Paula Abdul and the Plane Crash That (Probably) Never Happened

While we at YEDE typically steer clear from celebrity gossip, the story of Paula Abdul’s supposed plane crash was too engrossing to pass up. These days, Paula Abdul is mostly known for her role as a judge on American Idol. Many don’t even know that she had her own successful singing career. Even less people know about the mysterious gap in her career from 1992 until the 2002 debut of AI. Where did she disappear to? 

Paula Abdul’s Under My Spell Tour

concert ticket for the under my spell tour, when the supposed plane crash happened
Source: Wikipedia

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Paula Abdul was a household name. In total, she garnered six #1 hits, and eight top 10 hits. Following the release of her second studio album Spellbound, she began the Under My Spell tour, a nearly 100-show tour spanning North America, Australasia, and Asia.

Several shows in the U.S. were canceled due to vague health concerns. Even more mysterious is Abdul’s disappearance from the limelight after the tour’s end.

According to the Paula Abdul fansite, “Abdul also suffered serious neck and back injuries at the end of the tour when she was flying in a private jet and the plane was forced to make an unplanned emergency landing. Abdul admits she was unbuckled in the cabin at the time of the incident.”

This story seems too outrageous to simply gloss over, as the fansite does. The incident is mentioned again in a 2003 NBC article, in which the “emergency landing” becomes a full-blown plane crash.

“A plane crash in 1992 kept her in constant pain,” the article states. “For years she suffered, undergoing 10 spinal surgeries, having three metal plates put in her neck, and losing an inch in height.”

Paula Abdul on the Plane Crash

paula abdul
Source: Wikipedia

Abdul herself has mentioned the plane crash numerous times throughout her career. In a 2009 interview, she said, ”I was on tour at the end of ’93. It was on my birthday, too. I was leaving St. Louis, and I was on a 7-seater private plane. I was going to Denver, and close to 40 minutes into the air, one of the engines blew up and the right wing caught on fire, and we plummeted, and I broke through my seatbelt and smashed my head on top of the plane. I was knocked out. When I came to, everyone was holding hands. The entire plane was in flames. Half the other engine blew, and the co-pilot crash-landed us in a cornfield in Iowa.”

Details That Don’t Add Up

paula abdul in 1990
Source: Wikipedia

However, many details of her story do not add up. For example, at its closest point, Iowa is approximately 200 miles away from St. Louis and far north of the straight shot from SL to Denver. Unless they were going extremely off-route, how could they have crash-landed in Iowa? Also, her claim that this occurred on her birthday is easy to prove false. According to her tour calendar, she was not leaving St. Louis on her birthday that year.

Perhaps most telling is the fact that there are no NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) records of the incident Paula describes. There was no press coverage of the event either, something that’s hard to believe when considering Abdul’s celebrity at the time.

In a 2008 interview, Abdul claims that, as a result of the plane crash, “For five and a half years, I went through paralysis,” another detail that can’t be true when we consider that she released two at-home workout videos in that timespan. 

Why Would Paula Abdul Make Up a Story About a Plane Crash?

paula abdul in 2007
Source: Wikipedia

At this point, the likelihood that this plane crash ever happened is slim. So why would Paula—or perhaps her PR team—invent such an outrageous story?

There is no denying that Paula more or less disappeared from music following the Under My Spell tour. There is no clear-cut answer as to why, but many speculate that it had something to do with (1) her dependence on painkillers, as well as (2) the toll that touring was taking on her body.

Paula has been vocal about her struggles with addiction, particularly painkillers that she was initially prescribed to treat injuries she sustained as a cheerleader. In a 2009 interview, she describes the horrifying withdrawal process.

“Withdrawal, it’s the worst thing. I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain. It was excruciating. But at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been.”

Our Takeaway

paula abdul in 2011
Source: Wikipedia

Many claim that the plane crash story was simply a front to hide the fact that Paula could no longer perform due to her dependence. However, we choose to see it in a different light: the plane crash could perhaps be a metaphor for a life-changing event that caused her to take an early retirement from touring. Exactly what this event is we may never know.

We do not wish to disparage Paula Abdul in any way. Addiction is no laughing matter, and we can only hope that she has gotten the help she needed.

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