Forgetting about art for a minute, let's talk numbers when it comes to Katy Perry.
The California-born megastar is the most popular person on Twitter, her 108 million followers eclipsing not only Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, but also Barack Obama.
As a recording artist, Perry has moved a staggering 100 million albums and singles. That, combined with touring, endorsements, and various business ventures, has led to an estimated worth somewhere north of $130 million. Not bad, considering her family was so poor when she was growing up that groceries were often bought with food stamps.
Perry plays not one but two Vancouver shows this upcoming week, appearing at Rogers Arena on Monday and Tuesday (February 5 and 6). That's right—she's taking over the home of the Canucks, which has a concert capacity of 19,000, for a double header.
As numbers go, they don't get much more impressive. For those who can't stand numbers, below you'll find some words about one of pop's biggest stars.
TRY AND TRY AGAIN. No one makes it in show business overnight, and that includes Katy Perry. Getting her start singing in her parents’ church, she made her first official foray into the music business as a Christian singer under her real name, Katy Hudson. Changing her last name to Perry (her mother’s maiden name) to avoid being confused with actor Kate Hudson, she then took a second shot at stardom as a pop singer, landing a contract with Columbia. Because originality isn’t exactly considered an attribute in the major-label system, Columbia wanted Perry to position herself as the next Avril Lavigne, something she wasn’t interested in. When the singer broke with “I Kissed a Girl”, many pegged the song as a novelty. In charge of her career from start, Perry, however, knew that she had plenty more to offer, which probably explains the cavalcade of hits (“Hot n Cold", “California Gurls”, “Dark Horse”) that has followed. Discussing her breakthrough album, One of the Boys, with the Straight in a 2009 cover story, Perry already sounded confident about her future: “I knew that I had put my best foot forward,” she said. “It was kind of like I had put all of my money on black, and either I was going to win and be the luckiest person ever or I was going to fail. I knew that I was taking a chance, because it was the last chance that I had. I knew what I was doing, coming out with something like 'I Kissed a Girl'. That song was going to open the door so that I could try lots of different other things. I knew that I had a lot of other sides to me."
THE SEMI-NAKED TRUTH. There’s an old saying—or if there isn’t, there should be—that goes something like this: “Everyone wants to be famous until they become famous.” In an Interview magazine talk with Kristen Wiig back in 2012, Katy Perry discussed the downside of being instantly recognizable. “When I’m working, I’m all yours. But when I’m not working, stay the fuck away. That’s how it goes. So whoever made up the idea that everyone has the right to every bit of information about you because you’re famous...No one made that rule. It’s not a law, and if you think it is, then you don’t really understand how the world works.” Too bad that doesn’t hold true in real life. The poor woman can’t even go a waterpark and enjoy herself without the entire world ending up staring at her bare ass. Just months after her Wiig interview, Perry found herself in a California wave pool having a major wardrobe malfunction. You or I lose our drawers in a public swimming park, and the worst thing we happens is hysterics from the lifeguard. It happens to Perry—whose attempts to pull up her bathing suit were as futile as they were frantic—and she’s instantly all over Buzzfeed under the subhead “If you ever wanted to see Katy Perry’s sweet, sweet, naked behind, today is your lucky day! [NSFW, clearly!]”. Sometimes the royalty cheques aren’t worth it.
JUDGE NOT LEST... Normally, parents are thrilled to see their children succeed, especially when they achieve the kind of success that ensures no one in the family will ever have to work again. Katy Perry’s relationship with her folks—Keith and Mary Hudson—remains, however, complicated, something that might be expected thanks to her mom and dad being devout born-again Christians. Right from the point Perry first broke with “I Kissed a Girl”, her parents were less than pleased to hear their daughter singing about smooching with a chick who tasted like Cherry ChapStick. What’s made their ongoing horror so fascinating is that the Perrys weren’t exactly squeaky-clean churchgoers during their younger years. Perry’s mom briefly dated no less than guitar god Jimi Hendrix. As for her father, he hung out with ’60s counterculture guru Timothy Leary on the San Francisco rock scene, with side jobs including peddling acid.
CHANNELLING THE DARKNESS. Difficult as this might be to process, even Katy Perry gets down. In a live-streamed 2017 session with therapist Siri Sat Nam Singh, the singer tearfully acknowledged that—like all of us—she sometimes ends up in a dark place. So dark that she’s even thought about suicide. “I feel ashamed that I would have those thoughts, feel that low, and that depressed,” she told Singh. The singer, who was starting a promotion cycle for her latest album, Witness, with a new short blond hairdo, also stated, “I so badly want to be Katheryn Hudson [her birth name] that I don’t even want to look like Katy Perry anymore sometimes—and, like, that is a little bit of why I cut my hair, because I really want to be my authentic self.” Like many artists, Perry uses her black days as inspiration for her art. Asked by Singh if she ever thought about not wanting to go on living, the singer responded: “Yeah. I wrote a song about it ['By the Grace of God']. That’s what I guess I do. That’s how I process—I write songs.” She added that her ongoing struggle with depression is one reason she continues to make art. “Some of them [negative feelings] don’t come out full, and that’s why I still do the work.”
SAY YOUR PRAYERS. One might think that, having watched their daughter blossom into one of the biggest stars in modern pop music, Keith and Mary Hudson might have finally got to the point where they can be proud. Nothing doing. Instead of being in awe of Perry having sold over 100 million records over the past decade, the Hudsons—who run their own church—remain less than thrilled by their daughter’s superstardom. In an interview last year with the Christian publication Charisma, Mary Hudson stated she’s gotten used to fellow churchgoers asking questions like “How could you have a daughter like that?” She added: “The devil definitely tries to steal my joy. I sometimes have to fight depression.” Keith Hudson, meanwhile, continues to make pronouncements like last year’s “I want you to pray for my daughter. Don’t judge her, pray for her.” Oh, to be related to such an unrepentant black sheep, for no other reason than it might help us skirt the hefty $500-plus price tag for Diamond VIP tickets on her current Witness Tour.