Catching up with “So You Think You Can Dance” judge Paula Abdul

SYTYCD Paula Abdul © FOX Credit: Nino Munoz/FOX

Paula Abdul was an early multi-hyphenate — singer, songwriter, dancer, choreographer and TV personality — but at her essence, she’s a dancer.

After a stint as a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance and fresh off judging Australia’s version of the show, Abdul, 52, takes a permanent place on the judging panel for SYTYCD’s 12th season, which begins with a two-hour premiere Monday, June 1, at 8pm ET/PT on FOX.

“I have been a teacher for pretty much all of my late teens and adulthood, and having a phenomenal career as a choreographer around the world, I have such an understanding of the psyche of dancers,” Abdul says.

“Unlike any artist I have met, dancers dance because they have to,” she continues. “It is not just a hobby. It is not for the money. It is not a field with respect as far as money. The body goes through terrible, terrible havoc, so the lifespan of a working dancer is very limited. Dancers do it because it is their oxygen to breathe. They could not live without it. You see their joy and passion is so in alignment with who they are.”

People who have never felt the power of music move them may think this sounds airy-fairy, but Abdul is perfectly serious. She understands the genres of dance, making her an ideal judge.

Of course, she has some experience judging televised talent contests. While on American Idol from 2002-09, Abdul often butted heads with Simon Cowell.

Asked when they might work together again, she says, “That I don’t know. Nothing in the near future.”

Having just finished Australia’s SYTYCD, Abdul says there was a difference.

“The Aussies’ work ethic is pretty darn high and pretty impressive,” she says. “You don’t have to ask them twice to pay attention. They are all too eager to keep doing it again. Their enthusiasm is incredible; not to say the U.S. isn’t, but there is a hunger in the Australians that is very refreshing.”

The season, which brings new judge Jason Derulo and new rules dividing dancers into street and stage teams, excites Abdul. She can talk endlessly about dance, especially technically proficient dancers who neglect including emotions in their performances.

She took a break from discussing dance to tackle a few of our random questions:

If you weren’t a performer, what career would you most likely have pursued?
I would want to go around the world and learn more from different cultures and help raise money and awareness for keeping people with their passion in the arts.

If your TV carried just three shows or networks, what would they be?
I love National Geographic and I guess TCM, because I get to always fall in love with classics, and probably PBS.

How do you keep your huge wardrobe organized?
It’s the biggest bane of my existence. I archive things that I wear and try to recycle so it doesn’t look like the same outfit with different accessories. Certain outfits I can’t wear again; they made too much of a statement, good or bad.

Tell us about a time when you were starstruck.
I am starstruck all the time. I love that I still feel that way. I ran into Donald Sutherland at an airport coming home from one of the cities we were auditioning in. What a true gentleman he is.

What are three things you have to have in your fridge or pantry?
Vitaminwater Zero because it keeps me hydrated, and I love dill pickles and mandarin oranges.


  1. This chick is still around. She must be like 60 years old by now. I liked her when she did that song ” oh Ricky your fine.hey Ricky”.

  2. I am so excited that Paula is a judge for So You Think You Can Dance, I’ve been waiting for this for so long! Her very essence radiates the spirit of music and dance and she brings a special kind of magic when she is present that you experience on a soul level.

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