Born in San Fernando, California, Paula Julie Abdul began taking dance lessons at an early age in ballet, Jazz, and Tap. She attended Van Nuys High School, where she was a cheerleader and an honor student. Graduating in 1980, she also was voted girl with the funniest laugh.
At 15, she received a scholarship to a dance camp near Palm Springs, and in 1978 appeared in a low-budget Independent musical film, Junior High School.
Abdul studied broadcasting at the California State University at Northridge. During her freshman year, she was selected from a pool of 700 candidates for the cheerleading squad of the Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball team—the Laker Girls. Within three months, she became head choreographer. Within a few months, she left the university to focus on her choreography and dancing career.
Abdul was discovered by members of The Jacksons, after they watched her while attending a Los Angeles Lakers game. She was signed to do the choreography for the video to their single "Torture." That led to her career of choreographer in music videos, and also choreographed the Jacksons' Victory tour. Abdul also choreographed videos for several singers throughout the 1980s, including many videos for Janet Jackson.
In 1995, Abdul released a dance workout video entitled Paula Abdul's Get Up and Dance!, a fast-paced, hip-hop style workout. In 1998, she released a second video called Cardio Dance. In December 2005, Abdul launched a cheerleading/fitness/dance DVD series called Cardio Cheer, which is marketed to children and teenage girls involved with cheerleading and dance.
In film, Abdul choreographed sequences for the giant keyboard scene involving Tom Hanks’s character in Big. Further credits include Coming to America, Action Jackson, Jerry Maguire, The Running Man, American Beauty, Can't Buy Me Love, and Oliver Stone's, The Doors. Television credits include The Tracey Ullman Show, American Music Awards, the Academy Awards, and several commercials.
In 1987, Abdul made a singing demo. She relied on input from her vocal coach and producers to improve her sound. In 1988, Abdul released her pop 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.
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," and "Opposites Attract." A remix album, Shut Up and Dance, was also released and reached #7 on Billboard's album chart, becoming one of the most successful remix albums to date. The Grammy award-winning video for "Opposites Attract" featured an animated cat named MC Skat Kat.
At the 33rd Grammy Awards, Abdul won her first Grammy for Best Music Video for "Opposites Attract." She was also nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance For her song "Straight Up" but lost to Bonnie Raitt's "Nick Of Time."
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Abdul's follow-up album, 1991's Spellbound, also had a number of hits, and sold 7 million copies worldwide. The first single from Spellbound was the ballad, "Rush, Rush," which topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart for five consecutive weeks. "Promise of a New Day," the second release from the album, also hit No. 1, and was followed by the Top 10 hit "Blowing Kisses in the Wind" and two Top 20 hits; "Vibeology" and "Will You Marry Me?" The track "U" was written for Paula by Prince.
After battling an eating disorder, bulimia nervosa in 1995, released a new album Head over Heels. The first single off the album, "My Love Is for Real" featured a fusion of R&B and traditional Middle Eastern instruments, and was performed with Yemeni-Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Its accompanying music video was played in theaters across the world in the film Clueless. The single peaked at #1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart), and made it to #28 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
The second single, "Crazy Cool," peaked at #13 on the dance charts. "Ain't Never Gonna Give You Up" was the album's third and final single. To date, Head over Heels has sold 3 million copies worldwide.
In 2002, Abdul appeared as one of three judges on American Idol. She left the show in 2009. While serving as a judge on "American Idol," Abdul accepted a second assignment as reporter for Entertainment Tonight.
In January 2008, Abdul returned to the music charts for the first time in nearly 13 years with the single "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow," the first track on the album Randy Jackson's Music Club Vol 1.
In November 2010, Abdul launched and co-founded AuditionBooth.com, a website that allows aspiring talents to connect with casting directors, producers, and managers.
In early 2011 she was lead judge, executive producer, creative partner, mentor and coach on CBS' new dancing competition, "Live to Dance" (formerly Got to Dance.) Abdul said that unlike American Idol, the show is less about "competition" and more about "celebration." After its first season of seven weekly shows, it was cancelled by CBS.
On May 7, 2011, it was announced that Abdul would join Simon Cowell on the first season of the American version of The X Factor.