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Sparks flies: 'Masked Dancer' Exotic Bird is feathered friend of ex-'Idol' judge Paula Abdul

Lyndsey Parker
·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·7 min read
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When Paula Abdul returned to the Fox network this year as a judge on The Masked Dancer, every Wednesday became an old-school American Idol nostalgia-fest, because her ex-Idol co-star Randy Jackson also appeared that same night on Fox’s Name That Tune. All that was needed was for Simon Cowell’s America’s Got Talent to move over from NBC to Fox, to make the virtual reunion complete. Well, that never happened. But a real-life Idol reunion did take place on this Wednesday’s top five Masked Dancer episode, when the Exotic Bird removed her beak to reveal that she was Season 6 Idol champ Jordin Sparks.

“To see you and Paula reunited right now, it gives America goosebumps right now! exclaimed Masked Dancer judge Ken Jeong.

Paula wasn’t at all shocked by this unmasking. As the Masked Dancer panel’s most astute vibeologist, she’d guessed that the Exotic Bird was the “magnificent and incredible” Jordin several weeks ago. “They told me that you were gonna be on here, and I was like, ‘Paula knows me! She knows!’ You know how I am onstage and all of that stuff," laughed Jordin. “And I love you so much. So I was like, ‘She's going to know it's me.’”

However, Paula was pleasantly surprised by Jordin’s sweet tribute to the woman Jordin declared “one of my own idols”: a plucky jazz routine to Paula’s own hit “Opposites Attract,” complete with Jordin’s dance partner cosplaying as some sort of sexy-superheroic MC Skat Kat. Aw. I guess Jordin is forever Paula’s girl, even 14 (!!!) years after becoming the youngest winner in American Idol history. And that ain't fiction, just a natural fact.

“I’m sure that was pretty nerve-wracking, dancing to my song, but you absolutely nailed it,” said a delighted Paula, who was always the nicest and most encouraging of the three original American Idol judges. Ken (who’d guessed that the Exotic Bird was another Idol alumnus, Jennifer Hudson) agreed, declaring this Jordin’s best performance yet. But unfortunately, while it had seemed like Jordin was taking two steps forward in the competition, she ultimately took two steps back, with her cat-and-bird act failing to advance her to the semifinals. Apparently, this was not her now.

I’d say Jordin might’ve had a better shot on The Masked Singer, but the one American Idol star who ever competed on that sister show, Chris “The Rottweiler” Daughtry, actually stalled in second place. So who knows? Regardless, it seemed that Jordin felt like a winner again, simply happy to get her post-pregnancy groove back and shake her tailfeather during this “freeing” experience.

Speaking of opposites attracting, the four remaining anthropomorphic flora-and-fauna contestants — the Cotton Candy, Tulip, Zebra, and Sloth — have little in common, other than a desire to win that Diamond Mask trophy in a few weeks’ time. Let’s assess their latest performances, and keep the guessing game going.

The Tulip

This blossom’s cutesy frug to “My Boyfriend’s Back” once again showcased her versatility, ability to pick up any sort of choreography, and darling personality. “You had comedy, you had fun, you had heart, and you had skills,” Ken raved. If there is anyone in top four who’s actually a dancer by trade, it’s this contestant with the stellar stems.

The clues: We saw iced coffee, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a family-sized potato chip bag. She revealed that she’s been performing her whole life, and her verbal clue was “lifetime achievement” (uttered in a very youthful voice). Past clues have included references to Instagram and TikTok, a “Second Annual Mother-Daughter Dance,” the acronym “ALDC,” and the words “frozen” and “princess.”

Judges’ guesses: Liza Koshy, Haylie Duff, Jamie Lynn Spears.

My guesses: OK, this is totally social media maven Mackenzie Ziegler — star of the Lifetime series Dance Moms (Abby Lee Dance Company = “ALDC”) and the movie Ice Princess Lily, younger sister of Maddie Ziegler, and known iced coffee and PB&J consumer. A couple of the judges were on right track when guessed this was a famous sister, but they went with the wrong families.

The Zebra

While this striped superstar wasn’t technically perfect, he was surprisingly light on his hooves. And no one could say he didn’t fully commit to this cha cha to a song by the Exotic Bird’s famous ex, Jason Derulo. “You may not be the best dancer, but you always have the most fun,” noted judge Brian Austin Green.

The clues: We saw the number 1992 and a $1,000 bill being dropped into a “Good Will” charity donation bucket, and he was described as a “fighter” with “0 percent body fat” and “muscles like cinderblocks.” He has fans in “two countries” cheering him on, and he’s also an author. Past clues have referenced the Grammys, sports medals, and his status as a “Z.E.O.” and “champion” who is “known for a hook.”

Judges’ guesses: Oscar De La Hoya, Conor McGregor, Floyd Mayweather, Barry Bonds.

My guess: This is totally Mexican-American boxing champion (and dual citizen) De La Hoya. His self-titled 2000 Latin pop album was nominated for a Grammy Award, he won an Olympic medal in 1992, he’s the head of Golden Boy Promotions and the author of the children's book Super Oscar, and he also won a medal at the 1990 Goodwill Games. This guess is a T.K.O.!

The Sloth

The Sloth ain’t as lazy as he looks! As Paula pointed out, it took a lot of skill for him to pull off this intricately staged and synchronized Bollywood flash mob number, which featured dozens of extras and various props. It seems his connection to “Broadway” really paid off this week.

The clues: He’s a “showman” who tours all the time and is “usually the leading man” and “all drama.” His “mama raised him right” and he “speaks three languages,” but he’s also “always looking in the mirror” and “thinks he’s sex on a stick.” Other clues this week included a panda bear and the word “rose,” and past clues have included elephants, sporting gear, a boombox, a cruise ship, Glee, and Mickey Mouse.

Judges’ guesses: Bradley Cooper, Harry Shum Jr., Hugh Jackman, Jack Black.

My guess: I’ve previously speculated that the Sloth is either former American Idol contestant Todrick Hall or former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth, with little confidence in either guess. I’m starting to think this might be a real trained dancer, maybe a Dancing With the Stars pro veteran, trying to throw viewers off the Sloth’s scent with his over-the-top amateur antics. So, I will tentatively guess that this is Maks Chmerkovskiy, who partnered with Amber Rose on DWTS and can speak English, Russian, and Ukrainian. But if this is Maks, judging by his Sloth alter ego, he could have a second-act career in comedy. He is hilarious!

The Cotton Candy

This candy-girl’s adorable hip-hop/ballet routine was pure Swan Lake swag. The creative choreo (which began in the wings, behind the scenes, before she made the leap to the main stage), perfect pirouettes, lithe leg extensions, and high jumps were all the marks of a competitive athlete in top shape. “You are the one to beat right now,” proclaimed Ken.

The clues: We saw a red, white, and blue sash, a superhero cape, and a gold watch, and her verbal clue was “prayer.” Past clues have included more gold (notably five golden rings), lips, many mentions of the word “ice,” and the fact that she entered the public eye at a young age.

Judges’ guesses: Tara Lipinski, Julianne Hough, Kristi Yamaguchi, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Hayden Panettiere.

My guess: With all of those Olympian and icy references, added to the new “prayer” clue, I must stick with my guess that this is all-American skating gold-medalist and devout Catholic Tara Lipinski. And she’s really going for the gold this season — this competition is either hers or the Tulip’s to lose.

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