Tragic Details About Paula Abdul

TV personality Paula Abdul has turned her passion for dance, music, and acting into a full-time career. She started out as a cheerleader for the Los Angeles Lakers and later became a choreographer, singer, and actress. Sadly, her personal life was marked by tragedy. Over the years, Abdul developed an eating disorder, got divorced twice, and dealt with the aftermath of a plane crash.

This chain of events began when she was just a child. In 1995, the young star confessed that she had lived with bulimia for 15 years. "I'd starve myself, then binge, then purge," Abdul told People. "Whether I was sticking my head in the toilet or exercising for hours a day, I was spitting out the food — and the feelings," she added. "The X Factor" judge managed to overcome this diagnosis in 1994 following a month-long stay at a mental health clinic. Unfortunately, she continued to face difficulties, including the death of a fan who had been stalking her for nearly two decades.

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741). 

Paula Abdul has never found that special someone

The "Live to Dance" judge was married twice, but things simply didn't work out for her. In 1992, she tied the knot with Charlie Sheen's brother, Emilio Estevez, who already had two children from a previous relationship. They parted ways two years later after she realized that her husband didn't want to grow their family. "It was very hard for him to admit that he couldn't handle having kids again," Paula Abdul told Entertainment Weekly.

Love knocked at her door again in 1996 when she married entrepreneur Brad Beckerman. Sadly, their relationship ended 17 months later because they couldn't get along. Over the next decades, Abdul allegedly dated professional golfer Hank Kuehne, actor John Stamos, businessman Colton Melby, and model Dante Spencer, but she still didn't find "the one."

In 2020, the TV host started a relationship with restaurant owner J.T. Torregiani, whom she has dated in the past. That year, she told USA Today that she hadn't given up on having a baby (via People). "Definitely within the next two years. I thought by now I'd have three grown children." Abdul also added that she was open to adoption.

She was shocked by the death of a stalker near her home

The "American Idol" judge made headlines in 2008 when a woman was found dead near Paula Abdul's home. Her name was Paula Goodspeed, and she reportedly stalked the TV star for 17 years. During this time, Goodspeed sent Abdul over 100 letters and dropped by her house unannounced. She even changed her name from "Sandra" to "Paula" and sent Abdul flowers a few days before dying by suicide. 

"It was very tragic and very upsetting to hear," Abdul explained to People at the time. "I've been staying in different homes and hotels, and I have security with me," she added. "The Waiting Game" actor previously had another stalker in 1993, but he has been incarcerated after making threats against President Bill Clinton.

During the time she was being stalked, the reality TV star lived with chronic pain from an injury to her neck. By 2005, she'd had 12 surgeries, many of which were related to a plane crash that she said she'd been in. That year, she was also diagnosed with a neurological disorder and underwent two other surgeries by 2007. "If I appear exhausted on television, it's because I am," she confessed in an interview with Today. "I have a lot of sleepless nights because I'm in so much pain."

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

Paula Abdul was diagnosed with Sudeck's atrophy

The former "American Idol" judge had a cheerleading accident at age 17, which left her in constant pain. It took another 25 years before she was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a disorder of the nervous system. Also known as Sudeck's atrophy, this condition causes a burning sensation, pain, excessive sweating, and hypersensitivity to touch, according to Michigan Surgery Specialists.

Since Paula Abdul has been living with it for over two decades, she most likely has stage III RSD, which lasts for one year or longer. Its symptoms include dry skin, joint stiffness, and reduced mobility, per the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. At this point, patients may experience less pain than in the previous stages, but other symptoms, such as swelling and loss of motion, may worsen.

Abdul underwent several surgeries and took medications to manage her symptoms. Sadly, the drugs made her feel nauseous and affected her sleep, so she decided to give up on them. Her life changed after she met rheumatology expert Daniel Wallace. "At the time, my sadness and pain were almost unbearable. My assistant said, 'Just see him. You don't have anything to lose,'" Abdul recalled in an interview with People. Dr. Wallace prescribed Enbrel, a drug used to treat arthritis. "The best feeling of all is in the mornings when I am able to stretch and not cry. And I don't wake up in the middle of the night crying," she said.

The former LA Lakers cheerleader is living with arthritis

Paula Abdul started to experience new symptoms in 2015. This time, she had pain in her joints during physical activity. The star knew something was off, so she scheduled an appointment with her doctor. He diagnosed her with osteoarthritis, one of the most common causes of joint pain and stiffness. As she told People, "I kept thinking, at least it wasn't something in my head."

The former LA Lakers cheerleader decided to prioritize her well-being and not let the pain take over. She practices meditation, engages in regular exercise, and walks a lot to keep her mind and body active. The dancer also takes ice baths to keep the inflammation down and does Pilates to maintain her flexibility. "Every day I try to wake up and think, 'What can I do today that's going to make me happy?'" Abdul confessed.

Abdul was also diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 2005, according to her rheumatologist, Daniel Wallace. This chronic disorder causes joint pain and inflammation but can also affect the skin, eyes, and internal organs. "I just try to be as mindful as I can be of what my body is telling me," Abdul said in an interview with the Arthritis Foundation. She also emphasized that she has to stay active to manage her pain and feel good mentally.

She was assaulted twice over the years

In 2006, Paula Abdul experienced an incident that may have contributed to her health problems. A man allegedly assaulted the "Rush, Rush" singer at a party in Los Angeles, hitting her against a wall. "She said she had sustained a concussion and spinal injuries," a police lieutenant, Paul Vernon, said at the time (via CBS News). The two engaged in an argument, and the man became violent. Abdul filed a report against him but didn't provide further details.

Abdul has also accused television producer Nigel Lythgoe of sexual assault in December 2023. She filed a lawsuit against him, saying he touched her inappropriately in the early 2000s and while working together on "So You Think You Can Dance" from 2015 to 2016. Lythgoe tried to forcefully kiss her while touching her private parts and later hit her repeatedly.

The television producer denied the allegations, claiming that he's nothing more than a friend to Abdul. "For more than two decades, Paula and I have interacted as dear — and entirely platonic — friends and colleagues," he told US Weekly. "I can promise that I will fight this appalling smear with everything I have," he added. Sadly, sexual assault is prevalent in the entertainment industry, and many times, it goes unreported for years.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).