The Real Reason We Don't Hear From Paula Abdul Anymore

When Paula Abdul announced she was going on tour with New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men in 2017, it was her first tour announcement in 25 years, according to Billboard. It doesn't seem entirely possible that it's been that long since we've seen Abdul on stage and performing, partially because she's been in the public eye as a judge on American Idol and The X Factor. But just what's been keeping her off the stage — and out of the recording studio — is more complicated than that.

The Corey Clark lawsuits

During American Idol's second season, contestant Corey Clark was booted from the show for failing to disclose his criminal record when he auditioned. When ET did their round-up of biggest show scandals, Clark made the list — but not for his elimination. Two years after he was dropped off the show, he came forward with the stunning revelation that he had been involved in a torrid affair with Paula Abdul. Clark claimed the fling had lasted for three months, and that she had not only paid him that kind of special attention, but she had given him guidance on how to take home the American Idol trophy, too.

Abdul's camp denied the entire thing, and denounced it as nothing more than lies. Independent counsel agreed, finding there was absolutely nothing to actually support the claims. Later, Clark would go on to sue others, including Fox, E! Entertainment and MTV for defamation, and filed a petition with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission stating that he was the victim of racial discrimination when he was disqualified from American Idol in the first place. The Hollywood Reporter got a hold of the official defamation complaint, which claimed that not only was the investigation done into his accusations a complete sham, but that he had been threatened with legal action to keep him from writing a book on his experiences. He went so far as to say that the entire episode had left him at "absolute rock bottom", and suicidal.

In 2014, RadarOnline reported that the $120 million lawsuit had been dismissed. No evidence of misconduct was found, there was nothing to support accusations that they had been intimately involved, and the court ruled that Clark had waited too long to file the suit anyway.

Tanning troubles

In 2014, Abdul was on the giving end of her own lawsuit against UVASUN West, Inc. According to documents acquired by The Hollywood Reporter, Abdul had suffered second- and third-degree burns after a tanning treatment was done wrong. The claim involved her purchase of a SlimStar infrared body wrap treatment, which left her with full-body burns that were particularly bad on her left leg.

The lawsuit also specified that in addition to her need to seek medical and surgical attention, she was left with permanent injuries and had suffered financial losses during the time she needed to recover. Just how long she was out of the public eye and recovering from her injuries isn't clear, but she also cited mental strain as part of the reason for the lawsuit.

The million-dollar driveway

In 2009, Abdul was sued by Jill Kohl. According to Kohl, she fell in Abdul's driveway and was left not only in severe pain after the incident, but needing several back surgeries. The fall, which happened in 2007, happened during the filming of Abdul's reality show Hey Paula.

E! News reported on the end of the lawsuit, and that only came in February 2012. According to them, the parties' lawyers were able to broker a deal before the case went to trial, and the insurance companies were left to hand out the $900,000 settlement. In addition to that staggering number, Hey Paula's production company, Scott Sternberg Productions, kicked in an additional $100,000. It didn't go unnoticed that the announcement came only a day after Abdul tweeted, "Having a blast on @RoyalCaribbean Oasis of the Seas this week :)) so many cool things to do & plenty of sunshine!!"

Her short-lived reality show was not well received

The lawsuit wasn't the only bad thing to come out of Abdul's short-lived reality show, Hey Paula. Entertainment Weekly called it "A cry for help," and wrote in their less-than-stellar review that it served to demonstrate "a celebrity culture where there's no such thing as a graceful retirement." They went on to condemn her for taking part in a show that's basically there to show just how much she needed the limelight... along with someone to tell her where to go and how to act in that spotlight.

MTV was only slightly more understanding, starting their review with an acknowledgement that it had been a rough few years for Abdul, and that she probably wasn't at her best. They also said that if a reality show was her idea to start clearing up public misconceptions about her, it absolutely wasn't the way to go. From there, they called her on-screen persona nothing less than a "babbling, childish, hot mess of a woman". Ouch.

She was devastated after her dance show was cancelled

First and foremost, even before she was a singer, Abdul was a dancer. It's not surprising that when she got her 2011 reality show, it was about up-and-coming talent trying to impress her with their dance moves. It's also not surprising that RadarOnline reported that she was absolutely devastated when Live to Dance was cancelled.

According to their source, Abdul went into seclusion for the weekend after finding out the show had gotten the ax. Up until she got the news, they said, she had held onto hope that CBS would give her another season to bring in the viewers that the show had optimistically started out with. TV Series Finale reported that even though the series started out with 10 million viewers, those viewers consistently dropped out along the way, with a third of them giving up by only the show's fourth episode. By the time it reached the end of its season, it was at the bottom of the rankings for the network, making it unsurprising that they decided not to bring the show back.

She was busy with her own line of jewelry

It hasn't been all bad news and difficulties for Abdul, though — she was asked to design and promote her own line of jewelry. Perez Hilton broke the news that Avon had teamed up with Abdul for a special holiday line of jewelry that was designed to be neutral enough to be worn with anything, but stylish enough that she would be proud to associate it with her image.

The line came out in mid-November of 2012 and at the time, Abdul was unmistakably excited about it. "I've always been a girl who loves accessories," she was quoted as saying in People. "One piece of jewelry can completely change the look of an outfit. I pick jewelry that reflects how I'm feeling that day, so when this opportunity came up, I was thrilled."

Unfortunately, it wasn't a long-lasting opportunity, and Celebrity Clothing Line lists Avon Forever Selected as "Discontinued".

She'd quit American Idol a huge number of times

Abdul has best been known as the nice judge on American Idol, and when she left in 2009, MTV wanted to know why. When they did some digging, they (and The New York Times) found it was over money. With Ryan Seacrest signing a $45 million contract deal as host, she was in the middle of negotiations for a pay raise.

According to The New York Times, she was making $2 million a year (plus $1.5 million in expenses) as a judge. In comparison, Simon Cowell was bringing in $30 million a year for his role as a judge and, when she was offered a pay bump to $5 million a year, it wasn't enough. It was still half of Seacrest's yearly salary, and he was also getting another $15 million for signing over the use of his likeness. With neither Abdul or the accountants willing to budge, she walked after eight years on the show.

Entertainment Weekly talked with Abdul in 2016, and she wasn't pulling any punches. She called the audition process of the show "horrible", and talked a bit about her run-in with a former sound engineer from the show. She says, "A few years ago, this man came up to me and introduced himself and said, 'I was your sound guy on your first day at work at American Idol.' And I said, 'Oh wow. I feel bad, I must have quit a few times.' And he said, 'Eight. You quit eight times.'"

It's no wonder, really, as she hints at the fact that Cowell's bitterness and anger is directed at her, too, mentioning him first when she was asked about her most difficult times on the show. "Well," she said, "There was one thing that Simon told me. He said, 'Being you is overrated.'"

Her relationship with The X Factor is up-and-down

From American Idol to The X Factor, Abdul has for years been associated more with judging others than performing herself. In 2012, she left The X Factor amid a whole slew of rumors, mostly centered around her relationship with notorious bad guy Simon Cowell.

Abdul, along with fellow judge Nicole Scherzinger, were both let go. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the decision was strictly a business one and there were no personal reasons for her dismissal. At first, there was little more than silence over just what was going on behind the scenes, but Abdul's official statement was nothing but gracious.

"Simon and I, along with Fox and Fremantle, have been communicating about this for a while now, and I have absolute understanding of the situation. Simon is, and will remain a dear friend of mine and I've treasured my experience working this past season with my extended family at Fox and Fremantle. I want nothing more than for The X Factor to exceed ALL of their wildest dreams. This truly has been a blessing and I am most grateful."

Statements from Fox and from Cowell himself supported the idea that there was no personal animosity driving Abdul's departure from the show. THR suggests there's more to the story than anyone was letting on, saying that show insiders claimed Cowell made this — and other — decisions in a series of off-site meetings. Just what went on behind closed doors isn't known, but it seems Abdul and Cowell might be less than dear friends..

Facing her battle with chronic illness

Abdul has recently been speaking out about her long battle with a little-known chronic illness called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD. Also known as complex regional pain syndrome, it's a disorder that impacts the nervous system and causes sufferers to experience chronic — and severe — pain. For those that have the condition, it means that pain is a daily struggle, and that makes her career as a dancer that much more impressive.

On the blog My Journey With CRPS/RSD, Abdul says, "Enduring the pain and trying to keep it from affecting your personal and professional life, trying to deal with your emotions when you're in that kind of pain, I'd say those are just a couple of the countless daily challenges of living with RSD. Life doesn't stop for pain or anything else."

Abdul says diet and exercise are a huge part of managing her condition, and when Parade talked to her about just how she pays attention to what her body is trying to tell her — and how she deals with its complaints — she cited dance as her go-to form of exercise. For her, it's more than just a hobby, it's a way of managing her lifestyle and a chronic condition that leaves her in constant pain.

She says it's the one condition she wished she could take away from the world completely, especially given the fact that it takes so long to get diagnosed, and many doctors dismiss patients' complaints of chronic pain. That, coupled with her support of other charities like the American Humane Association's Pets and Women's Shelter (PAWS) Program and UNICEF, all keeps her busy.

She opened up about her addiction to painkillers

Imagining a life in complete and constant pain is difficult to do, and in 2009 she finally opened up about her battle with pain medication. She spoke with Ladies' Home Journal (via MTV) about her addiction, one that left her in rehab. In addition to her chronic condition, she's also suffered a series of serious injuries from a cheerleading incident that left her with an injured disc in her neck, to broken bones, another neck injury from a car accident, and partial paralysis from a plane crash in 1993. That alone took 15 surgeries on her spine — and insanely, happened when she was on tour. In order to keep performing, she started to take lidocaine and other prescription painkillers.

During her time on American Idol, she wore a pain patch she says delivered a powerful dose of painkillers 80 times the strength of morphine. For years, she kept it quiet until finally checking herself into a rehab facility in California.

She knew it was time, saying, "I could have killed myself. Withdrawal — it's the worst thing. I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain. It was excruciating. But at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been."

All her time seems devoted to judging shows

When it comes down to it, it seems as though Abdul has spent most of the years prior to her 2017 return to the stage judging others. From her long runs on American Idol to The X Factor, she's also been involved with one-off shows like X Factor Around the World, an Indonesian version of the hit show that features former contestants.

It's not surprising, perhaps, given her battles with the chronic pain both from RSD and the injuries that she's suffered over the years. But if there's anyone who's going to fight through the pain both physical and emotional to take the stage again, it's her.

In 2016, she spoke to USA Today about one of the earliest fights of her career: getting noticed by the LA Lakers. When she auditioned to become a Laker Girl, she was up against 1,000 others. When she got cut the first time, she changed her hair and her clothes, and entered again under a different name. Cut again, she did the same thing. Eventually, she was noticed, and went on to become the Paula Abdul that the world has loved. Tenacity? She invented it.