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Paula Abdul

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Paula Julie Abdul (born June 19, 1962) is an American Emmy Award-nominated, Grammy-winning, multi-platinum singer, choreographer, dancer, television personality and actress. In the 1980s, her career rose rapidly, from being a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers to being a highly 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 judge on the highly rated television series American Idol.

Early life

Abdul was born in San Fernando, California to Harry Abdul, who once worked as a livestock trader and owns a sand and gravel business in California, and Lorraine Rykiss, a former concert pianist who once worked as an assistant to film director Billy Wilder. Abdul's father is African-American but comes from a family of Syrian Jews who immigrated to Brazil, while her mother is also Jewish and from Saint Boniface, an area of Winnipeg, Canada.

When Abdul was seven, her parents divorced. She and her sister, Wendy, who is seven years older, lived with their mother in the San Fernando Valley. 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. Abdul, who was extremely self-conscious about her weight, had been taught this by her much taller fellow ballerinas, and she herself began at 16 after dining with 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 became head choreographer. She quit school six months later.

Dancing and choreography

Abdul’s high-energy, street-funk style delighted fans, including the famed The Jacksons Jackson family, who saw her perform at a game and then hired the 20-year old to choreograph a music video for their 1984 Victory (album).

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".

Abdul also choreographed the stage shows for Suzanne Somers and Toni Basil.

In film, Abdul choreographed the dance sequences in the films Coming to America, The Running Man and American Beauty, as well as Cuba Gooding Jr.'s touchdown celebration in Jerry Maguire, the giant keyboard sequence involving Tom Hanks’ character in Big, and The King's touchdown celebration, as seen in a string of popular Burger King television commercials that aired during the 2005-2006 NFL season.

Abdul won the 1989 Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for her work on The Tracey Ullman Show and the same award in 1990 for The 17th Annual American Music Awards.

In 1995, Abdul released a dance workout video entitled "Paula Abdul's Get Up and Dance!" (released on DVD in 2003), a fast-paced, hip-hop style workout. Subsequently she released another dance workout video in 1998 called "Cardio Dance" (released on DVD in 2000). 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 her savings to make a singing demo. 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 took 62 weeks to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart, the longest an album has been on the market before hitting #1. It spent 10 weeks at #1. The album eventually became multi-platinum in the spring and summer of 1989 and it spawned five American Top Three singles, four of them #1s: "Straight Up", "Forever Your Girl", "Cold Hearted", "(It's Just) The Way That You Love Me", and "Opposites Attract". Forever Your Girl was the first debut album ever to have four number one singles. A remix album, Shut Up and Dance, was also released and reached #7 on Billboard's album chart, becoming the most successful remix album to date. The Grammy award-winning video for "Opposites Attract" featured an animated cat named MC Skat Kat. As a sign of Paula's enormous popularity, the cartoon cat scored his own record deal later that year, becoming the first artist signed to Abdul's own Cative Records. Abdul's voice was sampled on one track and she appeared in the video for the first single.

Abdul also went on a Club MTV tour where she performed the songs off her album. Several other acts were also on the tour. Overall the tour helped raise Abdul's popularity even more.

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 music video and its Rebel Without a Cause motif featuring Keanu Reeves in the James Dean role), "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.

Abdul promoted the album through a tour called "Under My Spell Tour." This tour almost didn't happen because of an accident during rehearsal that was bad enough she almost had to cancel the tour. The tour went as scheduled anyway and ran from October 1991 to the summer of 1992.

Also in 1991 Abdul made a popular Diet Coke commercial in which through technology she danced with her idol, a young Gene Kelly.

Abdul took a break from recording and resurfaced in 1995 with an exercise video, Get Up and Dance.

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 Hot 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.

Although the album was less successful to a lot of fans it is considered some of her best work to date. Some people have noted the album didn't do as well because of the amount of time she took off between albums, the change in radio in the mid-90's, and also that some of the songs were just not as strong as her previous work.

In 2000, Abdul’s Paula Abdul: 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. The album was not a commercial success.

Abdul co-wrote Kylie Minogue's 2000 hit single Spinning Around, which was originally slated to appear on her new album in 2000.

Abdul appeared as Sherri in the 1978 low-budget musical film Junior High School. She also appeared uncredited in the 1987 film Can't Buy Me Love as a dancer. 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. She also appeared in several TV shows including The Wayans Brothers and Spin City. In 2007, Abdul signed on to produce and star in Bratz, based on the popular line of dolls.

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 would continue to each successive round, until all but the winner were eliminated. Abdul won praise as a sympathetic and compassionate judge, while garnering criticism for being too sympathetic with "bad" singers.She seemed especially kind when her critiques were compared against those of fellow judge Simon Cowell, who was often cruel 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.

In May 2005, ABC's newsmagazine Primetime Live reported claims by Season 2 Idol contestant Corey Clark that he and Abdul 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 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."

On March 28, 2006 FOX announced that Abdul had signed to stay on American Idol as a judge for at least 3 more years.

Abdul helped launch the The X Factor's third season, appearing at the London auditions as a guest judge alongside Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne. That first episode of the hit UK talent show aired August 19, 2006.

Paula Abdul was a special guest on the reality show Rockstar: Supernova on Tuesday, September 12, 2006.

She guest-starred in an episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch as herself during the 4th Season.

She appeared as herself in a single episode of The Simpsons.

Although Abdul is Jewish and of Sephardic and Ashkenazi descent, she bears an Arabic surname and is commonly mistaken as being part-black. Abdul once stated in an interview with Ebony magazine: "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." African-American supermodel Tyra Banks recently admitted during Abdul's 2006 appearance on The Tyra Banks Show that she too had thought Abdul was black prior to their first meeting.

Abdul was married to Emilio Estevez from April 29, 1992 to May 1994. In a June 19, 2005 interview with People Abdul stated that they broke up over the issue of children; she wanted them to have a child together, while Estevez (who already had two children from a prior relationship) did not.

Valentine's Day 2006, Abdul appeared on Dr. Phil as part of a primetime special on love and relationships. She was set up on two dates and Phil McGraw gave her advice.

Having recovered from her Eating Disorder after treatment in 1994, she later became a spokeswoman for NEDA, and was presented with the Profiles In Living Award in late 2005. She continued her work by recording Public Service Announcements in 2006.

On December 20, 2004, Abdul was driving her Mercedes on an L.A.-area freeway in when she changed lanes and hit another vehicle. The driver and passenger snapped a photograph with a cell phone camera and wrote down the license plate number of the car, which was traced to Abdul. On March 24, 2005, Abdul was fined USD $900 and given 24 months of informal probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor hit-and-run driving in Los Angeles. In addition to the fines she was ordered to pay USD $775 for damage to the other car.

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 L.A.P.D. spokesman 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."



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