In the 1980s her career rose rapidly, from being a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers to being a sought-after choreographer at the height of the music video era, then to being a pop music singer with a string of top hits in the late 1980s and early 1990s. After that she suffered a series of reverses in her professional and personal life, until she found renewed fame and success in the 2000s as a sympathetic judge on the highly rated television series American Idol.
Abdul was born in San Fernando, California. Her mother, Lorraine Rykiss, is a Jewish Canadian former concert pianist, and was born in Saint Boniface, a French-speaking area of Winnipeg; she once worked as an assistant to film director Billy Wilder. Her father, Harry Abdul, is a Syrian-Brazilian orphan who was born to parents of Sephardic Jewish descent; he was once a livestock trader and now owns a sand and gravel business in California. When Abdul was 7, her parents divorced. She and her sister, Wendy (seven years older), lived with their mother in the San Fernando Valley.
Although actually of Sephardic (through her father) and Ashkenazi (through her mother) Jewish descent, Abdul bears an Arabic surname and is commonly thought by the public to be of African-American or mixed-race descent. In an Ebony Magazine interview she says: "I'm Syrian-Brazilian-Canadian-American. I've had a lot of Black kids come up to me and say, 'You are Black! There's no way, no way [you are not Black]," and that's all right with me".
As a small child Abdul's interest in a career as a performer was inspired by Gene Kelly in the classic film Singin' in the Rain as well as such entertainers as Debbie Allen, Gregory Hines, Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Astaire, and Bob Fosse. In an interview in the May 1990 Ebony magazine, she says, when asked about black influence, "Absolutely....As a young kid growing up, I admired the talent of so many [Black artists]. Black kids identified with me because we all danced together, and we shared that love for art. My favorite artists were Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, the O'Jays—that's what I grew up on. That was my consciousness."
Abdul began dance lessons around the age of eight and showed a natural talent for it. She attended Van Nuys High School where she was on the cheerleading squad, played flute in the band, and was an honors student. At 15 she received a scholarship to a dance camp near Palm Springs, where she learned that her long-legged teachers stayed lithe by binging and purging their food, a practice that Abdul, who was extremely self-conscious about her weight, had been taught by her much taller fellow ballerinas, and which she herself began one night when she was 16 after eating out with her fellow cheerleaders.
Abdul enrolled at California State University at Northridge to study broadcasting. In her freshman year, she tried out for the Los Angeles Lakers' famed Laker Girls squad, and was selected from a pool of 700. Within three weeks she was made head choreographer. She quit school six months later.
Dancing and choreographyEdit
Abdul went on to serve as the choreographer for the 1980s videos of singer Janet Jackson. She also choreographed music videos for Duran Duran, Prince, The Jacksons, Jermaine Jackson, Kool & the Gang, the Pointer Sisters, Steve Winwood, Luther Vandross, INXS, Debbie Gibson, ZZ Top, George Michael and Dolly Parton. She choreographed and appeared in Toto's 1986 music video for "Till The End", Michael Jackson's music video "Liberian Girl", and Janet Jackson's music videos "What Have You Done For Me Lately" and "Nasty".
In film, Abdul choreographed the dance sequences in the films Coming to America and American Beauty, as well as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s touchdown celebration in Jerry Maguire, and the giant keyboard sequence involving Tom Hanks’ character in Big.
In December 2005, Abdul launched a cheerleading/fitness/dance/dance DVD series called Cardio Cheer, which is marketed to children and teenage girls involved with cheerleading and dance.
In 1987 Abdul used $35,000 in savings to make a demo of herself singing. Although her voice was relatively untrained, her exceptional dancing proved marketable to the visually oriented, MTV-driven pop music industry.
In 1988, Abdul released her debut album Forever Your Girl. The album eventually became multi-platinum in the spring and summer of 1989 and it spawned five American Top Five singles: "Straight Up", "Forever Your Girl", "Cold Hearted", "(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me", and "Opposites Attract". A remix album, Shut Up and Dance, was also released and reached #7 on Billboard's album chart. The video for "Opposites Attract" featured an animated cat named MC Skat Kat. As a sign of Paula's enormous popularity, the cartoon cat ended up with his own record deal later that year. Abdul's voice was sampled on one track and she appeared in the video for the first single.
Controversy erupted in Paula's music career when three weeks prior to the release of her sophomore album, Spellbound, backup vocalist Yvette Marine filed a million-dollar lawsuit against Virgin Records, claiming that the company had blended her voice with Paula's lead vocals on songs "Knocked Out", "Opposites Attract", and "I Need You" from Forever Your Girl. Marine claimed that she was inaccurately credited as a backup singer when she was really performing "co-lead" vocals with Abdul. Though not named in the suit, Abdul took the accusation as a personal affront. Virgin Records provided live recordings of Paula's vocals in court, and jury returned with a verdict in favor of Virgin in less than an hour.
Abdul's follow-up album, 1991's Spellbound, contained another string of hits, and went on to sell 6 million copies. Hits included "Rush, Rush" (which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five consecutive weeks, thanks to its George Lucas-directed video and its Rebel Without a Cause motif featuring Keanu Reeves in the James Dean role), "The Promise of a New Day", "Blowing Kisses in the Wind", "Vibeology", and "Will You Marry Me?". The first single, "Rush, Rush", was a ballad, which surprised many, as singers generally release an up-tempo song as a first single. The album Spellbound retained much of the dance-oriented formula heard on her debut album. The track "U" was written for Paula by Prince.
After the release of Spellbound, gossip began to circulate about Abdul’s weight. At only 5 ft 2 in (157 cm), Abdul did not have the height commonly associated with dancers and choreographers, but public perception of a weight problem on her part was fueled by the music video for "Promise of a New Day", and Abdul’s performance at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards. In the video, anamorphic lens compression was used to stretch images vertically on the screen. Tabloids claimed this was to make Abdul appear taller and thinner, and the video was parodied by the sketch comedy television show In Living Color for this reason. During her live rendition of "Vibeology" at the MTV Video Music Awards, Abdul wore a black one-piece rhinestone-studded leotard. A microphone pack poorly placed in a built-in pocket on the small of her back gave Abdul a round appearance, only adding fuel to the fire; morning radio hosts were merciless the following day. Abdul later spoke about her problems with food in an interview in the July 1995 Us magazine and an ABC television interview with Diane Sawyer in 1995, in which she asserted that although she had been both a "bulimic exerciser" and a member of Overeaters Anonymous since 1989, her weight never fluctuates by more than five pounds.
Abdul took a break from recording and resurfaced in 1993 with an exercise video.
In 1995 Abdul released her third album of original material, Head Over Heels. Modest radio hits with the singles "My Love Is for Real", "Crazy Cool", and "Ain't Never Gonna Give You Up" 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", featured a fusion of R&B and traditional Middle Eastern instruments, and was sung together with Yemenite-Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Its accompanying Lawrence of Arabia-inspired music video was played in theaters across the world as a preface to the film Clueless. It was a hit in dance clubs (peaking at #1 on Billboard's Dance Music/Club Play chart) but the single stalled at #28 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The second single, "Crazy Cool", was accompanied by a music video wherein Abdul is seen riding a mechanical bull and spraying Champagne over her breasts. Virgin Records, possibly counting on name recognition to move copies, did not put nearly as much muscle behind promoting the album, and Head Over Heels sold considerably less than her previous albums.
In 2000, Abdul’s Greatest Hits CD was released. It featured an array of hit singles from Abdul's previous three albums, as well as other noteworthy tracks. The song "Bend Time Back Round" had only been heard previously on the 1993 soundtrack of the hit television series Beverly Hills 90210.
Abdul has claimed several times that she is working on releasing another album (rumored to have the working title Paulatix of Love), although its release has been delayed several times. She originally signed with Mercury Records in 1997 and was going to release her album in Spring 1999, but the album was postponed due to the merger between Universal Music Group and Polygram (which owns Mercury Records), causing layoffs of many music acts, including Abdul. The second scheduled release date was the summer of 2000, but that release date was later cancelled as well. As of 2005, she is working with fellow American Idol judge Randy Jackson to produce her new album and hopes to find another record company to release it.
Abdul appeared as Sherri in the 1978 low-budget musical film Junior High School. In the late 1990s, she attempted to revitalize her career as a performer by accepting acting roles, starting with the 1997 television movie Touched by Evil, which she played a woman who discovers her boyfriend was her rapist. The film was rejected by both fans and critics. She later played Amy Fuentes in the 1998 made-for-TV film, The Waiting Game, which was released only in the UK, and received moderate reaction from viewers .
In 2002, Abdul appeared as one of three judges for the reality television music competition show American Idol. Abdul, along with fellow judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, was to evaluate the talent of a large group of young amateur singers, eliminate most of them in various audition rounds, and then judge the finalists as American television viewers voted on which finalists who continue to each successive round, until all but the winner remained. Abdul won praise as a sympathetic and compassionate judge, while garnering criticism for being too sympathetic with "bad" singers. Template:Citeneeded She seemed especially kind when her critiques were compared against those of 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 so horrified, she considered leaving the show. 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 walk off.
Now a bonafide television celebrity, Abdul accepted a second gig as reporter for Entertainment Tonight. She continued to attract attention during subsequent seasons of American Idol; her desire to find something positive in almost every performance, her emotion-laden praise for contestants whose style she really liked, and her unique fingers-bent-outwards handclapping style were all lampooned by Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live sketches.
During 2004, public concern for Abdul began growing as a result of some apparently erratic behavior during episodes of American Idol. When rumors of drug or alcohol abuse began to swirl, Abdul went to People magazine to explain that she had been diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy and was undergoing successful treatment.
In May 2005, ABC's newsmagazine Primetime Live reported claims by Season 2 Idol contestant Corey Clark that he and Abdul had had an affair during that season, and that she had coached him on how to succeed in the competition. The fact that Clark came forward at a time when he was marketing a CD and trying to get a book deal was seen as suspicious by some. For the most part, Abdul refused to comment on Clark's allegations. At the height of the debacle, Abdul appeared in a Saturday Night Live skit, making light of the situation. While Fox launched an investigation, Abdul received numerous calls of support from celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey; Barbara Walters even addressed the camera during an episode of ABC's The View to say she was ashamed to be part of an operation that would report Clark's flimsy tabloid claims under the guise of a news story.
In August 2005 the Fox network announced that, after hiring lawyers from two impartial law firms who conducted almost 600 hours of interviews with 43 people (including Abdul and Clark), no evidence was found to substantiate Clark's claims that he had an affair with Abdul or that she helped him during the contest. Abdul did admit to investigators that she had telephone conversations with Clark during the competition, but her account of those talks differed from Clark’s. The network confirmed that she would be returning to the show, as the investigation had found "insufficient evidence that the communications between Mr. Clark and Ms. Abdul in any way aided his performance." Season 5 of the show premiered on January 17, 2006, with Abdul reappearing as a judge.
On March 28th, 2006 FOX announced that Abdul had signed to stay on American Idol as a judge for at least 3 more years. [http://www.eonline.com/News/Items/0,1,18683,00.html?fdnew
Her early relationships included actor John Stamos and talk show host Arsenio Hall. Abdul was married to Emilio Estevez from April 29, 1992 to May 1994. In a June 19, 2005 People magazine interview, Abdul indicated the marriage failed because Estevez, who had two children from a prior relationship, did not wish to have more. She married clothing manufacturer Brad Beckerman in 1996; they divorced in 1998. In 2000 she dated Hank Kuehne, a professional golfer 13 years her junior, for about six months. She began dating millionaire Colton Melby, part-owner and then-president of Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation, in early 2003; they broke up in January 2004. In late 2005 she was reported to have ended a relationship with model Dante Spencer. Abdul has blamed her past relationship troubles, in part, upon the difficulty men have dealing with her career and her busy schedule.
On March 24, 2005, Abdul pleaded no contest and 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.
On April 4, 2006, Abdul filed a report at a Hollywood police station claiming she had been a victim of battery at a private party at about 1 AM April 2, according to police Lt. Paul Vernon. "According to Abdul, the man at the party argued with her, grabbed her by the arm and threw her against a wall," Vernon said. "She said she had sustained a concussion and spinal injuries." A few days later she appeared on "The Tonight Show" with Jay Leno making the same claims about the assault.
|Year||Album||US||UK||RIAA Cert.||worldwide sales|
|1988||Forever Your Girl||1 (10 weeks)||3||7x Platinum||17.2 mil.|
|1990||Shut Up and Dance (remix album)||7||40||Platinum||2.9 mil.|
|1991||Spellbound||1 (2 weeks)||4||3x Platinum||9.1 mil.|
|1995||Head Over Heels||18||13||Gold||3.4 mil.|
|2000||Paula Abdul: Greatest Hits||-||-||-||0.8 mil.|
|1988||"Knocked Out"||41||14||-||Forever Your Girl|
|1988||"(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me"||88||18||-||Forever Your Girl|
|1988||"Straight Up"||1 (3 weeks)||3||3||Forever Your Girl|
|1988||"Forever Your Girl"||1 (2 weeks)||28||24||Forever Your Girl|
|1989||"Cold Hearted"||1 (1 week)||19||42||Forever Your Girl|
|1989||"(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me" (re-issue)||3||-||74||Forever Your Girl|
|1989||"Opposites Attract" (duet with The Wild Pair)||1 (3 weeks)||24||2||Forever Your Girl|
|1990||"Knocked Out" (remix)||-||-||21||Shut Up and Dance!|
|1991||"Rush Rush"||1 (5 weeks)||-||6||Spellbound|
|1991||"The Promise Of A New Day"||1 (1 week)||-||-||Spellbound|
|1992||"Blowing Kisses In the Wind"||6||-||-||Spellbound|
|1992||"Will You Marry Me?"||19||-||74||Spellbound|
|1995||"My Love Is For Real"||28||1||28||Head Over Heels|
|1995||"Crazy Cool"||58||13||26||Head Over Heels|
|1996||"Ain't Never Gonna Give You Up"||112||-||-||Head Over Heels|
- Ebony Magazine; May 1990; ("The many talents of Paula Abdul: sassy entertainer gives expanded definition to term 'multiple.'" by Lynn Norment.)
- People magazine; June 19, 1995
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of number-one hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the Hot 100 (U.S.)
- List of Number 1 Dance Hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Dance chart
- List of artists who reached number one on the Australian singles chart
- Official website
- Template:Imdb name
- Cardio Cheer
- The Official Paula Abdul Fan Site
- Notable Names Database
- Paula Abdul: Showbiz Notes