Raised in a firm God-fearing household, nine-time Grammy nominee Katy Perry had to endure a number of restrictions. Chief among them, she recalls, was a veto on certain television shows. There was also a no-sleepover rule and an absolute ban on both Madonna and, strangely enough, small, blue animated men.
“I always had to hide my love for Madonna and the Smurfs,” says the 28-year-old with a chuckle. “Can you imagine? Madonna and the Smurfs as taboo.”
Were her parents with us at the interview today, they might feel somewhat aghast – thousands of plastic Smurfs surround the beach of the luxury Mexican hotel where we are.
The pop singer has jetted in to promote her second feature film outing, returning to voice Smurfette in The Smurfs 2, the sequel to the 2011 animated movie that took US$560 million (S$713 million) at the international box office.
Belgian comic artist Peyo first introduced the world to the Smurfs in 1958 and Smurfette evolved as the solitary female of the group.
Although Perry does not know why Smurfs were taboo during her childhood, she surmises that “maybe my parents didn’t understand the dynamic between one female and, like, 99 males”.
“My parents were just very particular about television and how much we ingested, which is a good thing. I don’t watch television at all anymore, which is good because then I am forced to create more and nurture that creative spark.”
Her creative spark has captured audiences all over the globe. Since she first told us back in 2008 “I Kissed A Girl”, she has gone on to sell more than 11 million albums and 75 million downloads.
She was born Katheryn Hudson in Santa Barbara, California, to Pentecostal pastors Keith Hudson and Mary Perry.
“I got to inherit good characteristics, like integrity and respect and all those things, which were really important in my family,” she says.
“And when I was coming of age, becoming a teenager, I got to sift through the other stuff that I didn’t necessarily agree with. I got to keep the good stuff.”
Her divorce from comedian Russell Brand last year is presumably not among what she would consider the good stuff in her life.
Since then, she has been linked to Twilight heart-throb Robert Pattinson (which she denies) and her on-off relationship with rocker John Mayer looks to be very much on again after he dedicated a song to her and waxed lyrical about her merits at a recent gig in Milwaukee.
But relationship talk, like watching the Smurfs in Perry’s childhood, is off-limits in interviews, though she recently admitted that “challenging men” intrigue her.
In her 2012 documentary film, Part Of Me, audiences see her dedication to Brand – she flew across the world to spend one night with her husband in the midst of a hectic world tour. Their relationship is thought to have ended because of her reluctance to start a family.
Now she is dating Mayer, who from the outside looks like a real challenge – the likes of singer Taylor Swift and actress Jennifer Aniston have all loved and lost him.
Perry is glad to have him back, recently telling Elle magazine: “You can be strong in one aspect of your life but submissive in another. In relationships, it was hard for me to speak up and set boundaries. I think a lot of that has to do with fear of loss.”
As for her move from musician to movie star, she is taking things slowly.
“I haven’t really entered the movie world very much. Doing animation is like dipping your foot in the water. I love doing it because I get to come in my pyjamas, with no make-up, no lashes. I look nothing like myself and it is a nice feeling. I like it.”
At this interview, she looks very much the star, wrapped in a dark Monique Lhuillier dress with a blue hairpiece, in a nod to Smurfette. “It takes a lot of effort to dress up, though I like putting in the time.” She pauses. “I put in a lot of time. This is like 17 hours’ work!
“I would like to say that I sleep in couture, but that’s not true. If I am not dressed up, I am dressed really down, but that’s because I am working a lot. I am going to the studio, I am in my workout wear or some hideous tracksuit.”
The Smurfs 2 is now in Singapore cinemas.
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on August 7, 2013. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.