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Where Are They Now? Paula Abdul

Nov 1st, 2002

Paula Abdul: It's a Rush, Rush
By C. Bottomley

If you've been wondering why you haven't seen Paula Abdul around lately, it might just be because she's so darn busy. This year alone, Abdul, who created an indelible impression with her award-winning videos to hits like "Straight Up," is choreographing the off-Broadway show Reefer Madness, developing a show for MTV, and running her own dance and cheerleading camps. 

Wait a minute... Reefer Madness? Wasn't that the name of a 1938 camp classic warning against the evils of marijuana? Yup. The film has since been turned into a musical by composer Dan Studney and lyricist Kevin Murphy, and after laughing her leg warmers off at the show during its initial run in West Hollywood, Abdul signed on as choreographer when it moved to New York's Variety Arts Theater. 

"I've earned a reputation as the queen of taking people with two left feet and making them look good," Abdul told The Village Voice's Elizabeth Zimmer. "The cast was horrified when I came in, because of this perception of who I am - 'We're comedians. We're singers. You know we can't dance.'" 

Since then Abdul has been making these fictional hopheads look as coordinated - or uncoordinated - as she possibly can. And having a blast. "I can't believe I'm here doing this," she said. "It's a labor of love; it obviously wasn't for money."

In return, the show's director, Andy Fickman, has been helping Abdul turn a pilot for a show titled Skirts into an MTV-worthy drama. Here, Abdul plays a former cheerleader who returns to her high school to coach its squad. She describes the program as a mixture of Baywatch, Melrose Place, and her favorite TV show, The White Shadow. She's also choreographing Martin Lawrence's new big-screen comedy Black Knight. 

Abdul is used to both multi-tasking and lending grace to the lead-footed. She made her initial mark with her cheerleading routines for the Los Angeles Lakers, then created the young Janet Jackson's signature dance moves for the videos from her Control album. You can see Abdul herself hoofing in the clips to "Nasty" and "What Have You Done for Me Lately."

Becoming a pop star didn't change things. When "Straight Up" began her run of six No. 1 singles in 1988, Abdul was occupied choreographing Steve Winwood's "Roll With It" video, as well as dance sequences in films like Coming to America and Big. Abdul even won a 1989 Emmy for her work on The Tracey Ullman Show. 

Since her last top 40 hit, 1995's "My Love Is for Real," Abdul has successfully battled bulimia, created the cheerleading routines used in the Oscar-winning American Beauty, and followed up her 1978 movie debut in Before They Were Rock Stars favorite Junior High School with appearances in the Canadian film The Waiting Game and NBC's Mr. Rock and Roll: The Alan Freed Story opposite Judd Nelson. 

Abdul is working on a new album, too, tentatively titled Tricks of Love. But she doesn't even need to have her own hits anymore. "Spinning Around," a song Abdul reportedly wrote following her 1998 divorce from second husband Brad Beckerman, became a chart-topping single for Kylie Minogue (remember "The Loco-Motion"?) in both Australia and the U.K. in 2000. 

With a full slate and a possible return to MTV if the Skirts pilot is successful, Abdul's career is as straight up as ever. But as she told Time Out New York, she still gets her biggest high from lending her fancy footwork to others on projects like Reefer Madness. 

"The best part is seeing a look of horror turn into an air of confidence," she said. "And hearing cast members say, 'Hey, Paula Abdul made me look good.' You can't put a price tag on that." 

Courtesy of

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