Paula Abdul turns 50. (Michael Tran/FilmMagic)Hard to believe, but pint-size pop star Paula Abdul — who rose to fame in the late '80s with a string of infectious #1 tunes like "Opposites Attract" and "Forever Your Girl" before making a career comeback in the new millennium as one of the first judges on "American Idol" — turns the big 5-0 on Tuesday. To celebrate, we bring you five facts you may not have known about the 5'2" dynamo who started out as a Laker girl and wound up a pop culture icon.
The Jacksons gave Paula her showbiz start.
Just a short time after she got the gig as a Los Angeles Lakers cheerleader as a teenager, a rather famous family spotted her strutting her stuff at a game and hired her to choreograph a music video. That family was none other than the Jacksons, who asked her to help with the siblings' dance moves for the video for the tune "Torture," off the Jacksons' Victory album. Though neither Janet nor Michael appeared in that video, Paula became a friend of the family, worked on their 1984 Victory tour, went on to work on with Janet, choreographing the video for "Nasty" (in which she also appeared), and was featured in MJ's "Liberia" video. "There were so many memorable moments," she told MTV News in 2009 of time she spent with Michael Jackson. "I was still a Laker girl and I was summoned to work with the brothers. I was 18 years old and I got to see entertainment at its finest. [I learned that] you're only as good as the last thing you've done. He was just amazing."
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Paula and her first husband, Emilio Estevez. (Barry King/Wireimage)
She has a lot of famous exes.
In addition to her two-year marriage to actor Emilio Estevez, which ended in 1994, Paula had relationships with a gaggle of other celebs including Keanu Reeves, who appeared in her 1991 video for her ballad "Rush, Rush," and comic-turned-talk-show-host Arsenio Hall, who she met while choreographing "Coming to America" and put in her 1988 video for her hit "Straight Up." "I know that everybody has opinions about Paula and what she's about, but my experiences with her … best girl to hang with on the planet," Hall said on "Lopez Tonight" more than two decades after they dated. "Me and Paula would laugh so much. And I swear, she would not be mad that I'm telling you this. Paula would laugh and then pee. As a comedian you know this is true … there's nothing more important than having a woman get your sense of humor. That's important. And for your woman to pee is like a standing ovation."
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Keanu Reeves in the early '90s, around the time he dated Paula briefly. (Everett Collection)
Also on Paula's celebrity boyfriend list: John Stamos, who she had a short-lived relationship with in the '80s. "I have to be honest, she was so adorable. She was America's sweetheart," he told Ellen DeGeneres in 2009. "And I had just started 'Full House' during the time and she was the biggest star in the world and people were literally knocking me down to get to her."
She choreographed one of Tom Hanks' most memorable scenes.
Remember the iconic scene in the 1988 movie "Big" where Tom Hanks' and Robert Loggia's characters play "Heart and Soul" and "Chopsticks" with their feet on that giant keyboard at FAO Schwarz? Well, if you like their moves, you have Paula to thank.
She followed in Jane Fonda's footsteps.
With her music career faltering a bit by 1995, a 33-year-old Paula decided to jump on the fitness craze bandwagon, releasing an exercise video titled "Get Up and Dance" where a team of leotard-clad actors followed along as Paula shouted instructions like "Step, side together, side!" and "Move it!" while her tunes played in the background. "Hi, I'm Paula Abdul. I'm really excited to tell you I have a great fun workout video!" she announced in a promotional trailer. The 45-minute video was released on DVD in 2003 shortly after the pop star's career was rejuvenated by "American Idol."
Jermaine Jackson helped Paula get her showbiz career off the ground. (Eric Charbonneau/Le Studio/Wireimage)
She was fooled by Sacha Baron Cohen.
After being told by her publicist in 2008 that she had won an artist of the year award in Germany, Paula agreed to an interview with what she thought was a German TV crew visiting Los Angeles. When the pop/reality TV star walked into the room, Cohen's character, the flamboyant Bruno, brought in some "gardeners" who got on their hands and knees to serve as chairs. Paula apprehensively sat down on one of their backs and began the interview (she later claimed Cohen actually kicked one of the men, causing her to fall down with him), but she eventually stormed out when a nude man was wheeled out with sushi all over his body. A year later, she was asked by a magazine what it felt like to be "Punk'd" by Sacha Baron Cohen and she finally figured the whole thing out. "It is the most interesting, whacked out situation that ever happened to me," Paula told Phoenix's 104.7 KISSFM afterwards. The scene did indeed make it into Cohen's 2009 mockumentary film "Bruno," since Paula's publicist apparently signed a release on her behalf. Whoops!
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