She doles out criticism on a weekly basis as the American Idol judge who buffers Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, but Paula Abdul has weathered her own share of personal attacks this year. Even before season 6 launched, Abdul, while on a jam-packed promotional tour to kick off the audition shows, endured accusations of being ''under the influence'' as several TV interviews seemingly went awry. In her own defense, Abdul explained the technical difficulties involved in a satellite tour the interviewee is positioned in a room with a camera that feeds into dozens of broadcast stations but when we approached her at the Idol Top 12 party last night, Abdul was still riled up about that, the Internet, Simon's shenanigans, and the elimination of her beloved Sundance. Read on for our eye-opening conversation with Paula...
PAULA ABDUL: I've never had so much bulls--- written about me in my entire career, 21 years in this business. Nobody, [including] my friends and my family, has seen me drinking, partying...EVER. I'm the squarest dork there is. I've worked my ass off my whole career. I challenge anybody, go look at any picture [of me] in my entire life and see if I'm [pretends to stumble] or even holding a drink. Maybe somewhere I'm making a toast, but I've never been drunk in my whole life. I don't do recreational drugs. I have the hardest job mid-sentence I have to think of what I'm going to say, [and] sometimes I have to talk fast because I don't want to be edited. I have to think about what I'm going to say because I might not particularly care for [a contestant's] performance. How [can I express this] so they leave with a little bit of dignity and grace?
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you can sympathize with what Antonella's going though?
I can't imagine how it feels for someone who's not used to it. I do sympathize with Antonella; I don't look at that crap. Today you remove people from pictures, you can move them around. [That's] the beauty of the Internet...you can put my head on any body. My head's been on bodies I wish I had! I'm saying I wish I looked like that...[but] it's not me. I close my eyes when I'm in front of a mirror. I don't look, I'm serious.
Now that you've seen the powerhouse of the girls this season, do you think it's a little unfair to have six guys and six girls?
I wish it was best of the bunch. We used to have best of the bunch the first two seasons. I understand producer-wise why they do [that]. The problem is, what if there were ten girls and two guys? It wouldn't make for that exciting of a show.
Who has surprised you in a good way?
Stephanie Edwards and Jordin Sparks. We lost Sabrina and Sundance, who I loved, it breaks my heart. Jordin being 17, she has probably the most natural self-assuredness [for someone so young]. Paris Bennett, Lisa Tucker, we have had great young kids, but there's something about Jordin that is older than her years. She's naturally gifted, she's not trained she's an artist that I think could be around for a long time. I love Blake [Lewis], I want him to follow his beatboxing with reckless abandon because that's his unique gift, and continue to work on his vocals.
So who's surprised you in a bad way?
I was openly shocked with Sundance leaving and I said, ''you are one of our most gifted singers.'' And I [also] said, ''Sanjaya no disrespect to you, congratulations to you.'' And for someone [like Sanjaya] at 17 to have such a smooth older-than-his-years tone...but experience-wise, vocally, there was no comparison [to Sundance]. But I understand how parents and young girls would love [Sanjaya].