There is a lone, sparkling, black opera glove in Paula Abdul’s dressing room at the Flamingo Showroom. It sits next to a box of Band-Aids and a few worn socks missing partners. This is a working dancer’s backstage lair. No snacks. Just water. But it doesn’t belong to someone in her twenties catching a first break.
It’s 57-year-old Paula Abdul’s inner sanctum. Straight up, the petite powerful performer keeps it minimal because she’s all about what happens on stage during her Las Vegas residency, “Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl,” which began in August and continues Nov. 26 and on select dates through January.
What is your idea of the perfect Sunday?
Paula Abdul: Sundays for me are for friends and family. The perfect Sunday might be gathering a group and going to see a movie. I love cooking. … It’s fun and therapeutic.
You got raves for a few earlier shows in October where you performed your residency for the first time. How did it feel to be on stage in Vegas?
It was so much fun doing those shows. I’d look out and watch the audience sing along to all of the songs. Incredible! They know all the lyrics! People were standing and cheering! It was beyond my wildest dreams.
What does it feel like when you’re standing in the wings about to come on stage? Do you still get butterflies?
It’s always nerve-wracking until I actually step onto the stage. Waiting in the wings is so strange because you have your nerves. It doesn’t matter how many times I go to the bathroom, I still have to go to the bathroom right before I step on stage.
Do you have a little mantra before a show to psyche yourself up?
I do my prayers. I do my meditations. I do my stretching, which never seems to be enough. And then I put on all those different layers of costumes. You really have to work on moving in the costumes because they’re binding.
You are truly a quick-change artist.
I have things layered on top of other things. I’m on the stage for practically two hours straight. My quick changes are no more than a minute or two minutes max. Of course, you have to worry if something is going to slip or move when it comes to a costume. Quick changes are fast and furious. Anything can happen.
Ever worry about having a wardrobe malfunction?
Opening night, one of my jackets would not come off and I had to do “Straight Up.” Literally, I was trying to rip the thing off me. Thank God, within the last second it came off. But there are zippers that stick or break during a show. If I have to go out there with a wardrobe malfunction, I’ll go out there. Either we tape it up or I’ll hold the costume up with one hand, hold the mic in the other hand and get busy dancing. I’ll even let the audience know, “Hey, I’m holding my costume together!” People like to have an experience with you.
When you knew you were doing a Vegas residency did you train for it like an athlete might approach a new season?
It’s a lot of work. It’s not 30 years ago when I was first dancing. … I’m like, “Feet don’t fail me now! Pain go away!” I always pray for the dancers and myself to be free of injury.
Are you excited to live part of the time in Vegas now?
I’m really excited. I love Vegas. I’m not a gambler. I love going to see different shows on my days off. Or I’m all for spending my days off just staying at my place and hanging out in my pajamas. If there is something good on TV, I’m having that kind of day. My dogs aren’t here today, but soon I’ll bring them because I miss them. When I don’t have my dogs around me and I have a day off in Vegas, I’ll go to a dog rescue and hang out with some of those dogs.
Do you walk around the Strip?
I do walk around the Strip. I walk with my head down and a baseball cap on and — so far — no one has noticed. I’ve been incognito. Or I’ll be in one of the elevators and someone will say, “Do people always tell you that you look like Paula Abdul?” I’ll say, “I hear that all the time!”
How do you look like this at age 57?
A lot of training. It’s not a miracle. I just roll up my sleeves and do the work. I try to eat healthy. I don’t follow any diet, so to speak, but I just take care of my body and fuel it with good nutrition. You know, I’ll do a little pasta, bread, pizza or cake on occasion. It’s just all about moderation. … leading up to Vegas, I was training about five days a week. Since I’ve been in Vegas, we’re dancing so much that it is my workout.
What do you know at this age that you wish you knew at 20?
There is nothing like wisdom and experience. You only get that with age. For me, I’m really grateful to be able to do what I love to do … and I’m still able to do it. I’m also more forgiving of what I’m capable of doing and my limitations. I’m consciousness of it. I don’t want to over-do anything because of injury. Of course, I’m saying this, yet I’m jumping off 15 foot platforms in the show. But I guess what I’m saying is I know how far I can push myself at this age.
Where do you get your drive?
My thing is if it’s not written as a rule then there are no rules. Be bold and daring. So, what if they say no? Those are only two little letters. My Dad said, “If they say no, figure out another way.”
Your best advice?
The key is to never lose that edge of reckless abandon.