From her '80s hits, including "Straight Up" and "Forever Your Girl," to her high-profile marriage to Emilio Estevez to her time as a judge in the early seasons of American Idol, Paula Abdul is considered by many to be an icon.
After becoming a top pop singer in the '80s, Paula took a break from Hollywood for several years in the '90s before she reemerged to be a judge on American Idol in 2002.
While she's maintained a more private life in the years since she stopped working on American Idol, she's appeared on shows like The X Factor and So You Think You Can Dance. Plus, she toured with New Kids on the Block and headlined her own Las Vegas residency until early 2020.
In recent years, the "Cold Hearted" singer has attributed one of her breaks from the public eye to a scary plane crash that allegedly took place toward the end of her Under My Spell tour in the early '90s.
Was Paula Abdul in a plane crash? The singer has spoken out multiple times about a serious plane crash accident, but there are some who don't buy her story.
Was Paula Abdul in a plane crash?
According to Paula, around the time her Under My Spell tour concluded in 1992, she was involved in a plane crash. She explained that she and some of the crew from the tour were constantly traveling between cities in a seven-seater plane, and that the engine caught fire about 40 minutes into the flight after a performance in St. Louis.
The singer discussed what happened during an appearance on RuPaul in 2019.
"During the end of my world tour... when I was traveling from one city to the next, in a small seven-seater plane, one of the engines blew up and the right wing caught on fire, and we crash-landed. I didn't have my seatbelt on and I hit my head on the top of the plane and that went on to... I withstood 15 cervical spinal surgeries and I had to take seven years off. And then I re-appeared on American Idol."
Paula's appearance on RuPaul wouldn't be the last time that the dancer spoke about the accident.
In an interview with Yahoo Entertainment in March of 2020, the singer explained that people may doubt if the accident actually happened because she refrained from talking about it until decades later.
"[I] didn't want to talk too much about it, because it took me a long time to build the career that I had, and I didn't want to be counted out or fearful of people not understanding and thinking that, 'Well, maybe she's really not doing well,'" she told the outlet.
When asked about whether or not it upsets her that people doubt her story, Paula explained that it doesn't. But, she also said that she wasn't alone on the aircraft, and that there are others out there who can corroborate her story.
"You know what? It's like, there are seven other people that were on the plane, who were in that plane accident with me. So, I really don't care what people have to say. I don't. It's like, you learn and grow through wisdom and experience of being in this business, especially with the internet," she told the outlet. "You can't take things personally, and the things that resonate with you that can help you become better, the best version of yourself, you hold onto and you work through that."
"If there's something that you know you can actually work on that can improve who you are as a performer or as a professional or as a human being, I resonate with that," she concluded. "And the other stuff isn't my business."
In the same interview, Paula also further elaborated on her injuries from the crash.
"When we plummeted, I hit my head on the ceiling of the plane. I was really injured. I mean, I had a spinal cord injury and nerve damage. I started losing all feeling on my right side, and I was starting to really live in excruciating pain," she said. "So back then neurosurgery, especially with having spinal cord injury and having surgery, there was a 50/50 chance to get better. But I was willing to try, because the quality of my life was starting to really suck, and it hurt."
"From a [pain] scale of one to 10, my 'normal' was hovering at seven. You learn to live like that. It was not fun," she continued. "I wasn't able to do what I love, my heart place, which is dancing. That wasn't happening."
In a 2005 cover story spread with People, Paula said she dealt with chronic pain from the accident for years, and that it was a big issue during her first season of American Idol.
"I did the whole first season in pain. I tried taking the different medications the doctors prescribed, but it was the same old story," she told the magazine. "No one on the show knew I was in pain. I gritted my teeth. Or I chewed the side of my mouth. Or I sat on my hands and pulled my fingers or pressed down on my hand — something to distract me from the pain."
While Paula has said that the plane crash served as a turning point in her career, there are people who aren't convinced that the plane accident occurred at all.
Why are there doubts about Paula Abdul's plane crash?
Because Paula was in the height of her career at the time when the alleged plane crash occurred, many outlets, including Jezebel, KDWB, and DListed, have been skeptical about whether or not it actually happened, since it wasn't reported on or spoken about at the time.
All three of the outlets have reported that there is no public record of a plane crash occurring that included Paula. According to Jezebel, Paula has also said some contradictory statements about the date and timeline of the crash. There is some confusion as to which part of her tour the crash occurred on. Jezebel also reported that public records also don't appear to corroborate a small plane crash occurring during the dates in question. No other passengers have spoken about a crash.
The singer has said in a 2018 interview with Music News that the crash was kept under wraps because she didn't want publicity for it at the time, or for people to think that her career was over.
"I went through all of that, mostly, privately. Back then, we didn't have tabloids like we do now," she said. "We didn't have the extent of paparazzi... so you were able to contain some information."
"I was so afraid of being counted out and looked at as damaged goods," she continued. "The problem was that, at the time, I was. I ended up having to take almost seven years off to have all these different neurosurgeons operating on me."
Though there are naysayers about Paul's alleged plane crash, the singer has not wavered from discussing it to the press.