Paula Abdul emerged from an anonymous pack of Los Angeles Lakers cheerleaders to find fame as a pop singer and choreographer, and then reinvented herself as a television personality who helped turn "American Idol" into a cultural phenomenon.
The petite, brown-eyed dancer has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and has had six No. 1 singles, including her snappy breakout hit "Opposites Attract." Her popularity as an "American Idol" judge commanded a salary of $4 million a year, but ultimately she left the show, expressing "sadness in my heart" when producers refused to give her a raise commensurate with that of host Ryan Seacrest. Reportedly, Abdul rejected an offer of nearly $5 million annually.
Born in the San Fernando Valley in 1962, the daughter of a concert pianist and a former livestock trader, Abdul was inspired to begin dancing by watching Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain." While a Laker Girl, she was discovered by the singing Jackson family and hired to choreograph their music video "Torture."
"Imagine me telling them what routines to do," Abdul later said of working with the Jacksons. "I was scared. I'm not quite sure how I got through that."
Abdul released her own pop music album in 1988, "Forever Your Girl," which took 62 weeks to reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts—the longest ever climb to the top spot. Abdul was married briefly to actor Emilio Estevez in the early 1990s.