For Paula Abdul, her mutual love affair with the LGBTQ+ community started decades ago, and her appearance at White Party Palm Springs this weekend seems to be a culmination of those decades of mutual adoration. An added bonus, Abdul’s White Party performance will be streaming live on Uplive, so if you are not able to make it to the event you can enjoy the performance live along with the other White Party revelers!
After keeping people (and herself) dancing for decades, Abdul is poised to headline the legendary event at a particularly poignant time, as this is the first White Party to occur following the death of White Party founder Jeffrey Sanker. I sat down with Paula Abdul for an exclusive chat where we discussed what it is like being tapped to headline this momentous occasion, her storied career and the impact it has had on the LGBTQ community, and what it has been like watching to many artists that she herself helped cultivate “take flight” on their own.
Michael Cook: You’re headlining this year’s White Party in Palm Springs, which kicks off Friday April 29th, and you are headlining the Sunday May 1st Tea Dance. This is one of the most legendary weekends of the year for the LGBTQ community, and always for a worthy cause. This year also marks the return of the event after an extended hiatus, as well as marking the passing of acclaimed White Party founder and visionary Jeffrey Sanker; what does it feel like to be part of the event on such a pivotal year?
Paula Abdul:I have been wanting to do this for so long. I feel really blessed that one of Jeffrey’s wishes was for me to perform this year at White Party. In honor of Jeffrey, I feel like for me, this is a huge deal. It is an important time that everyone is out living the new normal way and the new normal way of life. People want to celebrate and people want to have fun, and I have just thrilled that I get to kick that off.
MC: Being out on a dance floor all together with some Paula Abdul classics is no better way to return to that “new normal”. What can we expect from you at this sure to be spectacular performance? Will we be hearing the Paula Abdul hits that we have come to know and love?
PA: It was tough to decide which ones to do, but I can promise you that hopefully everyone will know all the songs! I want everyone to have a big smile on their face and up and dancing. I want them to leave having had a blast and with a smile other face. I have incredible dancers, of course I always have really incredible ones. They will be showing off how great they are and it is back to back, hit to hit!
MC: The White Party practice video that you did was such a clever and inventive way to announce that you were headlining the White Party. What was it like to create something like that with Brad Hammer, who consistently has such a smart and unique vision in his projects?
PA: Working with Brad was a total delight. He has so much energy and he is such a positive force. He just made the shoot just go so smoothly. He had his own requests as well, so I honored those and was able to work with some dancers that I had never worked with before. I just wanted to make it a retro, fun feel where you could see classic Paula choreography, but also have some fun and do some different things. I didnt know we were going to be making such a big production out of the teaser, so for me it was like “wow this is like a little mini-video”!
MC: Your remixes continue to take your material to the next level, with the Shep Pettibone remix of “Knocked Out” for me, being the first time I got to hear your music remixed on a dance floor. What is it like to hear your music remixed on a dance floor and see hundreds or thousands of men dancing to it, like we can definite.y expect at White Party?
PA: It’s exhilarating. It never gets old. It’s like the first time I’ve heard and seen people singing and dancing to my music. It is like a little bit of an out of body experience, because you forget that I have hung in their long enough that internationally, everyone knows my songs. It is such a blessed and humbled feeling. It also makes me smile, because I love to see different people’s interpretation of movement and see how they dance, so that makes it fun for me.
MC: The LGBTQ community absolutely adores you, for a myriad of reasons. When did it click to you that the relationship with the LGBTQ community was so strong and that there was so much love for you there?
PA: It is a mutual love affair. For me, it started way back when I was becoming a big choreographer. I was working with so many dancers who were my extended family. It was a beautiful thing to see that I got respect from the community, even when I was doing a job that didn’t have me front and center. I feel like it’s been going on for decades and decades and I certainly would not have the career that I have without the community, I have been so close with the community and I have lost so many beautiful gems along the way.
There is a mutual love and appreciation and for me, no one started their career like I did. I started below the line working to help other artists to take flight. So to be able to witness behind the scenes and in front, has been a different career than most would take. I never had anyone that I could call up and say “how was this like for you when this happened” because it was very different and very strange in so many ways. The community though, always stood behind me and it has been a beautiful, beautiful relationship, My family is filled with members of the LGBTQ+ community.
MC: You mentioned helping artists “take flight” but getting to watch artists like Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson become LGBTQ icons of their own with spectacular careers must be a beyond surreal feeling.
PA: One hundred percent. There is no mistaking, I try to make it to every Idol’s first “big thing”. Whether it is their first big concert, their first play on Broadway, whatever it is. I am the proud mom, what can I say? On Kelly Clarkson’s wall at her tv studio before you walk on stage, I wrote on the wall “After your own Mom, I am your second proudest Mom”.
MC: Whether it is your time on American Idol, or The Masked Dancer pr The X Factor, or popping into Dancing With The Stars, you seem to have a keen knack or intuition for discovering untapped talent. Is there a formula that you have discovered for yourself to do that?
PA: One of my most favorite things to do is scouting talent, and I definitely do have a knack for it. It is like a radar that goes up, I can smell, sniff out, that unique ability that is in its own box and its own space. it is either that unique ability of that excellence, those are the two boxes that I look for, Those are the two boxes that you can see something can really develop in a beautiful way. I got to do that every single week for nine years and it was incredible.
MC: White Party will be a phenomenal event, and with summer coming, this is no better time than to have some brand new Paula Abdul material for us to enjoy. What can you tell us is coming up for you?
PA: I am working on music right now, I have the bug. Now is the time for me to do that between projects. I am going to be heading back to Las Vegas as well and doing my residency. I have an HBO Max show that I am working on called Made For Love, I just filmed Season 2 and that will be airing soon. MC Scat Kat is also in a Disney movie with a cameo for The Adventues of Chip and Dale! In between all of that, I will be recording.
Follow Paula Abdul on Instagram
Follow UpLive on Instagram