NEW YORK — “X-Factor” questions were off-limits with Paula Abdul Monday night, but the singer-songwriter-dancer-choreographer-TV personality had plenty of other things to chime in about.
While plugging GNC’s FemBody supplements at the Andaz Hotel in Midtown, Abdul said she definitely plans to return to TV and is in talks with several networks, fielding pitches and presenting a few of her own. She and her fellow former “American Idol” judge, Simon Cowell, talk on the phone frequently and Abdul wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the duo teaming up again, even though he cut her loose from “The X-Factor” last month. As for what they talk about, she deadpanned, “Mindless, mind-numbing conversations.”
After explaining how working out, coconut water and vitamins help keep her “feisty,” Abdul said she remains a Diet Coke drinker, eats carbs and believes in everything in moderation. That is, everything but work. “My father used to always say, ‘Work and experience. Work and experience,’” she said, rolling her eyes for effect. “I am here today because I worked.”
After a relaxed Q&A with a clutch of reporters, Abdul told WWD how she is speaking with unidentified parties about launching a fashion line. “I know a lot more about fashion than people realize,” Abdul said. (Her second husband Brad Beckerman’s father founded Starter.)
Wearing a Gucci suit and blouse, Abdul said of her own fashion sense, “It has taken me a long time to accept that I am not as tall as I think I am. As I get older, I am more accepting of my body. I am not going to try to fight it and overexercise and diet,” she said. Instead of caving into Hollywood’s stereotypes of beauty, Abdul said she has learned to love her body, a statement that belies her svelte frame. But then she volunteered how she was once in a plane crash and had to have 15 cervical spinal surgeries, something a lot of people don’t know about her. “I have five plates in my neck,” she said, faintly touching her slender, scarless neck.
On tour at the time, Abdul was en route from St. Louis to Denver when the private jet she was traveling in went down. “After that I disappeared for a little over six years. If I hadn’t been a dancer, I would not have had the mental discipline to get through it,” she said. To distract herself from the chronic pain and work towards a full recovery, Abdul said she exercised “the most important muscle”—her brain. “I directed all my energy to that. It took tremendous effort and was extremely painful. I learned to be patient and I started seeing things in a whole new way, the way I ate, my approach to fitness and, most importantly, the way I was living.”
Susceptible as she once was to Hollywood’s thin-is-always-in stereotype, Abdul said “beauty is not just a shape.” A confident curvy woman who walks into a room with her shoulders back and chin up is “very sexy” compared to the insecure skinny girl with rounded shoulders and hair in her face, she said. Such biases have always been there, according to Abdul. “I don’t think it has gotten worse [from when I started out.] What is better is with reality shows, you get to see the real person without them being retouched,” she said.
Not falling prey to such pressures is the end game, she said. “To me, that’s freedom. I’ve learned to love my body more because it’s the only one I got.”