Paula Abdul on American Idol — and Why Simon and Randy Still Make Up Her Dream Judging Panel

"As excruciating as it could be, I had the best time," Paula Abdul tells PEOPLE of her eight-season run on the hit show  

Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson. Photo: FOX Image Collection via Getty

Paula Abdul is a forever American Idol fan!

The former judge, 58, tells PEOPLE she caught a few episodes of the most recent season from her home in California amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — and loves winner Samantha 'Just Sam' Diaz.

"It was a very interesting season that no one will ever forget, because a lot of it was virtual," she says. "The contestants were also really good, and it was cool to see them in their own environment with their families."

Abdul's other quarantine hobby is a nod to her Idol roots, too. The singer and dancer reveals she's been jamming to current judge Katy Perry during long walks around her neighborhood.

"I've been listening to a lot of happy music; it's like a button of joy just turns on," she says. "I'll be swinging and walking to the beat ... I love it."

Paula Abdul Opens up About Having Osteoarthritis: 'I'm Not Going to Let Pain Keep Me Down'
Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel

Regular exercise has become especially important to Abdul after she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that can cause stiffness and pain, about five years ago.

Abdul has opened up about living with the condition as part of her partnership with Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel for the launch of its over-the-counter offering, which Abdul says she uses the gel on her ankles, knees and other joints when they feel tight.

"I'm not going to let pain keep me down," she says.

If she ever returned to Idol, Abdul knows who she'd want in the chairs next to her.

"The OGS, Randy [Jackson] and Simon [Cowell]!" she reveals. "As excruciating as it could be, I had the best time."

The California native says she keeps in touch with the original judging panel, too.

Back in September, the trio reunited on Idol alum Kelly Clarkson's daytime talk show.

"It was magical. It was as if we had never left," Abdul told PEOPLE at the time. "The chemistry is undeniable, that's what's made it always special. You can't manufacture that. Right when the cameras were rolling, it was about telling the funniest stories, nothing but laughs and smiles."

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