Paula Julie Abdul was born on June 9, 1962, in San Fernando, California. Her mother, Lorraine Rykiss, is a Jewish Canadian concert pianist and her father, Harry Abdul, is a Syrian-Brazilian orphan who was born to parents of Sephardic Jewish descent. Because of her Arabic surname, she is often mistakenly perceived as being of African-American or mixed-race descent. Her parents divorced when she was seven years of age and she and her older sister, Wendy, lived with their mother in the San Fernando Valley.
She began to take dance lessons at the age of 8, and demonstrated a real talent for it. Her early inspirations were Gene Kelly in the classic film, “Singin’ in the Rain”, Gregory Hines and Fred Astaire. She attended Van Nuys High School where she was an honor student, a cheerleader and a player of the flute in the school band. At the age of 15, she received a scholarship to a “dance camp” near Palm Springs, where the self-conscious teenager learned all about the dangerous and dysfunctional methods of staying thin by bingeing and purging. She studied broadcasting at California State University at Northridge where she became a choreographer for the Laker Girls squad, and when she was 20,s the Jackson family hired her to choreograph a music video for their 1984 Victory album.
Throughout the 1980s, Paula choreographed musical videos for The Jackson family, Duran Duran, Prince, and Luther Vandross, just to name a few. She 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.
She has had her share of controversy and sorrow, having had two failed marriages and more than a few bad relationships. Gossip about her rears its ugly head almost everywhere she goes. She continues to shine, however and since 2002, she has appeared as one of three judges for the reality television music competition show, “American Idol.”
Keep up the good work, Paula! We’re all rooting for you!