There is an air of the otherworldly which tends to hang heavily around celebrity musicians—a sense that the lives they lead, and the things they do and see are entirely separate from anything us lowly serfs will ever experience. That pressure to reify a character, to bring to life a persona constructed to sell downloads and concert tickets, can prove overwhelming for many musicians. Being a professional performer is just that—a constant performance that can leave the individual in question feeling a sizeable gap between their projected personality and their authentic self.
No one exemplifies this phenomenon better than the original swish swisher, Katy Perry herself. Whether or not you enjoy her music or openly acknowledge its artistic value, Perry is undeniably a huge commercial success. She is one of the highest paid women in music, has millions of fans worldwide, and has broken musical records with the sheer volume and persistence of singles produced in her name. A large part of that success can be attributed to the allure of the sunny, chipper persona of Katy Perry—a caricaturized, sugar-coated goddess version of little old Katheryn Hudson from Santa Barbara, California.
In the wake of her new album’s release (Witness) and hoping to reaffirm ties to her authentic self, Perry recently made the bold decision to live-stream her day-to-day experiences as Katy, including an extremely revealing and personal therapy session between herself and psychologist Dr. Siri Sat Nam Singh. During the session, the climax of a livestream lasting 72 hours, Perry delved into such deep, personal topics as her desire to return to a truer version of herself as well as how that struggle with her identity led to suicidal thoughts.
“I so badly wanted to be Kathryn Hudson that I didn’t want to look like Katy Perry anymore,” Perry admitted, citing this binary opposition between her celebrity and “normal” self as the reason behind her new, bleached-out pixie cut.
Reactions on social media reflect a similar dichotomy, with fans equally praising Perry for normalizing therapy and vilifying her for what could be perceived as attention-seeking behavior. The desire to become a more authentic version of yourself, to chip away at the manicured, constructed media personality your fans have come to know is understandable, admirable even. The issue in Perry’s case, in any celebrity’s case really, is that from an outside perspective, a public motion to be viewed as more down to earth is immediately cloaked in ten layers of skepticism. Perry is a public figure, so inherently anything she says and does is automatically seen as a publicity stunt.
It is certainly Perry’s right to espouse her feelings and experiences in a public forum, no matter how personal. Whether or not subjecting her most intimate thoughts to public scrutiny will allow her to transition into a more “authentic” version of herself is less certain.