Paula Abdul has been in the spotlight for decades and doesn't show any signs of slowing down. The 50-year-old singer, songwriter, choreographer, dancer and television personality talks to HuffPost LA about being discovered by The Jacksons, having a head for business and the best piece of advice she's ever been given.
We have decided that you are the ultimate Angeleno: you went to Cal State Northridge, started off as a Laker Girl and then were discovered by The Jacksons at a game. What was it like being a Laker Girl at that time?
I’ll always be an Angeleno. I love Los Angeles. And I will always love the Lakers! I have deep roots at The Forum…it’s where I started my career. It was such an exciting time to be a Laker Girl. Just being in the company of incredible, mega-superstar athletes like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kurt Rambis, Byron Scott…all those guys. During the game, I’d see these big stars cheering. It was all SO exciting. It was a great time in my life.
You were chosen as a Laker Girl while you were in college and within three months, you were head choreographer. Have you always had an intense sense of drive and motivation?
The Laker Girls saw my motivation and loved my ideas. It was during this time that the Jackson brothers discovered me. To this day I don’t know how they managed to get into the Forum unnoticed! It was overwhelming to learn that they snuck in just to watch me dance. After seeing my choreography, I was hired to choreograph the Victory Tour.
I’ve definitely always been extremely self-motivated. I’ve been blessed with a sense of drive that has opened so many doors for me. At a young age I was working with huge movie stars, TV stars, Broadway stars. I was choreographing commercials, films, award shows, and television shows. I'll always be grateful for my drive and motivation, and for every amazing opportunity I’ve gotten as a result of those qualities.
Best piece of non-career advice you were ever given? Best piece of advice you were given as a woman?
One of the best pieces of non-career advice I’ve ever gotten: “Love yourself.” I never forgot that. When you love yourself, you have an enormous capacity to love and care for someone else. For me, loving myself means taking care of my body, eating healthy, getting enough sleep, and making quiet time in my day to reflect.
As a woman, a great piece of advice I got was that I should learn the business side of my dreams. "Industry" is another word for "business," and it's called show business for a reason. It's so easy to lose sight of the "boring" paperwork like contracts and budgets. It’s important to have a head for business, and a talent to build on.
You work with many young dancers and have an eye for spotting talent immediately. What is the first thing that stands out with a truly gifted performer?
I want to see dancers who are inspired to showcase themselves, not a photocopy of someone else. Creativity, individuality, and joy stand out in a truly gifted performer. There's nothing like watching a performer that has his or her own spirit, as opposed to channeling someone else’s. But it's also important to be teachable. I don't care how amazing someone's talent is, they can always learn more. I want to know that a performer can learn something that's out of their comfort zone.
If you had to choose one song that embodies your LA, what would it be?
“All I Wanna Do Is Have Some Fun” by Sheryl Crow.
What is the most beautiful place in Los Angeles to you?
The Four Seasons, Westlake Village.
What was the best part about growing up in Southern California?
In Southern California there are so many places to dance, and so many opportunities to perform. I love that no matter what day it is I can always find a dance class somewhere. This is a great place for performers.
As a kid did you ever wish you lived somewhere else, or had a different kind of life?
I never wished I could live somewhere else, but I thought that if I weren’t a performer, I’d really love to be a teacher.
Congratulations on the news that you will be curating Avon’s holiday jewelry collection. What looks most embody the holidays for you?
The holidays are such a vibrant time of year. It’s all about bursts of sparkle and color. No matter what I’m wearing, no matter what the event, I definitely have to have color and a little shimmer.
How did you come to collaborate with Avon?
Do you have one piece of jewelry at home that has special meaning to you? Avon was looking to give their jewelry line a boost. When they got in touch with me they said, “Paula you’re relatable and loveable. People adore you—they know and love your style. THAT’S the kind of person we want. Someone stylish AND approachable, someone people know and love.” I couldn’t resist! I also love that Avon encourages the entrepreneurial spirit that's so essential to the American Dream. As far as I' concerned, Avon has always supported the empowerment of women long before it was "in."
Is there one thing you try to do every day?
One thing? It’s more like 4 things! Every day I try to pray, meditate, exercise, and call at least one friend or family member. There's nothing like talking with family and friends. Not because it’s someone’s birthday, or a holiday…just because. I have such supportive, wonderful family and friends; unfortunately, my schedule prevents me from seeing them as often as I’d like. So calling someone just to see how they’re doing, is a must… even if I just hear their voice on a machine.
Favorite place to get away from it all in LA?
Any place in Malibu where you can see the sunset.