Paula Abdul might be turning 55 on June 19, 2017, but to us, she'll forever be that girl who danced around with MC Skat Kat. To celebrate her big day, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at Paula's life in the spotlight!
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Paula Julie Abdul was born in San Fernando, California, on June 19, 1962, to Harry and Lorraine Abdul. Her father was Syrian-born but raised in Brazil, while her mother was originally from Manitoba, Canada. Paula began dancing at an early age and at 15, she appeared in a low-budget indie musical film, "Junior High School." In 1978, after graduating from Van Nuys High School — where she was a cheerleader and was voted girl with the funniest laugh — she enrolled at California State University at Northridge to study broadcasting. During Paula Abdul's freshman year in college, she was selected from 700 applicants to cheer for the Los Angeles Lakers. Within her first three months as a Laker Girl, she was promoted to head choreographer. It didn't take long for Paula to drop out of school and pursue dance and choreography full time. And it's a good thing she did! While performing at a Lakers game in 1984, she caught the eye of the Jacksons, who asked her to choreograph their "Torture" music video. From there, she went on to choreograph the band's Victory tour, as well as videos for Janet Jackson, Prince, George Michael, Duran Duran and many other top acts. She even choreographed the giant piano sequence from the movie "Big." But Paula didn't want to be behind the camera forever.
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In 1987, Paula Abdul used her savings — $35,000 — to record the demos for her debut album, "Forever Your Girl." The album was released on June 13, 1988, eventually hitting No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and staying there for 10 weeks. It also spawned four No. 1 hits: "Straight Up," "Forever Your Girl," "Cold Hearted" and "Opposites Attract."
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At the MTV Video Music Awards in 1989, "Straight Up" won Paula Abdul four Moonmen: Best Female Video, Best Editing, Best Choreography and the first-ever award for Best Dance Video.
Paula Abdul wasn't just taking home gold statuettes for her music. At the 1989 Emmy Awards, she snagged an Emmy for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for her work on "The Tracey Ullman Show." The following year, she won again for choreographing the American Music Awards.
Paula Abdul's career wasn't the only thing heating up. In 1989, the singer dated Arsenio Hall, who would later call her amazing in bed. The following year, she hooked up with "Full House" star John Stamos, whom she dated for a year. And had it not been for the stress that the media attention put on the relationship, John has said, they would probably still be together today. Have mercy!
Paula Abdul cleaned up at the 1990 American Music Awards, winning in two major categories. The star got top honors for Favorite Female Artist in the Pop/Rock category and snagged Favorite Dance Artist at the ceremony early that year.
In May 1991, Paula Abdul released her second album, "Spellbound." Featuring tracks like "Rush, Rush," "Promise of a New Day" and "Blowing Kisses in the Wind," the album was packed with Billboard Hot 100 hits. It also contained the song "U," written by Prince, whom Paula had choreographed for before she became famous.
December 1991 was a big month for Paula Abdul. Not only did she receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (it's located at 7021 Hollywood Blvd., in case you ever want to visit), but her Laker Girl uniform was retired at the Staples Center in a ceremony hosted by Magic Johnson.
Through the years, Paula Abdul landed numerous endorsement deals, including with LA Gear and Reebok. Her most notable, however, is Diet Coke. In 1991, Paula "starred" in a commercial for the beverage with her idol, Gene Kelly. (Kelly's footage is from 1945's "Anchors Aweigh.")
Paula Abdul and Emilio Estevez began dating in 1991. Then, just as her song "Will You Marry Me?" hit the airwaves, the couple tied the knot in a simple civil ceremony on April 29, 1992. Sadly, the marriage didn't last long. She filed for divorce on May 10, 1994, citing irreconcilable differences. She wanted kids; he didn't. "It was very hard for him to admit that he couldn't handle having kids again," she has said. "It was heartbreaking for us both."
A few months after separating from Emilio Estevez, Paula Abdul — who had been suffering from bulimia for 15 years — checked herself into Laureate Psychiatric Clinic and Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. "I learned at a very early age I didn't fit in physically. I learned through years of rejections from auditions… I would ask myself, 'Why can't I be tall and skinny like the other dancers?" the singer told "Primetime Live" upon leaving rehab. "Battling bulimia has been like war on my body. Me and my body have been on two separate sides. We've never, until recently, been on the same side."
In 1996, Paula Abdul found love again, this time with Los Angeles clothing manufacturer Brad Beckerman, after they were set up on a blind date. It didn't take long for the couple to tie the knot. "I've loved you from the day we met," Paula said at their wedding. "You are my best of times." But the good times didn't last. After just 17 months, the couple split.
Between 1997 and 2002, Paula Abdul faded away in the entertainment industry. Sure, she did a bit of choreography here and there and co-wrote Kylie Minogue's "Spinning Around," but she wasn't the pop giant she once was. All that changed in 2002 when she signed on to be one of three judges for a new reality TV music competition show, "American Idol," along with Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. The show became a huge success and put Paula back on the map.
Part of the appeal of "American Idol" was Paula Abdul's chemistry with Simon Cowell. As the nice judge, Paula often clashed onscreen with mean judge Simon, but the two formed a strong bond. In fact, dating rumors followed them for years, in part due to pictures like this.
In March 2003, Paula Abdul found love with Colton Melby, president of gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson. The relationship fueled countless rumors: Did they meet through a high-end matchmaker? Was Colton still married to his ex-wife? Was he cheating on her with three women? In any case, they split in 2004.
No photo retrospective of Paula's life would be complete without showcasing her wacky fashion choices. Our favorite? Her prom-dress-inspired gown from the 2003 Emmy Awards, complete with tiara.
Simon Cowell isn't the only person from "American Idol" that Paula Abdul has been linked to. In May 2005, "Primetime Live" reported claims by Season 2 contestant Corey Clark (top left) that he and Paula had an affair and that she privately coached him on how to win the competition during his tenure on the show in 2003. Paula denied all of the singer's accusations. (Corey ended up being disqualified after making it to the top 12 after his arrest record came to light.) However, after investigating the matter, FOX found "insufficient evidence that the communications between Mr. Clark and Ms. Abdul in any way aided his performance."
"Opposites Attract" indeed! The 5-foot singer began dating 6-foot-2 model Dante Spencer in August 2005. "We were salsa dancing in L.A. at a club called Mood on Hollywood Boulevard," he told People of his and Paula Abdul's meet cute. "I saw her and went right up to her. Before I said one word, she turned around and said, 'Who are you?' And it's been great ever since." Not great enough. While he escorted her to the Emmys that year, their relationship didn't make it past New Year's.
In April 2004, Paula Abdul claimed to have contracted a bacterial infection from unsanitary equipment at a nail salon, which resulted in numerous hospital visits. So she made it her mission to crusade for stricter standards for nail salons. "Being a professional dancer, I'm no stranger to pain," Paula told the California Senate Business and Professions Committee in Sacramento in June 2005. "But this time the pain was so excruciating that even my hair touching my thumb caused me to scream." Earlier that same year in April, Paula also admitted that she suffered from reflex sympathetic dystrophy, a rare neurological disorder that causes chronic pain.
Paula Abdul hit a stretch of bad luck in May 2007. First, she tripped while trying to avoid stepping on her Chihuahua, Tulip, and ended up breaking her nose. "[Tulip] has no remorse," Paula told People. "She just stared at me." Ever the trooper, she was back to work in no time to watch Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis battle it out for the "American Idol" title. A few days later, a taped phone call between Paula and her reps — during which she's heard crying, saying that she's being mistreated by her publicist and talking about health problems — was leaked to the media. "I am deeply hurt and extremely disappointed," Paula told TMZ. "This is not only illegal but also highly unethical."
But Paula Abdul had plenty of time to give her side of the story when her reality show, "Hey Paula," premiered on Bravo in June 2007. The series was Paula's opportunity to showcase her private life as she worked on a new fragrance line and the "Bratz" movie, from which she was fired (while shooting her show!). Unfortunately, the series was a total disaster and portrayed Paula as an unstable, demanding diva. Paula was shown throwing tantrums, mistreating her staff and having emotional breakdowns. "That was hard for me to watch. Disturbing," Paula later told USA Today. "They'd put a camera on me when I got wind that my dog was in a coma, and they'd make it [seem] like it was about hair and makeup."
Paula Abdul quietly began dating restaurateur J.T. Torregiani in the spring of 2007. "He's a sweetie pie," she told USA Today. "He's a positive force that has come into my life right now. Where it leads, who knows?" Not very far. The couple split in 2008.
In November 2008, Paula Goodspeed, an obsessive fan of Paula Abdul's who had once auditioned for "American Idol," committed suicide in a car outside the singer-choreographer's house. "She had been writing disturbing letters for 17 years, almost 18 years," Paula told Barbara Walters. "We had restraining orders at times." And while Abdul protested, producers allowed Goodspeed to audition for Season 5 of "Idol" in 2006. "I really like Paula Abdul a lot," Goodspeed told host Ryan Seacrest. "She's very cool. I'm a really big fan. I make life-size drawings of Paula. I've been drawing ever since I was a little kid, and my first drawing was of Paula Abdul." After the suicide, Abdul moved to a new home.
In 2009, after eight seasons at the judges' table, Paula Abdul bid adieu to "American Idol." "With sadness in my heart, I've decided not to return to Idol," she tweeted. "I'll miss nurturing all the new talent, but most of all being a part of a show that I helped from day one become an international phenomenon."
Paula Abdul started 2011 with a brand new show! The star was tapped to be the lead judge on CBS's new dance series "Live to Dance." Aside from judging alongside Travis Payne and Kimberly Wyatt, she was also serving as executive producer, creative partner, mentor and coach on the show. Unfortunately for Paula, it was canceled after just one season.
In May 2011, it was announced that Paula Abdul would reunite with Simon Cowell for the American version of "The X Factor." But she didn't last long. Paula left the music competition show after just one season.
From one dance show to another! Paula Abdul was back at it in 2013, serving as a guest judge on Season 10 of "So You Think You Can Dance." The star joined resident judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy, along with other guest judges like Gabby Douglas that season. But this guest-judge stint would turn out to be a lot more permanent soon…
In 2015, Paula Abdul signed on to be a permanent judge for Season 12 of FOX's "So You Think You Can Dance." She joined fellow judges Nigel Lythgoe and Jason Derulo, whom she worked alongside for two seasons before leaving for another exciting career opportunity.
Full circle! In November 2015, Paula Abdul was tapped to hand out an award close to her heart — the American Music Award for Favorite Female Artist in the Pop/Rock category. Paula won the accolade back in 1990, and at the time, Donnie Wahlberg presented it to her. Both Paula and Donnie returned to the AMAs stage to hand out the trophy to the latest recipient a decade and a half later: Ariana Grande.
In May 2017, Paula Abdul headed out with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men on their "The Total Package Tour" as it traveled across the United States. It marked the first time Paula had hit the road in 25 years. Shows run throughout the summer of 2017.