You might not see Katy Perry when she arrives on set, but you definitely hear her — and the whirl of humanity that surrounds her every step of the way.
There are publicists and managers, stylists and makeup folks, at least one assistant, the odd journalist and a few rather fashionable gentlemen whose roles are not clearly defined (though they smoke cigarettes and usually speak French). And on Monday, when I met up with Katy in London, there was also a documentary crew in tow — two camera guys, a director and a field producer — bringing the sum total of her posse to 15. And they make their presence known from the second they descend on the scene, snapping Polaroids, hanging wardrobe, moving furniture, gabbing, texting, dabbing, smoking, quietly judging (I am nothing if not insecure). It's a whoosh of activity that not only announces her arrival, but makes you realize that it truly takes an army to make the Katy Perry machine operate on a daily basis.
At the center of it all, of course, is Katy herself, who today strides into the penthouse of London's Corinthia Hotel wearing sunglasses, singing about fish filets (she'd just covered Jay-Z and Kanye's "Paris" on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge). Probably due to the past two years of her life, in which she rose from curio-case pop star to one of the most famous people on the planet, she seems completely oblivious to everything transpiring around her (or at least is used to it), and as she is encircled by her team, she's still singing, her blue hair the only part of her that's visible in the crowd.
At this point, having spent enough time around the Britneys and Gagas of the world, I'm used to entourages — though Katy's struck me as different. Maybe it's the fact that her personal life has become very public, or that her every gesture is discussed ad infinitum on the Internet, but they seemed less like hired hands as an actual army, determined to protect their leader at all costs. They're kind of like the Secret Service, only, you know, way more fabulous.
Katy definitely knows this, as she explained during our interview — we're premiering her brand-new "Part of Me" video tonight, which was the impetus for this chat — most of her favorite memories all involve her team. A recent one being the night she was reunited with some 40 members of her California Dreams Tour crew for a dinner that quickly devolved into an impromptu dance-off, which is why her neck was totally killing her on this day. She may be the queen bee, but she's definitely not opposed to getting down and dirty with her drones. Not as if she'd ever refer to them as such.
Though it's impossible to truly get a read on anyone in an hour, I will say this about Katy Perry: Unlike Britney Spears or Lady Gaga — both of whom are plenty nice — she still seems like a pretty normal person, albeit one with blue hair. She screws around a lot (she jokingly threatened to punch me in the face if I kept screwing up my lines), displayed an impressive acumen for swearing and even worked the word "bro" into our conversation on at least six occasions. She spoke with great pride about the rigorous boot-camp training she underwent for the "Part of Me" video, even extolling the virtues of the MRE rations she dined on during production ("they tasted like a McRib!"). She can play the piano surprisingly well, as she displayed on the baby grand in our penthouse and openly pined for McNuggets (and if you're keeping score at home, that's the third time she referenced McDonald's during our interview).
She is, at this juncture in her career, still trying very hard to remain close to her roots, to the point where she keeps mentioning them when talking about making the follow-up to Teenage Dream. And she still seems determined to prove that all this success was not a fluke, mostly through sheer work. She's currently promoting the reissue of Dream and has a 3-D concert film on deck after that. The next open spot in her schedule seems to be this summer, at which point she may "pull on a beanie and backpack across Europe" before getting to work on album number three. "Tireless" doesn't seem to do her justice. Perhaps "driven" is the right term.
Of course, one could wonder just how long all this normalcy can last, especially given everything that goes along with it (most folks I know certainly don't travel with a documentary crew, after all). I'd wager she's aware of that and hell-bent on proving that it can be done; that she can still have her McNuggets and eat them too. I wouldn't bet against her, because she knows she's got plenty of folks counting on her, and she's determined to reciprocate their level of dedication. Just like you or me, she doesn't want to let her loved ones down.
Can Katy pull it off? We'll all just have to wait and see. But if she does, the next time I catch up with her, there's a pretty good chance her entourage will have doubled in size, meaning that you'll know she's arrived before she's even in the building. And at that point, not only will she probably own several McDonald's, but she'll be able to staff them too. A girl can dream, after all.
Don't miss "MTV First: Katy Perry" tonight, when the pop star will debut her long-awaited video for "Part of Me" at 7:23 p.m. ET on MTV. Then head over to MTV.com for an exclusive 30-minute interview with Katy herself!