Recently, Paula Abdul made headlines for giving an absolutely amazing performance at the Billboard Music Awards, a medley of her most famous hits including “Straight Up,” “Opposites Attract,” “Cold Hearted,” “Forever Your Girl,” and “Vibeology.” The star proved that she doesn’t simply “still have it” — she never lost it! What better time to look back at the life and career of this iconic artist? If you only know Paula Abdul from her songs and judging stint on American Idol, here are 10 truths you never knew about Paula Abdul.
She’s one of the best dance choreographers ever
If you ask someone what Paula Abdul is most known for, they’ll probably think it’s a trick question. How can the answer be anything other than “musical performer?” It’s true that her life as a musician brought her global fame. However, many in both Hollywood and the music industry remember her better as an ace choreographer.
Abdul was the choreographer for music videos like her own hit single “Opposites Attract” and Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” as well as dance scenes in movies like Jerry Maguire and Coming to America. And this is only a fraction of her choreography career!
Her high school yearbook singled her out for her laugh
There are many reasons to love Paula Abdul. And it turns out her high school classmates found a really unexpected one! Many high school yearbooks honor students with various titles. This includes things like “most likely to succeed.”
While that would have been a good one for Paula Abdul, she got a different title instead. She was voted as the girl with the funniest laugh! That story is pretty funny in and of itself. But we like to think it shows that Abdul had contagious enthusiasm even at a very young age.
She got her big break as a Laker Girl in her teens
Everyone who has seen Paula Abdul knows that she is a “performer” is every sense of the word. But have you ever wondered when she started developing some of her iconic moves? The answer: on the side of a basketball court!
Before she was a musician or choreographer, Paula Abdul was a Laker Girl. That meant she had to master any number of complex cheerleading moves from a young age.
In fact, she was only 18 years old when she started as a Laker Girl (she’s pictured center above), and eventually became their head choreographer. That’s Paula Abdul: impressing even at a very young age.
She helped put Tom Hanks and Cuba Gooding Jr. on the map
Paula Abdul is responsible for two of the most memorable scenes in modern movie history. That’s right, she choreographed the scene in Big where Tom Hanks dances on the giant keyboard in the toy store. The scene is pure fun and joy, and undoubtedly helped Tom Hanks become a huge star.
On top of that, Abdul discovered actor Cuba Gooding Jr. when she cast him as a backup dancer in a Bugle Boy clothing commercial in 1988. Years later, Abdul would go on to choreograph his iconic end zone dance scene in 1996’s Jerry Maguire, launching Cuba Gooding Jr. to stardom and helping him net a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
She shares an interesting connection with ‘The Simpsons’
In the late 1980s, Abdul was a choreographer for The Tracey Ullman Show on Fox. Basically, she choreographed the complex dance sequences that occurred in-between comedy sketches. She ultimately won two Primetime Emmy awards for her efforts.
Nowadays, The Tracey Ullman Show is known mostly for being the birthplace of The Simpsons. Those cartoon sequences were so popular that they spawned their own successful TV show.
She was discovered by the Jackson family
Paula Abdul choreographed numerous music videos for Janet Jackson. This included videos for the song “Nasty” as well as the song “When I Think of You.” As it turns out, Abdul did this as much out of loyalty as anything else. Why? She was actually discovered by the Jackson family, who gave her her start choreographing music videos.
It was all thanks to her gig as head choreographer for the Laker Girls. In an interview with Healthy Living Magazine, Abdul said, “The Laker girls were getting a lot of notoriety. The [Jackson] brothers were season ticket holders and they needed a choreographer. They approached the front office and asked, “Who does choreography for the Laker girls?” The Jacksons ended up hiring Abdul to choreograph their 1984 video “Torture,” and the rest is history.
She was briefly married to Emilio Estevez
The public can never get enough out of the romantic lives of stars. And in her time, Paula Abdul has had some surprising Hollywood dalliances!
In 1992, she married actor Emilio Estevez (who was arguably at the height of his career). Sadly, the two of them divorced a mere two years later — it just wasn’t meant to last.
There is a bit of good news, though: despite the divorce, they remain friends to this day.
She was publicly punked by Sacha Baron Cohen
Nobody likes to be on the receiving end of a prank. However, there is one thing that can make that worse: when the entire world sees it happen!
In 2008, Paula Abdul was punked by Sacha Baron Cohen. This was so Cohen could try to gather more footage for his movie Bruno.
Cohen, disguised as his flamboyant TV show host character Bruno and pretending to interview Abdul for Austrian television, basically tormented her by making her sit on gardeners instead of chairs, telling her to throw herself against a wall, and other weird antics. Abdul described the event as scarring her “for life.”
She patented a jeweled microphone stand
You now know that Abdul is a skilled choreographer on top of being a skilled performer. But did you know she found some fun ways to fuse these ideas together?
In 2016, she shared a number of interesting facts about herself with Us Weekly. One of our favorite facts was that she “invented and patented” a jeweled microphone stand that she could use to enhance her choreography and live performances.
We’ll admit it: we’re starting to think there’s nothing she can’t do!
She once dated Keanu Reeves
Earlier, we mentioned Paula Abdul’s brief marriage to Emilio Estevez. However, she has also been connected to some other celebrities.
Take Keanu Reeves, for example. Nowadays, he is the megastar of movies like The Matrix and John Wick series. However, way back in 1991 he starred in Paula Abdul’s music video “Rush, Rush” and the star fondly remembers the video allowing him to make out with Paula Abdul.
They must have both enjoyed the experience, as Keanu is yet another celeb she had a brief relationship with (no marriage this time, though).