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The Many Faces of Paula Abdul: What Do They All Mean?

Tonight CBS airs week three of Paula Abdul's Live to Dance, and the semifinals continue, with Paula and two less-famous friends kindly judging the skills and dreams of aspiring hoofers. Even as the field narrows, the format remains emphatically friendly: Auditioners are awarded Gold Stars (great!) or Red Stars (still great, just less great), and even the first-round dismissals — which on her alma mater, American Idol, were an opportunity for dismissive mockery — came with a Paula pep talk and grateful applause. The show is a sunny, Xanax-powered alternate universe where life carries on as if Simon Cowell's eyes had never rolled. But the problem is, everyone is so nice that it's confusing! In a no-negativity zone, how are the contestants supposed to gauge Paula's real feelings, and therefore their odds of winning? To help these living-to-dance aspirants, Vulture has prepared a guide to Paula's many on-air faces (culled from her current show and Idol): They're the only clues to her true emotions — and the only way to predict her decision. Gold Star or Red Star? The answers await.