It’s hard to believe it has been almost 20 years since Fantasia Barrino was crowned the Season 3 winner of American Idol. Barrino hasn’t only garnered support and praise from critics and fans, but her Idol family as well. Former series judge Paula Abdul couldn’t help but gush about the R&B singer as Barrino garners Oscar buzz for her performance as Celie in the big-screen revamp of The Color Purple. Abdul also recalled the sweet way she helped the Idol alum ahead of her audition.
The former American Idol judge -- who rejoined Ryan Seacrest and more on it in 2011-- showed her support at the musical adaptation’s star-studded Hollywood premiere where ET caught up with her. Paula Abdul saw Fantasia Barrino’s rise to superstardom first-hand during the reality competition’s third season. While looking back at the the songstress' time on Idol, Abdul shared a touching story involving Barrino almost missing out on her chance to audition, saying:
When she auditioned the second day in Atlanta, she wasn't being allowed in. I was going to the bathroom on a break and Simon's taking a cigarette break and I saw a girl going, 'Please let me in, please!' I beelined [in], I said, 'Let her in!' She was the last contestant to audition and she went on to win that season!
The "Knocked Out" singer clearly knew a star when she saw one. Thankfully, the pop star did help the hopeful entertainer get through the process and ultimately sing before her, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson. Of course, the rest is history. Fantasia has released seven albums, acted on Broadway and won multiple awards, including a Grammy. Now, the Idol winner is making her big screen debut with the aforementioned stage-to-screen adaptation.
While at the purple-carpet premiere, Paula Abdul, who was "pissed" over Jennifer Hudson's elimination years ago, really had the chance to gush over the “When I See” singer. The famed singer and choreographer gushed about the former TV show contestant's journey and even sounded like a parent. She said about watching Fantasia grow over the course of her season on the former Fox show:
I feel like a proud mom to Fantasia; I was there at the very, very, very, very beginning. … Fantasia knows that she's my favorite in the world -- I love that woman inside and out. 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.
It's lovely to hear the pop singer beam about the Idol alum as if she were her own daughter. Of course, like many TV viewers, Paula Abdul watched Fantasia grow from a teenage single mom with a big voice to an acclaimed singer and actress. The two women even shared an emotion-filled reunion at the film’s premiere. Interestingly, Abdul's connection to the musical film goes beyond American Idol, as she and original The Color Purple (which Max subscribers can stream) star Whoopi Goldberg were roommates for a while during the early portions of their careers.
Of course, audiences will get to see Fantasia take over the role of Celie Harris Johnson from Whoopi Goldberg as a member of the Color Purple cast. So far the remake of the iconic musical has been critically acclaimed, with many singling out Barrino. Her come-up may be one of the greatest the entertainment industry has ever, and it's lovely to think that it was helped along in such a sweet way by Paula Abdul. Here's to continued success for the fan-favorite singer as she continues to make her mark.