Paula Abdul, an award-winning singer, dancer, choreographer and TV personality, can add a new title to her resume: religious pilgrim.
The former American Idol and The X Factor judge is on her first trip to Israel, where she is connecting to her Jewish roots and planning on holding a belated Bat Mitzvah – the Jewish coming of age ceremony girls typically have at age 12 or 13.
“Beyond being Jewish, I’ve always found myself to be very much in tune with spirituality,” the 51-year-old Abdul told the Associated Press. “I feel very grateful coming to Israel now, where as a woman I know who I am a lot more than even 10 years ago.”
An official guest of Israel’s ministry of tourism, Abdul has been touring the country and visiting holy sites, museums and markets in Jerusalem. Israeli President Shimon Peres also hosted the former Lakers Girl.
Abdul said the trip has provided her a rare opportunity to experience the country like a “regular tourist” without the nonstop schedule of a concert tour.
“I’ve traveled the world touring and things like that but I don’t get the chance to see much of wherever I’m at,” she said. Abdul described the visit as “the most magnificent trip I’ve ever taken … magical and emotional.”
After a music career that saw her have six No. 1 singles in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Abdul reinvented herself as quirky judge of talent on American Idol. She left the competition in 2009 after eight seasons over a contract dispute. She later had one season as a judge on the U.S. version of The X Factor, in which she reunited with Simon Cowell. She’ll appear next year as a judge on Australia’s version of So You Think You Can Dance.