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December 9, 2013

Katy Conquers All

After her marriage flamed out, Katy Perry thought her new album would be dark and brooding. Instead, she turned personal pain into professional triumph, and now prepares to tour with a message of rising from the ashes.

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of regan cameron

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Sitting down at a picnic table, she slides on her black Ray-Bans and casts a weary look toward the parking lot where photographers may be lying in wait. "Pooparoozoo," she says playfully. These days, she can appreciate the place she's in, far from the emotional anguish she experienced after her British actor and comedian husband Russell Brand ended their marriage via text message on New Year's Eve 2011. From the outside, the couple's failed romance seemed familiar—yet another breathless, whirlwind celebrity relationship that flamed out after 14 months. For Perry, it led to some of her darkest hours. "There were two weeks of my life after I found out the truth of my marriage where I was like, 'OK. All right. I can't feel this. This is too intense right now,'" Perry says, pushing her sunglasses tight against her face. "I was, like, just eating Flamin' Hot Cheetos and drinking, and that's it."

Perry's longtime producing partner Greg Wells says that Perry was able to translate that pain into one of Prism's best songs, "By the Grace of God," which Perry has said was inspired by the moment when she considered ending it all. "I think she felt so kicked in the head and so publicly embarrassed at being divorced by a text message," says Wells. "She was at a huge low and was thinking about not leaving the bathroom forever." Initially, Perry had a different album in mind. "I thought it was going to be a lot darker—acoustic or Fiona Apple-y. You know, a 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' vibe." But after recording "By the Grace of God," she felt like she was ready to start a new chapter. "There are two ways you can go: You can either nurture yourself or go destructive. I have gone down the destructive path before, and that didn't work for me," she says. "You dig deep beyond those scars and find that soft tissue again, and you massage and nurture it and bring it to life, little by little, through serving yourself well. I did it through hikes and vitamins and therapy and prayer and good friends." She put up her musical team, including hit-makers Max Martin and Dr. Luke, at her favorite hotel, San Ysidro Ranch, a bucolic luxury resort outside her Santa Barbara, California, hometown, and got to work.

ANTA BARBARA is the place Perry gets to be Katheryn Hudson, "which is really important because Katheryn Hudson is the one who wanted to be a musician. I get to be centered again, to really breathe." Her evangelical parents, Keith Hudson and Mary Perry Hudson, and siblings, Angela Hudson and David Hudson, have all moved away and remain an integral part of her life. (Angela, a yoga instructor, accompanies her on tour and lives next door in L.A.) As Perry tells it, her parents met when Mary, "a pot-smoking debutante" and freelance journalist, was covering a tent revival in Las Vegas, which Keith, an acid-dropping hippie turned preacher, was attending. "People don't understand that I have a great relationship with my parents—like, how that can exist," she says. "There isn't any judgment. They don't necessarily agree with everything I do, but I don't necessarily agree with everything they do. They're at peace with—they pray for me is what they do. They're fascinated with the idea that they created someone who has this much attention on her. My parents are Republicans, and I'm not. They didn't vote for Obama, but when I was asked to sing at the inauguration, they were like, 'We can come.' And I was like, 'No, you can't. I love you so much, but that—on principle.' They understood, but I was like, 'How dare you?' in a way."

Perry has left behind her born-again past and finds spirituality through the writing of Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now influenced the song "This Moment"); practicing Transcendental Meditation ("the best thing I got out of my previous relationship, because it was introduced to me via my ex-husband"); and therapy. "I don't believe in a heaven or a hell or an old man sitting on a throne. I believe in a higher power bigger than me because that keeps me accountable. Accountability is rare to find, especially with people like myself, because nobody wants to tell you something you don't want to hear. I actually don't trust people who start to turn on me because they get scared of telling me the truth. I'm not Buddhist, I'm not Hindu, I'm not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God. I pray all the time—for self-control, for humility. There's a lot of gratitude in it. Just saying 'thank you' sometimes is better than asking for things." 



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