Who Is Katy Perry?
American pop singer Katy Perry initially attempted to break into the music business with a gospel album. Her image radically changed by the time of her 2008 smash single “I Kissed a Girl,” from One of the Boys, and she went on to top the charts with the follow-up albums Teenage Dream, Prism and Witness. Perry is also known for her performance during the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show, her marriage to comedian Russell Brand and her selection as a judge for American Idol.
Early Life and Musical Aspirations
Katy Perry was born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson was born on October 25, 1984, in Santa Barbara, California. Fans might be surprised to learn that the singer who writes about sexual exploration in “I Kissed a Girl” grew up in a very conservative family. Both of her parents are pastors, and they refused to let her listen to any rock or popular music. “The only things I was allowed to listen to were the Sister Act 1 and 2 soundtracks,” Perry told Entertainment Weekly. She and her two siblings were also not permitted to watch such cable channels as MTV and VH1.
Perry started taking singing lessons around the age of 9 and learned to play guitar when she was 13. Around this time, she began rebelling against her strict upbringing by piercing her own nose. She soon became interested in pursuing a career in music.
With her mother, Perry made several trips to Nashville to record a gospel album, Katy Hudson, which was released in 2001. “It reached literally maybe 100 people, and then the label went bankrupt,” Perry explained to Entertainment Weekly.
As a teenager, Perry was exposed to other musical influences. One friend introduced her to the music of Queen, which remains one of her favorite groups. “I’m very inspired by Freddie Mercury and how flamboyant and theatrical he was,” she told fashion magazine WWD.
In high school, she strove to be her own person, choosing not to limit herself to one social group. “I was a hop-around. I hung out with the rockabilly crew, the guys who were trying to be rappers, the funny kids,” she told Seventeen magazine.
Focused on her music, Perry got her GED and moved to Los Angeles to work with producer and songwriter Glen Ballard, who had collaborated with such artists as Christina Aguilera and Alanis Morissette. She was only 17 years old at the time, and being on her own proved tough. “It was five years of living in L.A. with no money, writing bad checks, selling my clothes to make rent, [and] borrowing money,” she told Seventeen.
Perry also experienced a string of disappointments before getting her big break. She and Ballard were unable to find a record company willing to take them on, and her 2004 collaboration with music producers-turned-performers The Matrix was scrapped shortly before the project was to be released. After having three record deals fall apart, Perry finally signed with Capitol Records in 2007.
Albums and Songs
‘One of the Boys’
Following the November 2007 release of the single “Ur So Gay,” which caught the attention of Madonna, Perry saw her career take off with her next effort, “I Kissed a Girl.” The song hit the top of the charts in the summer of 2008, propelling Perry’s album, One of the Boys, into the Billboard Top 10. A follow-up single, “Hot n Cold,” also charted highly.
Along with earning a Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammy nomination, Perry became famous for her theatricality. On the Warped Tour, she performed “I Kissed a Girl” with a giant tube of lip balm, referencing a line in the song. Perry has also jumped into a larger-than-life cake and appeared in a number of wild outfits while onstage. Describing her style as “Lucille Ball meets Bob Mackie,” she told Esquire, “It’s about innuendo. I want everybody to get the joke, but I want them to think about it for a minute.”
In 2009, Perry appeared in her own acoustic special on MTV. The soundtrack from the show, Katy Perry: MTV Unplugged, was released around the same time.
Picking up where she left off, Perry released a new single with Snoop Dogg, “California Gurls,” in May 2010. The single shot to the top of the charts, paving the way for its accompanying studio album, Teenage Dream, to do the same.
Perry’s follow-up singles, “Teenage Dream,” “Firework,” “E.T.” and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” all followed the path of “California Gurls,” making Perry just the second artist, after Michael Jackson, to have five No. 1 hits from a single album.
In 2012, she released a new edition of her hit album, called Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection. The record had several new tracks, including the successful singles “Part of Me” and “Wide Awake.”
Perry continued to dominate the music charts with 2013’s Prism. The album’s lead single, “Roar,” climbed to No. 1, and “Dark Horse,” her collaboration with Juicy J, also spent several weeks in the top spot, pushing Perry past Mariah Carey for most total weeks with a No. 1 hit (46). The album’s fifth and final single, “This Is How We Do,” featuring Riff Raff, also performed well.
A few months after the release of “Chained to the Rhythm,” with Skip Marley, Perry dropped her latest studio effort, Witness, in June 2017. Witness debuted in the top spot, giving the artist her third straight No. 1 album.
Despite the announcement of the supporting Witness: The Tour, scheduled to run from September 2017 to August 2018, the album’s sales dropped in the following weeks; after her previous three albums racked up a combined 17 million in sales, Witness was at a relatively modest total of 840,000 as of January 2018.
‘American Idol’ Judge
In May 2017, Perry was announced as the first judge selected for the reboot of American Idol. She was later joined by country star Luke Bryan and R&B and pop singer Lionel Richie, with Ryan Seacrest also agreeing to return as host.
Perry had previously served as a guest judge on Idol in 2009, temporarily replacing Paula Abdul. Since then, she had turned down offers to appear on other singing competition shows, like The X Factor.
The pop star immediately made waves for her behavior during the two-part premiere of season 16 in March 2018: At one point she fell while dancing on stage in high heels, and at another moment she smooched a shy contestant who said he was saving his first kiss for someone special, drawing the ire of many on social media.
Perry later returned with Bryan, Richie and Seacrest for seasons 17 and 18.
Super Bowl Halftime Show
On February 1, 2015, Perry was the featured performer during the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show. Along with appearances by guest artists Lenny Kravitz and Missy Elliott, the show was remembered for the seeming mismatched choreography of two dancers in shark costumes while Perry belted out “Teenage Dream.” Overall, the performance drew a reported 118.5 million viewers, making it the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show to date.
‘Dark Horse’ Copyright Infringement
In 2014, songwriters Marcus Gray, Emanuel Lambert and Chike Ojukwu filed a lawsuit alleging that Perry’s hit “Dark Horse” copied the trio’s Christian rap song “Joyful Noise,” released in 2009 under Gray’s stage name, Flame.
In July 2019, a federal jury in a Los Angeles ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, with Perry, her five credited co-writers and the four corporations that released and distributed “Dark Horse” all found liable for copyright infringement. The following month, Perry and her collaborators were ordered to pay $2.78 million in compensation.
However, the verdict was overturned upon appeal in March 2020, with a federal judge determining that the disputed portion of “Dark Horse” — an eight-note ostinato that runs through much of the song — was not distinctive enough to be protected by copyright laws.
Movies and Other Endeavors
The artist was the subject of the autobiographical documentary Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012), which featured behind-the-scenes footage and clips of young Perry along with her dazzling concert performances. She also voiced the character of Smurfette for The Smurfs (2011) and The Smurfs 2 (2013) and made a cameo as herself in Zoolander 2 (2016).
In 2014, Perry also launched her own music label, Metamorphosis Music, as a subsidiary of Capitol. The label changed its name to Unsub Records in 2016.
After visiting Madagascar on behalf of UNICEF in April 2013, Perry became a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador late in the year. In February 2020, she was named an ambassador of the British Asian Trust by Britain’s Prince Charles.
In 2009, Perry made tabloid headlines for her relationship with British comedian Russell Brand. They were engaged over the New Year’s holiday while on a trip to India, and on October 23, 2010, the couple married in India in a traditional Hindu ceremony. According to The Times of India, the wedding featured a procession of camels, elephants and horses, plus fire jugglers, snake charmers, dancers and musicians. Their union, however, did not last long, as Brand filed for divorce in December 2011.
Perry has also been romantically linked to musicians John Mayer and Diplo, as well as actor Orlando Bloom. On February 15, 2019, she announced her engagement to Bloom with an Instagram photo that showed her flower-shaped ring. Just after midnight on March 5, Perry delivered another surprise announcement by revealing a baby bump at the end of her new video for “Never Worn White.”
Feud With Taylor Swift
Perry and Taylor Swift, who both dated John Mayer, ended their friendship after Perry allegedly tried to poach some of Swift’s tour dancers. Perry’s song “Swish Swish” is apparently about the feud. “I think it’s a great anthem for people to use when someone’s trying to hold you down, or bully you,” Perry said. “I think ‘Swish’ is a liberation from all the negative that doesn’t serve you.”
On May 8, 2018, Perry put an end to their feud by extending an olive branch — literally, she sent Swift an actual olive branch — with a note that said, “I’ve been doing some reflecting on past miscommunication and hurt feelings between us.”