Paula Abdul Launches Empowering 15-Piece Athleisure Collection with Smash + Tess: 'A Labor of Love'

Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection
Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection

Shaun Vadella

When Paula Abdul was first introduced to Smash + Tess — a lifestyle brand founded by mother-daughter duo, Teresa and Ashley Freeborn — she felt an instant connection to the brand.

"What got me right away was their mission statement of inclusivity because that's what I've been about my whole career," the iconic performer tells PEOPLE exclusively.

Now, Abdul's love for the company has led to an exciting collaboration — the Groove Gear collection, a 15-piece athleisure capsule featuring jumpsuits, jazz pants, crop tops and sweaters, now available on smashtess.com. Abdul co-designed the line with Ashley with everyone in mind.

The iconic pop star opens up about creating the collection and how she hopes to forever empower others through this "labor of love."

Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection
Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection

Shaun Vadella

"I'm all about working with smaller companies and teaming up with women that are cut from the same cloth as I am," the Grammy winner shares on what drew her to the Canadian brand and how working with Ashley turned their partnership into a sister-like friendship.

On the style front, Abdul notes the collaboration was an "easy fit." Smash + Tess' inclusive designs meshed with her "legacy in dance and fitness" — which comes with a wealth of knowledge on what makes for a great performance piece — brought about five new "fashion-forward" styles built for functionality and everyday wear.

"I'm in love with how they're very particular and meticulous on fabrication, how it embraces and pulls your body and your muscles. It just feels great on your skin," says the former Lakers Girl.

She's already put the collection, made for an on-the-go lifestyle, to the test: "I've danced in them, I have done my workouts. I've done everything in them."

The "Opposites Attract" singer highlights the Straight Up romper (available in long sleeve and sleeveless silhouettes), which falls in line with Smash + Tess' signature one-pieces and makes for great workout piece thanks to its compression.

Abdul also raves about the Forever Flared pants — legging-pants with a comfortable waistline and have "a bit of a boot cut [fit]" that elongates the leg (a must for the star who is on the shorter side). Another must-have is the Warm Hearted crop tops, which feature cutouts placed strategically on the body to conceal any bra straps (however, Abdul states that the clothes were also made for shoppers wanting to go braless).

Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection
Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection

Shaun Vadella

RELATED: Paula Abdul Surprises Childhood Dance Teacher with a Studio Renovation: 'He Taught Me the Love'

At the heart of the collection though, is a sentiment that celebrates women and young girls through feel-good clothing that sparks confidence and encourages authenticity. It's a philosophy that the Emmy winner has "carried out through decades."

"I think that it's important to, in a nanosecond, be able to remind yourself that you are empowered, beautiful and perfect with all of your imperfections," notes Abdul, who also designed the zipper on the Love Me Up sweater to include the phrase, "Heart Wins Out."

Self-empowerment has been a cornerstone of Abdul's prolific career. Born three months prematurely, Abdul suffered from "terrible hip dysplasia" that left her with turned-in hips, which go against the physicalities of dancing. She also found that her petite frame didn't fit into the industry's body stereotypes.

Taking matters into her own hands, she ultimately "disrupted the dance world" and broke the mold of what it looked like to be a successful dancer. She then came to one conclusion: "I am going to carry on that tradition."

Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection
Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection

Shaun Vadella

RELATED: Paula Abdul Stuns in Yellow Leopard-Print Mini Dress While Out for Dinner in West Hollywood

Over the years Abdul has seen her style "constantly evolving," but she still loves a look that is "classic and simple" but holds a "modern-twist," which Groove Gear speaks for.

"I've learned how to create illusions. Everyone knows I am vertically challenged but in my own mind I think I'm seven feet tall," she teases of her short height. She's learned how to differentiate what works for her and what doesn't — but always likes to her accentuate her legs, a.k.a. her "best asset."

One thing she's got down pat is her talent for dancing in high heels. "My mom, dad and my sister have told me, 'When you were a toddler, from the moment you would walk on tiptoes it never stopped.' Everyone makes fun of me that way, but I think I was born for heels," she says.

Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection
Paula Abdul Smash + Tess collection

Shaun Vadella

RELATED: Paula Abdul Recalls How 'Straight Up' Began in a Shower: 'It Changed My Life'

There's no stopping Abdul, 60, who's been busy sharing her affinity for the arts in a new way: becoming a TikToker! ("I feel like I should have been a part of it from the get-go," she jokes.)

Now that there's a "renaissance" of '80s and '90s music nostalgia — an era during which Abdul rose to fame — on the app, she feels compelled to share her love for dance with her nearly two million followers, some of whom belong to a new generation of aspiring performers.


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"I've found a place that I can be completely living in my passion," shares Abdul. "It was always important to me that, whatever I created in my choreography, it would stand the test of time. I love to see that's been proven."

If there's one thing she's discovered about herself since joining the online community, it's still being able to "inspire millions of people."

"I can still mentor young people and help them navigate their craft and their dreams and help impart wisdom and experience. I didn't have that for myself, so it's really important for me to pass that down," she concludes.