June 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM ET
Anyone who still thinks there are no second acts in American lives should take a closer look at Paula Abdul. Over the course of her career, she's reinvented herself multiple times, going from cheerleader to pop star to reality show judge. And today, she has a brand-new change to cheer about: Turning 50.
Abdul got her start back in the 1980s as a cheerleader and then choreographer for the L.A. Lakers basketball team; she segued into working with musicians like Janet Jackson before scoring her own record deal and landing six No. 1 singles. Meanwhile, she continued to choreograph for films like "Big" (remember Tom Hanks' piano-dancing scene?) "The Running Man," "American Beauty" and "Jerry Maguire." She picked up a Grammy for her "Opposites Attract" video (in which she danced with a cartoon cat) and two Emmys along the way, as well as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
But the mid-1990s weren't quite so toe-tapping for Abdul, who divorced actor Emilio Estevez in 1994 and publicly discussed her years of battling bulimia. She took a breather from music and stepped back from the spotlight until ....
The call from "American Idol" came, and suddenly Abdul was set to appear as one of three judges in the new, 2002 American version of the reality music series. Simon Cowell played bad cop to Abdul's good cop, and her sunny, positive criticism and encouragement made her both a favorite and a subject of ridicule on the show. While appearing on "Idol" she had side projects too, creating Paula Abdul Jewelry (sold on QVC and given away to "Idol" contestants) and releasing a new single, "Dance Like There's No Tomorrow." She left the series in 2009.
Since her "Idol" days, Abdul has kept bopping in and out the public eye. She's appeared in other reality shows -- including her own short-lived "Hey Paula" series -- and re-teamed with Cowell for one season as a judge on "The X Factor."
Undoubtedly, Abdul's fancy footwork will keep her hopping for years, and decades to come. It doesn't matter what age she turns, Paula Abdul will be forever our girl. Straight up!