Paula Abdul Reunites With ‘American Idol’ Winner

Paula Abdul and Fantasia Barrino at the premiere of 'The Color Purple.'

Variety/Getty Paula Abdul and Fantasia Barrino at the premiere of 'The Color Purple.'

While attending the December 6 premiere of “The Color Purple,” Paula Abdul had the chance to reunite with “American Idol” winner, Fantasia Barrino. In 2004, Barrino beat out thousands of contestants to become the Season 3 winner of the reality competition show. Nearly twenty years later, Barrino and Abdul were able to share a heartwarming moment as they hugged in front of The Academy Museum in Los Angeles.

In “The Color Purple,” Barrino plays the lead character, Celie, a Black woman living in the Jim Crow South. The film focuses on Celie as she overcomes oppression and abuse to find fulfillment and independence in her life. In addition to Barrino, the cast features Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, and Halle Bailey.

While speaking at ELLE’s Women in Hollywood Awards on December 5, Barrino addressed the audience. She spoke about her hesitation to return to a character that took its toll on her emotionally. “I want to thank Celie, a role that I ran from. And when they called me, I said I was not coming back to play,” she said.

“But it wasn’t until our great director [Blitz Bazawule] called me and said, ‘I’m giving Celie an imagination,’ and I said, ‘OK, I’m in.’ Because I was a young lady that went through a lot of things and lost a lot, and lost everything twice,” she added. “I never thought I would be back here in front of y’all.”

For Barrino, playing Celie allowed her to connect to women everywhere. “Because of Celie, I’m standing here and I want to speak to all of the Celies in the room tonight who didn’t think you could make it out of certain situations,” Barrino said at the event. “All of my Black women who felt like you were not pretty enough [or] you didn’t have what it takes.”

Fantasia Barrino Didn’t Think She ‘Could Do It’

This isn’t the first time that Barrino has played Celie in “The Color Purple.” She joined the cast of the Broadway production in 2007. When first approached to play Celie in the stage adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Barrino was understandably apprehensive. In an interview with Oprah, Barrino admitted her self-doubt. “I didn’t think I could do it, she said.

After some words of encouragement, Barrino took a chance at a meeting that propelled her career. “My manager took me to see the show and said that two men wanted to meet with me. They turned out to be Scott Sanders and Gary Griffin [the show’s producer and director], and Scott pulled out a picture of the marquee with my name on it and said, ‘I want you to be Celie,'” recalled Barrino.

“But I was scared. For days, I thought and prayed, and I finally decided to try it,” she told Oprah. “On opening night, I thought, “I’ve got to do my best for all the people who’ve come to see the show. When the crowd applauded during my first lines, I knew they wanted to see me do good, and I thought, ‘I can do this.'”

Paula Abdul Reunites With ‘Incredible’ Fantasia Barrino

During her 2004 performance of the song  “What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life,” Barrino managed to leave a distinct impression on the panel of  the “American Idol” judges. Randy Jackson noted her ability to capture the tone and emotion of the song. “You just sang one of my favorite songs of all time. That song is absolutely brilliant. You are absolutely brilliant, he said. “There’s a star in your voice. It’s that tone. It’s about tone, people.”

Not to be outdone, Abdul was left nearly speechless while attempting to evaluate Barrino’s performance. “I don’t know, you brought me to tears. I don’t know what to say,” an emotional Abdul admitted.

Nearly twenty years later, Paula Abdul still finds herself emotional when thinking about Fantasia Barrino. While speaking to ET, Abdul summarized her thoughts as best she could. “I feel like a proud mom to Fantasia; I was there at the very, very, very, very beginning,” she said.

“Fantasia knows that she’s my favorite in the world. I love that woman inside and out,” Abdul added. “She is so beautiful. Every performance she ever performed on that stage was memorable, and it was bone-chilling. And the goosebumps and everything! She was incredible.”