From playing Smurfette, to riding a life-size Egyptian horse and straddling a turd emoji rodeo – chart topping Cali girl Katy Perry is living each of her glitter tinted dreams.

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White achromes fish eye jacquard dress with a circle-cut skirt by VIONNET and white mesh bow by SIBLING BY BERNSTOCK SPEIRS

Katy Perry unzips the gusset of her shark outfit and peers into the fuzzy crotch area that’s hanging somewhere near her knees. Her famously animé wide eyes look surprised, like there should be something in there, before she quickly zips it back up and waves goodbye to the group of US Marines who have come backstage to meet her. We are backstage at her show in Vienna’s Stadthalle, a 16,000 capacity venue in the Austrian capital. Tomorrow night, Simply Red will play here. For Perry, this kind of malarkey – waving at foam-mouthed fans like she’s Queen Elizabeth trundling down Pall Mall – is business as usual. She is, after all, the reigning queen of pop. The next day we meet again, shuffling through the plush carpeted hallways of the hotel she’s staying in. She tells me the guy who just interviewed her wrote a song for her. Though I don’t have anything to compete with this, I don’t mind telling Perry I really enjoyed the huge, floating turd emoji that made its way through the audience the night before. And why wouldn’t I? Of all the emojis it’s clearly the best.

It’s been a long year for K-Pez. Her ongoing Prismatic tour – promoting Perry’s barnstorming fourth LP, 2013’s PRISM – was the highest-grossing one by a female artist last year. It’s scooped over $150 mil and has been seen by over 1.5 million people. Last night was her 115th time at the poo emoji rodeo (she also appears out of a massive illuminated triangle, rides a very regal and life-size Egyptian horse and vogues with a selection of dancers dressed as fashion savvy cats – one is even a tin of sardines). So it’s no wonder she’s late for our meeting. “I mean, my work day is not 9-5,” she sighs, settling on a sofa perpendicular to my seat. She’s lying on her front and it makes me feel like a shrink. “My show days, I get on stage at 9pm and then get to bed at 3am. I had to wake up this morning to do press and this…” she gesticulates to her face, “…I can’t go into press looking like a potato.”

She doesn’t look like a potato, and with more Twitter followers to her name than anyone – 66 million and counting – it barely matters anyway. Beyoncé’s paltry 12 million looks a tad pathetic in comparison, doesn’t it? Judging by last night’s audience, it’s clear Perry appeals to a wide cross-section of people; from the young girls whose high pitch screams fill the Stadthalle every time she asks the audience a question, to the 20-something lads in tracksuits gobbling hot-dogs next to me. Maybe the key to Perry’s mass market appeal lies in her tongue in cheek sexiness, like Bettie Page injected with Disney (“I wanna see your Peacock, cock, cock,” she screamed onstage) or maybe it’s her empowering self- sufficiency (“You held me down, but I got up/ already brushing off the dust/ you hear my voice, you hear that sound” she intones in PRISM track, “Roar”). Whatever it is though, she has plenty of it.

For someone who even my mum’s heard of, she’s pretty grounded. Early life wasn’t particularly easy for young Perry, whose parents were born- again Christians. Growing up in Santa Barbara, the family often struggled financially. Perry took guitar and singing lessons from an early age and would earn her first few bucks busking in her local farmer’s market. After releasing a gospel album titled Katy Hudson in 2001, she moved to LA, where she lived hand-to-mouth while figuring it all out. She signed to Island Def Jam, then got dropped, provided Mick Jagger with some backing vocals for Old Habits Die Hard, signed to Columbia and was dropped again, but somehow by 2004 was being heralded as “the next big thing”. She eventually signed to Capitol in 2007, and teamed up with all-star pop producers Dr Luke and Max Martin, with whom she co-wrote her breakthrough hit “I Kissed A Girl” and follow-up smash “Hot N Cold”. A trio of albums, One of the Boys (2008), Teenage Dreams (2010) and PRISM (2013) and three headline world tours later, Katy Perry was pretty serious pop property.

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White achromes fish eye jacquard dress with a circle-cut skirt by VIONNET and white mesh bow by SIBLING BY BERNSTOCK SPEIRS

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Blue, pink and white feathered organza and leather dress by FENDI and white drop marble earring by CHRISTIAN DIOR

Late last year she hit another milestone – turning 30. Like most people who have turned that corner, she is fully aware, in retrospect, how pants your twenties can be. “Oh yeah,” she agrees once I’ve fully explained the semiotics of the word “pants”. “It’s a struggle and so many thoughts are like, wasted.” Does she use looking back to her early life as a reality check? “I mean, I use it as a reality check, but my whole vibe is kind of: if all of this went away tomorrow, or if my bank account went back to zero, I’d just start again. I’d find another way. Because I am curious about life, I’m very absorbent – I want to learn everything. My education really started in my twenties, I didn’t have much [of an education] as a kid, and so I continue to educate myself through going out there, seeing museums. When I’m on tour, I do a lot of sight seeing every day I have off. I’m out in those streets, having experiences. I wear this black and white adidas outfit and a down coat, which is boring and not for anyone else but me. It’s to protect myself so that I can still have human experiences.” Why is that? “Because if I am out looking like this [Pez was painfully radiant when we spoke], I don’t get to do anything. I have to be somewhat considerate about people, I understand people get very excited, interested and curious and it turns into a parade. So in order to like, really, still be connected with reality, I have to take off the costume and look very drab, like, not homeless, but on-my-way-to-the-gym-homeless.”

For someone whose Twitter followers match the population of Great Britain, she certainly gives off an air of normal, pouring my tea for me and asking about my girlfriend. Does she get stopped a lot? “It depends on how I present myself. Like this, yes. I don’t get to walk anywhere. I see life through a Mercedes Viano. If I am in my adidas cape of invisibility, I’m always wearing headphones, a hat and sunglasses, no matter if it’s night or day because these big ol’ bulging eyeballs give away my identity. I don’t respond to anyone calling my name. And here’s a big secret revealed now, I am usually not listening to anything, I have my headphones on for protection.”

Is there a big gulf between the Katy Perry who last night burst out of an illuminated prism, with a waist-length rope-light hair-piece in, and the one who wears sunglasses at night, listening to absolutely nothing? “Not really, I’m pretty consistent in being who I am in the spotlight and who I am out of the spotlight. When I’m on stage I’m just a caricature of myself in some ways, a very exaggerated cartoon-esque diva, a performer. I am very conscious of who I am as a person and my connectivity to the earth and people. Not just living in my bubble, although my bubble is very comfortable.” I kind of get the impression that although she might not know the price of a pint of milk off the top of her head, she probably wouldn’t mind popping out to get some in an emergency. “It’s very nice being in a bubble, but nobody wants to hear about people’s experiences in their 1% talent bubble, it doesn’t relate to them. I’ve lived a lot of lives.” Perhaps that’s what her appeal is – the popstar’s familiar grasp on the cheerily mundane, the reassuringly everyday. “I have lived on extreme scales in some ways. I’m a self-made woman, I’ve made my own success, but I’ve also come from nothing. I didn’t have any connections. I grew up, not in complete poverty, but in a lower class system. My parents survived week by week, they had good times and really low times – the basis of arguments in our family were always financially related. It’s nice to be able to have perspective on both sides.”

Though undeniably grounded and able to small-talk, Perry’s penchant for fantasy, which rears its head in her choice fluoro party-wear and fantastical side projects (she’s played a Smurf, a Simpson’s character, and once auditioned for Sesame Street) is just as resounding. “I feel really cartoon-y all of the time, just in the way that I present myself. It was a natural progression,” she said back in 2011, about playing Smurfette in Pixar’s half live-action, half-computer animated movie, The Smurfs. Watching through videos of her reading lines for the role–all bright eyed, bushy tailed and chipper voiced – she’s gleefully lost in the comic book colony’s miniaturized, infantile world.

And nowhere does Perry get to unleash her obsessions with playful, glitter-tinted childishness more than onstage. I get the impression that the floating turd emojis, the cat-walking sardines, all come from her. “Your assumption is correct,” she says smartly. “I am very collaborative. I have a fantastic group of people that I surround myself with for logistics and creative purposes and they really execute all of my dreams, if they can. If it’s feasible, then they will get it done.” Is there anything that she’s dreamt up for the shows that hasn’t been accomplished? “I can’t remember the last time I haven’t been able to do something, which sounds like a crazy, selfish statement. But I work really, really hard to get to this place. Also, it’s like a compounded amount of hard work. When you get older you have more mouths to feed, there’s more pressure – I have like, 127 people on tour with me.” Walking round the back of the Stadthalle, trying to find the entrance, I noticed at least five double decker tour buses. It must feel like there’s a lot on her shoulders. “Well, I have learned something fantastic. I’ve learned how to delegate.”

So here she is, the biggest pop star the world has ever known, showing me a kind of bra-strap hanger on her phone case (“so you don’t drop it”), and about to drive to central Europe for her 116th show as part of one of the most successful female solo tours ever. What is there left for her to accomplish (other than world domination and her own emoji line). “There’s only ever evolution. It’s not levels of success that have been the goal – I think anything that is true, honest and connective will always be successful. For me, it’s important to be brave and try new things. A lot of people have ideas about me, and that’s fine, I’m in no rush to prove anything to them. I feel like a chameleon, I can do many different things. I haven’t shown everyone all of them yet.” And when the tour does eventually end, what will she do? Kick back, take her wig off and just chill out? She beams. “My goal for the summer is to walk down the farmer’s market in my hometown, and pick fruit. I know – very normal, and very sweet.”

Until then though, the show must go on. Perry’s manager gently nudges us to wrap up as we discuss our favourite emojis. She flicks through her most used emojis. “Listen,” she bends in, “I feel like I really need an update. I like the angel because I use it for a cherub. I use the artist’s palette a lot. I like this girl, the frumpy-frump girl. I like going deep into the right on emojis, you know? Deep into the right.” And with that she’s off, walking through an exit I hadn’t even noticed was there, that definitely wasn’t the way we came in. I’m left alone, holding my phone – open on the emoji keyboard. I guess we’re living in a Katy Perry emoji world, and I am an emoji girl.

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Multicoloured silk beaded backless dress with white lace by NICOLAS JEBRAN, blue open toe heels by GIANRITTO ROSSI and jewellery Katy’s own

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Green leather laser cut sleeveless dress with floral detailing by GILES, 18k tsavorite and diamond ring, and 18k tsavorite pink spineland diamond ring both by IVY NEW YORK

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Black and white painted cotton tweed jacket and black orange and purple crepe de chine blouse both by CHANEL and jewellery Katy’s own

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White achromes fish eye jacquard dress with a circle-cut skirt by VIONNET and white mesh bow by SIBLING BY BERNSTOCK SPEIRS

Photographer: Christian Oita

Make Up: Jake Bailey at Starworks

Hair: Shlomi Mor at Atelier Management

Manicurist: Kimmie Kyees at Celestine Agency

Words: Hanna Hanra



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