winning twice, as well as receiving the Grammy Award for Best Music Video for “Opposites Attract” in 1991. She received the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography twice for her work on The Tracey Ullman Show, and her own performance at the American Music Awards in 1990. Abdul was honored with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and is the first entertainer to be honored with the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards’ Hall of Fame Award.
1982–1986: Career beginnings
Abdul was discovered by The Jacksons, after a few of the band members had watched her while attending a Los Angeles Lakers game. She was signed to do the choreography for the video to their single “Torture”. Abdul recalled feeling intimidated by having to tell the Jacksons how to dance, stating that she was “not quite sure how [she] got through that.” The success of the choreography in the video led to Abdul’s career as choreographer of music videos, notably Janet Jackson‘s “Nasty” and “Control” videos. It was also due to the success of the video that Abdul was chosen to be the choreographer for the Jacksons’ Victory tour. Abdul also choreographed sequences for the giant keyboard scene involving Tom Hanks’s character in Big (1988).
1987–1999: Forever Your Girl, Spellbound and Head over Heels
In 1987, Abdul used her savings to make a singing demo. Soon thereafter, she was signed to the newly formed Virgin Records by Jeff Ayeroff, who had worked in marketing at A&M Records with Janet Jackson. Although she was a skilled dancer and choreographer, Abdul was a relatively untrained singer, and worked with various coaches and record producers to develop her vocal ability, with her vocal range defined as mezzo-soprano. Ayeroff recalled signing Abdul to a recording contract years later, stating: “She said, ‘I can sing, you know. I want to do an album.’ Paula’s in our industry. Here’s someone with a personality and she’s gorgeous, and she can dance. If she can sing, she could be a star. So she went into the studio and cut a demo record and she could sing.”Her debut studio album, Forever Your Girl (1988), would become the most successful debut album in history at that time, reaching number one on the Billboard 200 chart after 64 weeks (where it would spend 10 weeks at number one), and 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 certified platinum in 1989. A remix album, Shut Up and Dance: Mixes, was also released and reached number seven in the United States, becoming one of the most successful remix albums to date. At the 32nd Grammy Awards, Abdul won her first Grammy for Best Music Video for “Opposites Attract”. She was also nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “Straight Up”, but lost to Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time”. In 1991, singer Yvette Marine filed a lawsuit against Abdul and the Virgin label, alleging that it was her vocals that were used on several tracks from Forever Your Girl, most notably “Opposites Attract”. A jury sided with Abdul and the label two years later in 1993, rejecting Marine’s claim to credit and copyright compensation.
Abdul saw continued success with her second studio album Spellbound (1991), which saw two additional number-one singles: “Rush Rush” and “The Promise of a New Day”. Spellbound retained the dance-pop sound from Forever Your Girl and introduced elements of R&B, and sold 7 million copies worldwide. The music video for “Rush Rush” featured a Rebel Without a Cause motif, starring Keanu Reeves in the James Dean role. The album’s other singles, “Vibeology” and “Will You Marry Me?”, saw moderate success on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching the top 20. In 1991, Abdul starred in a popular Diet Coke commercial in which she danced with a digital image of her idol, a young Gene Kelly. Abdul was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December 1991. Abdul promoted Spellbound through the Under My Spell Tour, which was named by an MTV contest for fans. The tour was nearly cancelled due to an accident during rehearsals, but began on schedule in October 1991 and concluded in August 1992.
After her initial period of professional success, Abdul’s career entered a brief hiatus while she sought treatment for personal and physical issues. Her third studio album, Head over Heels (1995), retained both pop and R&B elements and saw moderate commercial success, peaking at number 18 on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States and later becoming her lowest-selling release. The lead single from Head over Heels, “My Love Is for Real”, featured a fusion of R&B and traditional Middle Eastern instruments, and was performed with Yemeni-Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Its accompanying Lawrence of Arabia-inspired music video was played in theaters across the world as a prologue to the film Clueless. The single performed well on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart, where it reached number one, and peaked at number 28 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Crazy Cool” and “Ain’t Never Gonna Give You Up” served as the album’s second and third singles. To date, Head over Heels has sold over 500,000 copies in the United States. In 1995, Abdul released a dance workout video entitled Paula Abdul’s Get Up and Dance! (re-released on DVD in 2003), a fast-paced, hip-hop style workout. In 1997, Abdul co-wrote a song called “Spinning Around” with record producer and composer Kara DioGuardi, which was intended to be her comeback single from a new album, but the plan never materialized and the song was later given to Kylie Minogue. That year, Abdul appeared in the ABC television film Touched By Evil, playing a businesswoman who discovers that her boyfriend is a serial rapist. In 1998, she released a second workout video called Cardio Dance (re-released on DVD in 2000). Thereafter, Abdul served as the choreographer for several film and theater productions, including the 1998 musical Reefer Madness and the cheerleading scenes in American Beauty (1999).
2000–2009: American Idol, Hey Paula and return to music
In 2000, Virgin Records, with whom Abdul was already no longer affiliated, released the first of two compilation albums by Abdul, Paula Abdul: Greatest Hits. Abdul co-produced the 2001 pilot for Skirts, an MTV television series about a high school cheerleading squad; Abdul was also set to appear as the head coach. The pilot never aired. In 2002, she began appearing as one of three judges on the Fox reality competition series American Idol, where she won praise as a sympathetic and compassionate judge and mentor. She seemed especially kind compared to fellow judge Simon Cowell, who was often blunt in his appraisals of the contestants’ performances. When she realized that Cowell’s over-the-top judging style was heartbreaking for many young contestants, Abdul was horrified and she considered leaving the series. Although their differences often resulted in extremely heated on-air exchanges and confrontations, Cowell says he played a major role in convincing Abdul not to leave the series. While serving as a judge on American Idol, Abdul accepted a second assignment as reporter for Entertainment Tonight. In December 2005, Abdul launched a cheerleading/fitness/dance DVD series called Cardio Cheer, which is marketed to children and teenage girls involved with cheerleading and dance. Abdul also choreographed The King’s touchdown celebration, as seen in a string of Burger King television commercials that aired during the 2005–06 NFL season.
A second compilation album, Greatest Hits: Straight Up!, was released in 2007 by the Virgin label, who also made all of Abdul’s releases under their label available for digital download on iTunes. That year, Bravo began airing a reality television series centered around Abdul, Hey Paula, which followed her through her day-to-day life. Abdul’s behavior as depicted on the series was described as “erratic” by comedian Rosie O’Donnell and was criticized by audiences and critics, and Hey Paula was cancelled after a single season.
In 2007, Paula Abdul Jewelry launched its nationwide consumer debut on QVC, with the tagline “fashion jewelry designed with heart and soul.” Abdul’s first QVC appearance resulted in 15 sellouts of her first jewelry collection involving more than 34,000 pieces. In 2008, Abdul returned to music charts for the first time in nearly thirteen years with the single “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow”, the first track on the album Randy Jackson’s Music Club Vol. 1. The song debuted on On Air with Ryan Seacrest, and Abdul performed it during the pre-game show for Super Bowl XLII.”Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” was a modest comeback hit for Abdul, peaking at number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 11 on iTunes, and number 2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. The moderate success led to reports of Abdul beginning work on a new album, but this never materialized. Abdul also made a brief guest appearance on an episode of the British television series Hotel Babylon, which aired in the United Kingdom in February 2008.
In January 2009, Abdul hosted “RAH!,” a cheerleading competition on MTV. “RAH!” featured five collegiate squads competing in a series of challenges with Abdul crowning one the winner. In May 2009, Abdul debuted her latest original song to date, “I’m Just Here for the Music” (originally an unreleased song from Kylie Minogue‘s ninth album Body Language) on the Ryan Seacrest Radio KIIS-FM show and performed the single on the American Idol. “I’m Just Here for the Music” reached number 87 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Abdul’s fifteenth song to appear on the chart.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in July 2009, Abdul’s manager David Sonenberg told the newspaper that, “Very sadly, it does not appear that she’s going to be back on Idol.” This came about as a result of stalled negotiations between Abdul and the series. In August, after numerous contract negotiations, Abdul confirmed that she would not be returning to Idol for its ninth season.The Times cited reports Abdul had been earning as much as $5 million per season and that she was reportedly seeking as much as $20 million to return. Abdul was replaced by Ellen DeGeneres. Abdul claimed her departure from Idol was not about money, but that she had to stand on principle.
2010–present: Live to Dance, The X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance
In January 2010, Abdul presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to choreographer Julie McDonald at the 11th Anniversary show of The Carnival: Choreographer’s Ball. In November, Abdul launched and co-founded AuditionBooth.com, a website that allows aspiring talents to connect with casting directors, producers, and managers.
In January 2011, Abdul began appearing on the short-lived CBS reality competition series Live to Dance, where she was also an executive producer. Abdul said that unlike American Idol, Live to Dance is less about “competition” and more about “celebration.” After its first season of seven episodes, it was cancelled by CBS. In May 2011, it was announced that Abdul would rejoin Simon Cowell on the first season of the American edition of The X Factor. In January 2012, Abdul announced that she would not be returning as a judge for the series’ second season. Abdul was replaced by Demi Lovato. In October 2012, Abdul served as a guest judge during week four of the All-Stars version of Dancing with the Stars. In April 2013, Abdul appeared on the Top 5 results show of season 12 of American Idol to compliment contestant Candice Glover on her performance of “Straight Up”.
On July 9, 2013, Abdul was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance (season ten). In October 2013, Abdul was named as a judge on the revamped So You Think You Can Dance Australia, which aired on Australia’s Network Ten from February 9 through May 1, 2014. Abdul was present as a permanent member of the judge’s panel for all episodes of this season. Details about the likelihood of the show’s return for a fifth season, and of Abdul’s continued involvement with it, have yet to be released. She later became a permanent judge of the American version starting with its twelfth season. In January 2017, Abdul announced that she would not be returning as a judge for its fourteenth season because of her tour schedule.
In April 2014, Abdul was a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, which reunited her with previous Idol contestant Adore Delano. In June 2014, Abdul made a cameo appearance on the Australian soap opera Neighbours and shared scenes with established character Karl Kennedy (Alan Fletcher). In 2015, Abdul made a guest appearance on the comedy sitcom Real Husbands of Hollywood on its season 4 premiere. She was shown in a comedic scene with Arsenio Hall where she was trying to kick Hall out of her pool house. On November 16, 2015, Abdul along with Charles “Chucky” Klapow, Renee Richie and Nakul Dev Mahajan won the World Choreography Award for Outstanding Choreography Digital Format for the video ‘Check Yourself’. On November 22, 2015, Abdul and Donnie Wahlberg presented Favorite Female Artist – Pop/Rock at the 43rd American Music Awards; the award Abdul won at the 1990 AMAs, presented to her by Wahlberg. On August 6, 2016, Abdul performed a full 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 be touring with them and Boyz II Men on their Total Package Tour in 2017; her first tour in 25 years. The tour began on May 12 in Columbus, Ohio and concluded on July 16, 2017 in Hollywood, Florida, for a total of 47 shows. In an interview with Elle magazine, Abdul stated there were “many reasons” she decided to return to the stage after over two decades, saying: “I took a long break and had sustained some injuries in the past. Then I returned to television with American Idol and that took up a good decade of my life. Then I went out to do some more television, as well. I always wanted to get back on stage, because I missed it. I wanted to get back in close contact with the people who have supported me all throughout my career and be able to see them again. Plus, I was getting asked all the time if I would ever do it again! I finally said, You know what, I want to and I’m going to make it a priority. I’m really passionate about it and it’s fun, and I want to connect with my fans around the country.” In July 2018, Abdul announced that she would embark on a solo headlining tour across North America that fall, entitled Straight Up Paula!, as part of the celebration of the 30th anniversary of her debut studio album Forever Your Girl. The tour is scheduled to begin in Morristown, New Jersey on October 3 and conclude in Indio, California on November 17, 2018, for a total of 27 shows.
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