Paula Abdul is back! The 59-year-old returned to the American Idol stage on Monday for a special reunion episode and got teary-eyed, reflecting on her time on the show (she was a judge from the show’s inception in 2002 to 2009). “I’m most proud, most humbled by having an experience of a lifetime,” she told host Ryan Seacrest after he asked her how it felt to be back. “I’m crying seeing all the contestants who are like my babies. It’s beautiful,” she said as she looked over past contestants like Ruben Studdard, Jordin Sparks, and more who also made their return for the special episode.
The “Cold Hearted” singer came back to her seat along with another former judge, Randy Jackson. Paula was a judge from seasons 1-8 while Randy was on the show from seasons 1-12. Their other former co-judge, Simon Cowell, was not present for the special.
Paula took her seat next to Katy Perry, who is a current judge on the show, along with Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan. Among the contestants who returned were, in addition to Ruben and Jordin, Scotty McCreery, David Cook, Lauren Alaina, Kris Allen, Maddie Poppe, Laine Hardy, Willie Spence, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, Grace Kinstler, Laci Kaye Booth, who all performed duets.
One big happy #Idol family together again!
— American Idol (@AmericanIdol) May 3, 2022
The special reunion show comes after the current Idol contestants celebrated Disney Night! The night kicked off with the ladies of season 20 performing “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” with Adassa from Encanto. Fellow Encanto star Rhenzy Feliz and the boys of Idol join them in the latter half of the performance. Derek Hough is serving as the top 10’s mentor for Disney Night.
The show then narrowed down the contestants from the top 10 to the top 7. After almost 20 million votes, the first singer to make the top 7 is Leah Marlene. Jay Copeland, Noah Thompson, Fritz Hager, HunterGirl, and Nicolina were the next names to be called. The final spot went to Christian Guardino!