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Sex, God & Katy Perry

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That's because Perry, for all her talk about her porn name, has embraced a version of femininity that is more innocent than any other female pop star except for Taylor Swift. She's not playing with bondage like Rihanna or claiming that she can't be tamed like her favorite ho—Perry's work is about the search for true love and the mishaps along the way, even if she sometimes slips in the word "cock" or "penis." In fact, when she put out her first big hit, "I Kissed a Girl," she became so nervous about confessing that she'd performed the act that she claimed never to have actually done it. "I was worried about the Girls Gone Wild thing, and that's not what that song was about," says Perry. "I had one girl who was my best friend at 15, and I was obsessed with her. She had cooler clothes, and she was so cultured and styled. I would stare at her putting her lip stain on her gorgeous lips. I think I had a mad girl-crush."

It takes a couple of hours each day for Perry to achieve her look, which is a little bit burlesque and a little bit Japanese teenager—she's been a devotee of Japanese kawaii (cuteness) culture since her parents housed Japanese exchange students when she was growing up. Of today's pop stars, only Lady Gaga wears more makeup. Every day, when she expects to be seen, Perry pencils her eyebrows, goops on "tranny foundation" and applies oodles of eye shadow, lipstick and fake ­eyelashes (her real hair color is dirty blond). "I used to have eyelash extensions, but those only work for three weeks, or maybe a month if you really baby them," Perry says, as two stylists flutter around her while she's on a break from an appearance on MTV. "You can never blink and must lie very carefully at night on your little geisha pillow." She turns her chin from side to side, taking stock of her face, so different than her real face, which has no boldness or sharp angles, even though it is also quite attractive. She doesn't think so, though, and often mentions that she finds it unappealing. "Russell is the cute one," she says. "I'm just... different."

Yes, Russell Brand—or as she likes to call him, Rusty Braunstein—he of the hairy décolleté and ribald humor, the former heroin addict who claims to have, at one time, slept with 80 women a month. The two of them are now a celebrity power couple, somewhere between the wattage of Speidi and Brangelina, fame fully within their grasp despite Perry's slender oeuvre and Brand's two Hollywood movies in which he plays the same character. Truth be told, they seem as smitten with themselves as they are with each other.

Still, they're fun and kooky, and we might as well be amused by the spectacle, as they're not taking it too seriously either. Not a week goes by without one tweaking the other in the press: On Perry's refrigerator, she's even hung a clip from a celebrity magazine in which she calls Brand a "total bridezilla" who wants "everything monogrammed" for their wedding. In retaliation, Brand told MTV that Perry resembles a "flatulence factory—the pop hits that she fires out of her mouth are nothing compared to what comes out the other end of her." "Which is not true," says Perry, pouting a little. "I've farted a lot in my life, but never once in front of Russell."

Yet, to hear Perry tell it, they are perfectly matched—the wide-eyed 25-year-old American and the 35-year-old jaundiced Brit. "Russell's so sensitive and sweet," she says. "The Russell that people know from the media is not him at all." The couple met on the set of Get Him to the Greek two years ago, before reconnecting at rehearsals for the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, whereupon Perry engaged in the time-honored mating ritual of throwing a water bottle at Brand's head. He tried to take her home from an afterparty, but she refused, insisting on dinner instead. "Nothing happened afterward," she says. "But Russell had a copy of his book in the car, and I was intrigued. I asked him to sign it, and when I got home I read what he wrote: 'You are a mermaid, and I am drowning.'"

Perry was so moved that she decided to do something spontaneous: She invited Brand on vacation to Phuket, Thailand. "When we met in the lounge, I was so nervous," she says. "It was the most nerve-racking thing I've ever done!" It took another couple of weeks for her to become totally sold on Brand, though. "I realized this man knew what would make me happy," she says. "He was really watching, and listening, and paying attention."

As it turns out, Perry was equally interested in attention as a kid. "Katy is a middle child, so she always tried to stand out," says her older sister Angela, an event planner in L.A. "Our whole family is like that, in a way. We love entertaining people, putting on a show." But Perry's method of seducing others is quite different from her parents'. That's because they're born-again evangelical pastors and "traveling ministers," which means they book seminars and prayer circles at any church that will have them around the country, though they are now based in Oceanside, California. They banned Katy from attending coed parties and dances, didn't sign her up for sex education in school and forbade most pop culture, including magazines, TV and movies in the home. "It was not a 'kumbaya' atmosphere," says Perry. "I knew about hell from the moment I understood a sentence. I had felt boards with Satan and people gnashing their teeth."

Unlike many evangelical Christians, the Hudsons had secular—and bizarre—lives in their youth. (Perry has taken her mother's maiden name to avoid confusion with Kate Hudson.) In their "B.C.," or Before Christ, days, as her mom likes to call them, Perry's father, Keith, was a hippie ragamuffin who went to Woodstock, told Katy that he dealt acid for Timothy Leary and played tambourine onstage with Sly and the Family Stone. But one night, alone in an apple orchard in Wenatchee, Washington, he had a revelation in which passages from the Bible played out before his eyes. "Who knows if those visions were remnants of something else?" says Perry.

Perry's mother, Mary, grew up as the wild child of a wealthy Santa Barbara family. (Her brother, Frank Perry, became a Hollywood director of films including Mommie Dearest.) She even hung out one evening with Jimi Hendrix—"I'm like, 'Mom, you should've gone for it,'" says Perry. "'I could've been Katy Hendrix, a more legit rock star.'" Mary married a race-car driver who had lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, and together they moved to a macadamia-nut farm in Zimbabwe. She told Perry they snuck jewels back in his leg for their antique-dealing business to avoid customs. After the marriage broke up, Mary relocated to the U.S. and worked as a reporter for ABC radio, interviewing Jimmy Carter and Muhammad Ali before covering Christian tent revivals. At a Las Vegas revival run by Keith's sister, a former Folies Bergère showgirl, Mary fell in love with God and Keith at the same time. Her family cut her off. "My mom's half brothers convinced her parents that she had lost it because she had become a Christian," says Perry. "So she had to do her own thing."

Freelance ministry is not a particularly lucrative line of work, and Perry's family often struggled. "Sometimes we ate from the same food bank we used to feed our congregation, and I was very embarrassed by that," she says. "We had the food-stamp moment too, but I don't like to talk about that. I don't want to come from the place of 'Hey, relate to me, I use food stamps.'" The rules at home were not only strict but also nutty. "I wasn't ever able to say I was 'lucky,' because my mother would rather us say that we were 'blessed,' and she also didn't like that 'lucky' sounded like 'Lucifer,'" says Perry. "Even the Dirt Devil as a vacuum—didn't have one. Deviled eggs were called 'angeled' eggs. I wasn't allowed to eat Lucky Charms, but I think that was the sugar." She winks a little. "I think my mom lied to me about that one."

At times, her parents' congregation comprised five people in a hotel room, and the Hudsons spent their days passing out pamphlets, but they never doubted that they were on the right path (Perry's father has four tattoos, all of which read JESUS). "My mom and dad practice 'tongues and interpretation' together—my dad speaks in tongues, and my mom interprets it," says Perry. "That's their gift." The three children, including Katy, spoke in tongues as well. "Speaking in tongues is as normal to me as 'Pass the salt,'" says Perry. "A lot of religions use meditation or chanting as a subliminal prayer language, and speaking in tongues isn't that different—it's a secret, direct prayer language to God. If I felt intuitively that I had to pray for some situation, but I didn't rationally understand it, I just let my spirit pray for it."

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