Paula Abdul: Survivor

 

It's fitting that Paula Abdul is so involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The former American Idol judge, 48, helped make a lot of wishes come true in her eight seasons on the hit Fox show.

It's fitting that Paula Abdul is so involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The former American Idol judge, 48, helped make a lot of wishes come true in her eight seasons on the hit Fox show.

``I've had such an amazing gift of a career that has spanned over 20 years,'' Abdul said from MAW's ball last weekend at the InterContinental Miami Hotel. ``There have been so many beautiful kids that have come through my life who have shown such spirit and courage.''

Starting out in the 1980s as a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers, the California native moved on to choreographing videos and then performing such hits as Straight Up and Forever Your Girl.

``It's interesting the way I've come up behind the scenes,'' Abdul says. ``I started out in production and rolling up my sleeves and doing the grunt work.''

Showbiz is tough, but it's all she ever wanted to do. And bravo to anyone who has the guts to get out there.

``I grew up thinking celebrities are weird -- I'm going to stay far, far away,'' she says, laughing. ``For a human being the two most vulnerable places are in front of a mirror and behind a microphone. It is bold and brave.''

Speaking about brave. Abdul has taken her share of knocks. Her reality show, Hey Paula, had a short life span because her behavior was seen as erratic, and during her time as AI judge, she often slurred her words and appeared out of it. Apparently, meds taken to treat RSD, a rare neurological condition, were partly to blame.

``American Idol painted a role of me perceptionwise, and a lot of what was said wasn't true,'' she says. ``You know what? I think it's because I don't fit into that typical [Hollywood] mold.''

Don't worry about Paula. Next up: producing the reality competition Live to Dance, set to air on CBS in January. ``People call me a survivor. I'm a thriver,'' she says. ``I am painting my own door and turning my own knob in my own special way.''

-- MADELEINE MARR

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