|Feb 17th, 2005
Reality show judge has transformed from soft-spoken to outspoken.
by Corey Moss
Part of Paula Abdul's appeal the first time around was her evolution, from Laker Girl to choreographer to pop star, so it's fitting that almost two decades later she's doing it again.
In her four seasons on "American Idol," the once soft-spoken and sweet judge who found something to praise in every performance has transformed into an outspoken and opinionated authority who has no problem chastising a struggling singer or fighting with the other judges to push forward a favorite.
Paula's evolution, which peaked last week when she nearly walked out of the auditions over a disagreement with fellow judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, has been so blatant in recent weeks that it's become the talk of the show.
"Paula is feisty this year; I like it," last season's runner-up, Diana DeGarmo, commented.
"It's good to see her coming out of her shell," second season winner Ruben Studdard said.
"We talk about this journey that the kids go on, but the judges have certainly done that too, especially Paula," co-executive producer Nigel Lythgoe warned at the start of the season. "Paula's very mouthy this year and she speaks up for herself."
So what's caused the change?
"There's only so much of Simon that I'm gonna take," Abdul said over the weekend. "And actually, I've always been passionate and fighting for people, but I get edited out. I'm glad they're leaving some of that in."
Producers say they're showing more of Paula's passionate rants, good and bad, simply because there are more of them.
"The truth of the matter is because she is more familiar with [Simon and Randy] and she's more familiar with the situation, she's more comfortable with her own opinion than she's ever been before," co-executive producer Ken Warwick said. "Basically, she isn't going to take any bull from either of them anymore, and I have to say, from the program's point of view, we love it. Good for her. Give them as much as they give. ... As long as she doesn't start swearing and doing any costume malfunctions, I'm quite happy."
Warwick is pleased to see Paula evolve (and even happier that the ratings have gone up as she's become feistier), but he insists he's not encouraging her.
"We are constantly accused of manipulating the situation to make them more spicy, and the truth is ... what she's saying is heartfelt, it's honest, it's straight, it's true," Warwick said. "The only thing I have to say [to the judges] is: Whatever you say, however you react and whatever you do has got to be genuine, because you ain't fooling anybody. If backstage we said, 'Let's have her freak out this week,' it wouldn't work, partly because Simon is the worst actor in the universe, as you've probably seen."
Part of Paula's transformation also has to do with the success of "American Idol." Four years ago, she was almost entirely out of the spotlight, writing songs for other artists like Kylie Minogue. Now she's everywhere, recording her long-awaited follow-up to 1995's Head Over Heels, making jewelry and developing other TV shows.
"It's put Paula back on the map, this program," Warwick said. "So she's obviously going to stick with it, and it's a question of whether you like it or [not], and she actually genuinely does like the job. She is now more than ever good at the job. And that relationship [with the other judges] is just a natural progression. It's just like any other relationship anybody has with someone they work with. ... And like most relationships, the longer you're in them, the more you become your own person, and that's basically what happened to her here."
Randy considers the judges a family — "one big, dysfunctional family," that is — but he's not so sure Paula's personality has changed because she likes the gig.
"If you look from the first season to this one, I think both Paula and I have gotten a little tougher because you get a little tired of it," he said. "Listen, sometimes we really hit it and sometimes we get on each other's nerves, because as you can tell, you get somewhat irritated with people singing all day. You sit there for 12 or 14 hours a day, you see 200 people and you just go, 'Oh my God!' I just want to run out and scream or punch myself or something."
Filed under: American Idol
This report is provided by MTV News