Paula Abdul established herself as the judge with the giant heart during her eight-year tenure on American Idol, and don't expect anything different when she debuts her new reality competition show, Live To Dance, on CBS in January.
"My family always makes fun of me and says I should have business cards that say 'mentor,'" she told TV Guide Magazine during an open casting call in New York. "For me, all the time, heart wins out."
To prove her point, Abdul explains that her new show features three experts — not judges — who will not only critique aspiring dancers, but mentor them as well. Abdul will serve as lead expert/mentor and will be joined by choreographer Travis Payne (Michael Jackson's This Is It) and Kimberly Wyatt, an original member of The Pussycat Dolls.
The new series gets back to Abdul's roots as a dancer/choreographer and invites dancers of all ages and genres to compete for a $500,000 prize.
So how exactly will the show work? "It's not a format where we pick Irish cloggers and we say, 'This week you'll be doing Afro-Cuban salsa,'" she explains. "It's taking their Irish clogging, and with a little magic, I start tweaking and gently nudging them to go a little beyond their comfort zone."
Abdul says picking a winner will be collaboration between the audience and the experts as early as the second show. "It'll be that constant, 'OK, we must have this person in the semi-finals or moving forward to the finals, but you, America, get to pick one too.'"
Live to Dance debuts the same month as American Idol's new season, and Abdul has some thoughts on new Idol judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler. "They're seasoned veterans," she says. "They know what it takes. They know the discipline. They know the hard work."
She also offers a bit of advice for the newbies — laced with her trademark heart, of course. "Remember what's it's like for [the contestants] to be out there doing what you guys were doing when you first started," she says. "It's a selfless action when you're helping to create bona fide careers."