Talent Recap

Paula Abdul’s Best Judging Moments, on ‘American Idol’ and Beyond

Paula Abdul at the "Prey" premierePhoto by Jon Kopaloff/WireImage

Paula Abdul has had quite a few judging gigs over the years on various talent shows. Although she’s probably best known for her time on American Idol, she’s also appeared on shows like So You Think You Can Dance and The Masked Dancer. Let’s look back at some of our favorite moments.

Paula Abdul’s Best Judging Moments Over the Years

1. When She Defended Jordin Sparks on American Idol

Abdul was a judge on American Idol for eight seasons. In Season 6, Jordin Sparks auditioned for the show at age 16. She would go on to win the season, but judge Simon Cowell was critical of her first performance. When he mentioned her habit of smiling while singing, Abdul told her, “Your smile is beautiful.” She predicted that Sparks would “do really well,” and she was right.

2. When She Imitated Bruno Tonioli on Dancing with the Stars

In 2012, Abdul appeared as a guest judge on Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars. After Gilles Marini and his partner Peta Murgatroyd performed during Week 4, Abdul imitated longtime judge Bruno Tonioli, leaning over the judges’ table and telling the pair how much she loved their performance.

3. When a So You Think You Can Dance Contestant Vomited on Her

In 2016, Abdul was a judge on So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation. She and the other judges were impressed by a 12-year-old dancer named Tahani. While hugging Abdul after her performance, Tahani vomited. Abdul handled it well, comforting Tahani and quipping, “I’ve never had anyone just vomit on me like that.”

4. When She Walked Off During a Gross X Factor Audition

Speaking of vomit, that’s what Abdul almost did during a disturbing audition in the first season of The X Factor USA. A singer dropped his pants during his performance, seemingly flashing the audience and shocking the judges. At first, Abdul laughed, but as the performance went on, Abdul became more and more disgusted. She ended up walking off stage shaking her head and looking sick.

5. When She Broke Down in Tears on SYTYCD Australia

In 2014, Abdul appeared on So You Think You Can Dance Australia. She was especially moved by an emotional and personal performance from Ashleigh Taveres and Jay Johns. Abdul was in tears, saying, “That was the most beautiful thing I think I ever saw.” She said she hadn’t seen anything like it on SYTYCD in the United States.

6. When She Reunited with Jordin Sparks on The Masked Dancer

In the first season of The Masked Dancer, Jordin Sparks was revealed as Exotic Bird. Abdul, who sat on the judging panel, asked if they had met before the reveal. Sparks answered that they had. Abdul correctly guessed her identity, and they had a sweet moment when Sparks removed her mask. “I love you, darling,” Abdul said.

7. When She Filled in for Luke Bryan on American Idol

In Season 19 of American Idol, judge Luke Bryan tested positive for Covid-19 and had to miss the Top 12 show. Luckily, Abdul stepped in to take his place as a guest judge for the week. She even took some digs at Simon Cowell, including when she referred to him as her and Ryan Seacrest’s “grandfather.”

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