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''Hey Paula'': After the meltdown

On ”Hey Paula,” while trying to explain her meltdown, Miss Abdul loads up on swag and accepts a Woman of the Year award

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Paula Abdul

Hey Paula

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Paula Abdul
Reality TV

”Hey Paula”: After the meltdown

Hey, Paula watchers! I’m filling in while Michael Slezak continues to siesta his way through Spain for another week.

This episode picked up in the midst of the media frenzy that erupted after Paula’s loopy TV interviews before the last season of American Idol. As the word on the street spread that Paula had lost it, her crew hunkered down at Casa Abdul for some serious damage control. Sober faces abounded, and even the dogs were jittery and barking. ”It’s ruining my reputation, and that’s all I’ve got,” clucked Paula. And it didn’t stop there. Her face started to crumble. ”I refuse to lose endorsements,” she sniffed, as a bottle of Vitamin Water stood nearby in full support. (Maybe Paula can endorse a new flavor. How ’bout Rush Rush: pomegranate juice with a jolt of matcha green tea?) And the rant went on and on, devolved into sobs, and included phrases like ”I’ve been treated like a piece of dog s—” and ”I’m losing…my creativity!” Paula’s cronies nodded solemnly in assent, and the woman next to her even seemed to be tearing up as well, but it’s hard to tell if it was because she was truly sympathizing with the pop star or because she couldn’t believe this indignant stance lasted this long.

Publicist Jeff did kind of drop the ball here; when Paula lashed out at him for not vouching for her at some other unidentified meeting, he blanched and merely whimpered, ”I told him the truth.” As inarticulately as she expressed herself, Paula did show some tenacity and bite. And I know it’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: It is hard not to believe that she was exhausted during those interviews.

Well, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. First line of defense: the gifting suite. To think that Paula could be nervous about designers not wanting her to be associated with their product is kind of quaint, in a self-absorbed way. But she came away adorned and adored — except for that sparkly dress, which apparently was being held for someone’s ”niece,” a.k.a. a bigger star. Paula handled this amiably, sarcastically feigning surprise: ”Do you mean there is someone more famous than me?”). After she loaded up the armfuls of swag in her car, Paula realized she had no cash and had to borrow a buck from Danny to tip the valet. It’s amazing, this world of celebrities, isn’t it? Get thousands of dollars of stuff, and not a dollar in your pocket to tip the valet. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Next the team jetted to Las Vegas so Paula could accept the Woman of the Year honor from the Nevada Ballet Theatre. But as Paula said, ”I’m getting an amazing award tonight. And ironically, I can’t enjoy it. Because I’m right in the middle of a big ol’ crap sandwich.”

After she played hardball with an L.A. magazine that was misquoting her in a story (a warning for journalists to get their quotes straight), Paula had to face a press line gathered to grill her about her media debacle. Her stalling techniques were reminiscent of a girl who, having to give a speech in front of the classroom, suddenly really has to go to the bathroom. But Paula went through with it like a trouper, despite a cringe-worthy spate of interviews that she wanted to do over, and one particularly painful episode that involved the words ”recipient” and ”receiving” and a call to edit out the fumbled segment that came off as sad and desperate.

How surprising, then, that after being wrung by the press, Paula received support from an unlikely source: Simon Cowell. His nice words during the awards ceremony (”You supply the heart to our show, Paula”) was a genuinely kind act, and a balm to salve some rough media treatment. Could it be that Simon and Paula, beyond their bickering and jabs, harbor some real affection for each other?

Paula seemed to think so. When, after the awards, she told an interviewer, ”Not many people can do this,” I thought she was going to break into some sort of dance. Instead, she turned around and raised her foot, revealing that she had braved the press, endured an entrance flanked by cheerleaders and pom-poms, and received an award in enormous heels. And while it wasn’t a rooftop dance with an animated cat, it was still kind of impressive.

Although ex-Supreme Mary Wilson’s claim that Paula’s was ”obviously the comeback of the century” may be a bit of an overstatement, the wave of good fortune carried over to the following day, as Paula got to say her piece on The Tonight Show. But not before inept stylist Kiley took an eternity to back Paula’s new Range Rover down a driveway the width of a small country. Who works in L.A. and can’t back a car out of a driveway? At least the bumbling inspired a nice little zinger: ”You’re driving Miss Daisy right now,” Paula snapped. ”Go!”

What do you think? Did Paula handle the press well? Do you think Paula and Simon really care for each other deep down? And should Kiley be reenrolled in Driver’s Ed?