All the right moves

Judge Paula Ab­dul con­fesses to DEB­BIE SCHIPP some tricks that might come in handy for the re­booted re­al­ity show

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - News -

PAULA Ab­dul knew dance was her call­ing, no mat­ter how dif­fi­cult the steps. As de­ter­mined as she is diminu­tive, the 1.52m Ab­dul – (yes, that’s 5cm shorter than our own pocket rocket Kylie Minogue) – may have ca­reer cred­its as a dancer, chore­og­ra­pher, singer and, more lately, re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show judge, but danc­ing is her first love.

“Noth­ing else,” Ab­dul coos in her Syd­ney ho­tel room, “gets into your skin as dance does.”

It’s been that way since she watched Singing In The Rain as a four-year-old, pointed at Gene Kelly and an­nounced to her par­ents: “I want to be that.”

The fact they couldn’t af­ford bal­let classes was a mi­nor hur­dle. She used the car pool home from school – which went via a friend’s bal­let class – to her ad­van­tage.

“I’d watch, the class then go home and stand hang­ing onto the kitchen sink (as a barre) and all the steps were just there,” the now 51-year-old says.

She be­came a cheer­leader at school “be­cause it al­lowed me to dance”, and hit col­lege de­ter­mined to be­come one of the LA Lak­ers bas­ket­ball team’s fa­mous Laker Girls cheer­lead­ers.

She was nei­ther tall, nor blonde, so didn’t quite fit the mould among the 700 girls at the au­di­tions. “I got cut right away,” Ab­dul says. “I went into the bath­room, changed my clothes, changed my hair, put it up in a pony­tail and put my new name up – I used my mid­dle name, Julie, and took the “d” out of Ab­dul and re­placed it with another “b”. “And I got cut again.” Back to the bath­room.

“I’d saved the best out­fit for last – think Jane Fonda, red and white, tan tights, blue leg­warm­ers and a head­band like Olivia New­tonJohn,” she says.

“I en­tered as ‘PJ’, spelled Ab­dul dif­fer­ent again, and mus­cled my way right to the front. When they said: ‘Ro­tate lines, back row to front’ and I just stayed in the front.” Short in stature, but not am­bi­tion or in­ge­nu­ity, she be­came a Laker Girl. When she was spot­ted at a Lak­ers game by The Jack­son 5, she ditched univer­sity to be­come a chore­og­ra­pher, pro­duc­ing the Jack­sons’ Vic­tory tour, and a string of oth­ers. By the end of the 1980s, she was a pop star in her own right, af­ter mak­ing it big with her de­but al­bum, Straight Up.

Af­ter bat­tling an eat­ing dis­or­der, Ab­dul stayed out of the lime­light un­til 2002, re-emerg­ing as a judge on Amer­i­can Idol.

Her work on re­al­ity tal­ent shows since has re­minded her not only of her love of dance, but a lot about her­self, Ab­dul says.

“I know when you have a dream like that, it’s like be­ing a child again. You have no doubts, You just ‘do’. You wouldn’t be­lieve how many have the same story as mine about not tak­ing no for an an­swer.

“I’ve met con­tes­tants cut in three dif­fer­ent cities, and they just keep lin­ing up again.”

Ab­dul is coy on whether she’s seen a re­peat au­di­tionee as SYTYCD Aus­tralia un­folds.

“If I see some­one come back in that I think I’ve seen be­fore, with a new out­fit, and a new name, you know what? … it’s a wink and a smile,” she grins.

“It will be: ‘Don’t think I don’t know who you are, be­cause I do. But I like your at­ti­tude’.”

And while Ab­dul might have a rep­u­ta­tion as a ‘nice’ judge, one trait might be­tray how she’s feel­ing.

“Peo­ple would say ‘you’re so nice’ like it’s a disease. As a chore­og­ra­pher I am a stick­ler. I want the chore­og­ra­phy learned quickly, so I can start ‘clean­ing’. If some­thing catches my eye, I have to clean it up … my eye twitches,” she says.

Keep an eye out for that tell.

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