Paula Julie Abdul was born on 19 June 1962, in Los Angeles, California. The daughter of Harry Abdul, owner of a sand and gravel business, and Lorraine Abdul, a pianist, Paula grew up in the San Fernando Valley. Abdul showed a passion for dance at an early age, and began taking lessons at eight years old.
In addition to her dance classes, Abdul was a conscientious student. By the time she entered Van Nuys High School, she was an honor student and cheerleader. At 15, she received a scholarship to a Palm Springs dance camp, and appeared in the 1978 musical film ‘Junior High School’, with several other Van Nuys students.
After high school, Abdul continued her studies at California State University in Northridge, where she majored in communications. But dancing remained her biggest passion, and during her freshman year at CSU she was selected from more than 700 women to become a Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader. Within three months as a Laker Girl, Abdul was selected to be the group's head choreographer.
She dropped out of CSU six months later to focus completely on her dance career. The move paid off, and soon Abdul's choreography caught the attention of The Jackson 5, who hired her as an assistant dance director for their Victory tour.
She quickly became a choreographer for the stars, including big names such as ZZ Top, George Michael, Duran Duran and Janet Jackson. After choreographing Janet Jackson's hit video ‘Control’, and earning an Emmy Award for her dance work on ‘The Tracey Ullman Show’, Abdul launched a recording career of her own. Thanks in no small part to talented producers and big-budget videos like ‘Forever Your Girl’, Abdul's debut album ‘Straight Up’ made her into a bona fide star.
She released her second album, ‘Spellbound’, in 1991 and her third, ‘Head Over Heels’, in 1995 with moderate success. By 2000, Abdul had sold in excess of 30 million records, released two No. 1 albums and six No. 1 singles, and won a Grammy Award. That year, Abdul decided to take a break from the music industry.
In 2002, Abdul stepped back into the spotlight as one of the three judges on the instantly popular television reality competition, ‘American Idol’, alongside producers Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell. Abdul became the show's voice of optimism, often countering the dour and overly pessimistic Cowell. In addition to her role on Idol, Abdul also ran dance and cheerleading camps across the country.
In 2005, Abdul faced controversy when she was involved in a hit-and-run accident. According to reports, the star clipped another car but never stopped to assess the damage. She received a fine, and was sentenced to a two-year probation. That same year, reports surfaced that Abdul had engaged in a romantic relationship with a American Idol contestant Corey Clark while he was on the show. Abdul denied those allegations, along with accusations that the pop star was abusing drugs and alcohol.
In 2007, Abdul premiered in her own reality show, ‘Hey Paula’, which aired on the Bravo network. The documentary series followed Abdul through her daily life, and aired for one season before it was cancelled. Also that year, Abdul launched her highly successful Paula Abdul Jewelry line, which she sold through the QVC shopping network.
In 2008, Paula made her comeback on the music charts with the single ‘Dance Like There's No Tomorrow’, which hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart. The next year, she launched the MTV reality show ‘RAH!’ which was a college cheerleading competition hosted by Abdul. In May 2009, Paula debuted her new song ‘I'm Just Here for the Music’, which she performed on American Idol’s results show. That same month, she admitted in an interview with Ladies Home Journal that she had a long-running addiction to painkillers that ended in rehab. A week later, she rescinded her comments, saying she had neither been in rehab nor had addiction issues.
Abdul made headlines again in 2009 when she announced on her Twitter site that she would not be returning to Idol for a ninth season. She gave no reason for her departure from the show.
Her latest TV project sees her appearing as a judge on US reality show ‘Live to Dance’, the American version of the UK's ‘Got to Dance’, which is hosted by Davina McCall.
Abdul is the lead judge on the show and appears alongside former Pussycat Dolls band member Kimberly Wyatt, and Michael Jackson's former choreographer Travis Payne.
She recently appeared on ‘Ellen’ and the chat show host noted that American Idol had moved slots and would now be directly competing for ratings with Abdul's latest show.
Abdul suggested that the shows were not in direct competition with one another as they were, she said, "two shows, different genres" and went on to suggest that people could record one, while watching the other.
In the same interview she jokingly compared former fellow Idol judge Simon Cowell to fungus "in the sense that it just sticks around for a long time, and then finally you just surrender to it".
When hosting VH1's ‘Divas’ show in 2009, Abdul mocked her American Idol replacement Ellen Degeneres by appearing on the show in a blonde wig.
In addition to hosting the show, Abdul performed some of her number one hits including ‘Straight Up’, ‘Cold Hearted’, ‘Opposites Attract’ and ‘Forever Young Girl’.
Abdul was married to actor Emilio Estevez from 1992-1994, and to Brad Beckerman from 1996-1999. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.