Paula Abdul
Paula Abdul Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Grammy-winning singer and television personality Paula Abdul has filed a lawsuit against former ‘American Idol’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ producer Nigel Lythgoe, claiming he harassed and sexually assaulted her during her time working on both shows.

In a complaint, filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Abdul accused Lythgoe of sexually assaulting her on two occasions. The first incident took place during the early seasons of ‘American Idol,’ and the second happened about a decade later while Abdul, 61, was working on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ the complaint said.

The first incident allegedly occurred in an elevator of a hotel after a day of auditions for ‘American Idol,’ which first aired in 2002. She escaped once the elevator doors opened and told her representatives about the incident, but was fearful to take action because she didn’t want to be fired from the show, according to the complaint.

During the second incident a decade later, Lythgoe invited Abdul to a dinner at his house to discuss working together on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ where he was an executive producer. Near the end of the evening, the complaint alleged, Lythgoe forced himself on Abdul.

The complaint also said that Abdul was discriminated against while working on ‘American Idol’ in terms of compensation and benefits “compared to one of the show’s male judges and the host.” The suit did not name the male judge, but music managers Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell worked alongside Abdul as the original trio of judges. Ryan Seacrest was the primary host after the show’s first season.

The suit was filed under California’s Sexual Abuse and Cover Up Accountability Act, which permits victims of sexual assault to file claims that would otherwise be barred solely because the statute of limitations had expired. The state law allows suits to be filed through Dec. 31, 2023.

Los Angeles attorney Douglas L Johnson, who is representing Abdul, said his client “should be commended for the immense courage required to take action against the type of abuse that was inflicted upon her, particularly when the alleged abuser is a figure so dominant in her profession.”

Abdul spent two seasons on ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ leaving the show in 2016, and has not worked with Lythgoe since, the complaint added.