Katy Perry’s religious background has piqued journalistic interest for a while. After all, most musicians don’t get their start in Christian music to go on to sing “I kissed a girl and I liked it.” Rolling Stone picked up such themes for its cover story last year, where Perry said she still considers herself a Christian.
Earlier this month, Vanity Fair teased their cover story with a few choice quotes from the piece, making it seem like it would contain lots of juicy religion details. Well, my June edition has arrived to thoroughly disappoint. Here’s how the teaser framed the piece:
“I didn’t have a childhood,” she says, adding that her mother never read her any books except the Bible, and that she wasn’t allowed to say “deviled eggs” or “Dirt Devil.” Perry wasn’t even allowed to listen to secular music and relied on friends to sneak her CDs. “Growing up, seeing Planned Parenthood, it was considered like the abortion clinic,” she tells Robinson. “I was always scared I was going to get bombed when I was there…. I didn’t know it was more than that, that it was for women and their needs. I didn’t have insurance, so I went there and I learned about birth control.”
The piece again attempts to frame Perry’s work against her upbringing in the deck of the article.
After a sheltered born-again childhood, Katy Perry turned herself into pop’s pantheistic princess—eager to experiment with herself, her art, and her marriage to the controversial British comedian Russell Brand.
What we get in the article, however, has little to do with her beliefs or how she and her parents deal with their religious differences. Here’s how the article paints her parents towards the very beginning of the article.
Among the “family” out front, waiting for the run-through, which will eventually start an hour late, are Katy’s 63-year-old parents–Mary and Keith Hudson–evangelical, traveling ministers who don’t look like any ministers I’ve ever seen. Mary, who claims she once dated Jimi Hendrix and whose brother was in the late film direct Frank Perry, wears jeans, makeup, and a cute leather jacket. She tells me she’s writing an autobiography. Keith, who hung out with Timothy Leary in the 1960s, is bald, wears a black leather jacket and black-rimmed eyeglasses, and is, as Katy tells me later, “just not what you’d expect [from] a Christian minister. He always had that kind of Harley-Davidson-biker, Mr. Clean look.”
This kind of writing reflects the rest of the article–lots of color about the outfits worn, the details of who knows who–with little exploration of the questions raised about her childhood. We learn that she is obsessed with dental hygiene, she once weighed 145 pounds and had bad acne at one point, but we don’t know much about what she believes or whether it impacts her music.
She was also brought up knowing how to “speak in tongues,” but refuses to give me a demonstration. She says that “It’s sort of like chanting” but that she hasn’t done it in five years. During our talk, her hair is pulled away from her face, most of her makeup has rubbed off, and she looks fabulous.”
The paragraph above illustrates how a potentially interesting angle turns into an excuse to assure the reader the reporter was physically in the room with Perry.
Rock and religion used to be in conflict. John Lennon caused an international brouhaha when he said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. It took Years for U2 to live down their early claims that they were a Christian band. The Kings of Leon’s Followill brothers are sons of a Pentecostal preacher, but the band was renowned for their early drunken sprees. Today, many pop and rock stars (especially those who have embraced 12-step programs) claim to have God on their side. But despite her upbringing and a continuing fiath, Katy says, “I have always been the kid who’s asked ‘Why?’ in my faith, you’re just supposed to have faith. But I was always like … why?”
Such profound writing here, you see. Anyway, remember when Mollie asked about the Hindu parts of her marriage to Russell Brand? The story touches on it just briefly.
“I come from a very non-accepting family, but I’m very accepting. Russell is into Hinduism, and I’m not [really] involved in it. He meditates in the morning and the evening; I’m starting to do it more because it really centers me. [But] I just let him be him and he lets me be me.