Katy Perry’s platinum hits and fashion flair make her highly visible as a music star. Yet, let’s also remember she’s a businesswoman, and a good one.
Perry adorned the July 20 cover of Forbes, wearing a power suit emblazoned with glittering gold dollar signs. Inside, the 30-year-old ranked No. 1 on the business magazine’s list of highest paid female entertainers for the last 12 months, with pre-tax earnings of $135 million.
She’s wildly popular — her Emmy-nominated Super Bowl halftime show was watched by a record 118.5 million, and her 73.7 million followers put her at the top of Twitter, above even pop idol Justin Bieber, reality star Kim Kardashian West and President Barack Obama.
She’s savvy enough to turn that Twitter following into a business opportunity. Arguably the queen of the crowded field of celebrity perfumes, Perry launched her latest fragrance, Katy Perry’s Mad Potion ($30, Coty) in late July in a Twitter pop-up shop — a first for a fragrance.
Here the vivacious singer talks business and fashion.
I love Mad Potion’s tag line: “Take all the madness around you, swirl it into your magic hat and out comes this choice fragrance.” How involved were you with the whole process of perfume to marketing?
I started my perfume business a few years ago with a smaller perfume family [Gigantic Parfums] and then Coty wanted to be in business and basically took over my contract. We created Killer Queen, which was our first fragrance [spawning three variations: Killer Queen Oh So Sheer, Royal Revolution and Spring Reign] and now my second major fragrance, Mad Potion.
I’m involved in everything I do. I think I’m the through-thread of all the things I do and I believe people see that it all kind of meshes together. I’m very careful, and I’m very much a part of the creative process, the collaborative process, if I’m not coming up with the thing on my own.
I love the idea of this perfume. I love the idea that fragrance is kind of like a magical potion. I think fragrance can create very impressionable memories and those memories can make you time-travel sometimes. You can smell something that reminds you of being a teenager, or if you meet a man who wears the fragrance of your first boyfriend, all of a sudden you time-travel, you go back to that moment.
I believe that scent is really powerful. And, I like being in the business of powerful.
What fragrance did you wear when you were younger; did you have some favorites?
When I first started dabbling into fragrance, I wore Happy by Clinique because my sister, who is 18 months older than me, liked it. And I wore Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle. But now, I wear Mad Potion, and what’s great is Killer Queen was a bit more flower-based and this [Mad Potion] is a little more gourmand base. It has my favorite notes, which are all kinds of exotic vanillas and exotic musks; vanilla is an aphrodisiac and musk to me is androgynous, and I love that. I used to wear Fracas by Robert Piguet; that is such a strong, cool scent.
Pop stardom and business smarts don’t always go together. How did you develop into such a savvy businesswoman?
I think it was just natural because I’m a left-brain / right-brain person. I’m not just a creative, I want to be involved in the details and logistics of it all. I don’t want to steer one side of the ship and then have the other one going in a different direction. The reason why it’s gone so well and has lasted so long is that I have a great team around me that I’ve had for over 10 years. And it’s not a dictatorship, it’s like a conversation. Everyone has an opinion. I don’t like putting [in] just solely yes people. I like opening up the discussion so that I can hear …
Brainstorming, yes. And I don’t have strength in every area. I like to hire people around me who are stronger than me in different areas in my career. I’ve had a lot of incredible mentors, strong people that look out for me, protect me, but that tell me the truth. I just believe that anything you do you have to have authenticity behind. It’s what I’m trying to do. I run my own social network, as you can tell because my grammar is ridiculous.
Always have your eye on everything, don’t let anything go through without your touching, seeing, hearing; it’s a lot of work. It’s actually a huge amount of work. But don’t just pass off what you can do yourself.
When asked something similar, Oprah Winfrey said, “Always sign your own checks,” which is basically the same thing. Look at everything.
Right, right. And also for me as a creative, and the different creative offerings I have, I think they all have to be coming from me, no matter how big something gets, it has to be coming from the source, or else it starts to look phony.
You have your own vivacious and fun on-stage fashion style. What’s your off-duty style like?
Well, my off-duty style is that of a Mark Zuckerberg; I wear and live in one Adidas track suit, so I cut out all kinds of hours of my life worrying about what I’m going to wear and what I’m going to look like. And I can then just get on with my business, which is a lot to do.
But, growing up, I cultivated my style from having a real strict budget, which was basically nothing. It was shopping at thrift stores and looking for all the great vintage, whether it was a pencil skirt or these cardigans with pearl buttons, the 3/4 length-sleeve stuff. And I would pick out all the vintage and wear it to school and everybody would say, “Oh, that’s so interesting, I’ve never seen anything like that.” Because it was unique; it felt like it was one-of-a-kind stuff.
I was really into Pin-Up Girl, I was even at that time doing swing-dance lessons, the jitterbug, the Lindy hop. I was kind of coming from a different era. So that’s where I cultivated my style. And it’s not necessarily about labels or price, you can mix and match all kinds of labels together. I can put in H&M with Moschino and you’ll never even know it. It’s how you present yourself.
You’ve worked a long time with your stylist. Where do all these out-there ideas, like peppermint swirl dresses and lit-up Christmas trees, come from, you or your stylist?
I would say it’s a collaboration; but yeah, it’s all kind of coming from me. I think time will tell after years pass by the fact that there’s one key thread [and] that’s my eye. I just dream up these larger-than-life characters; I like to be a caricature or a persona on stage. You know, sometimes I’m not always making the best dressed list, but I’m definitely never boring.
What’s the most fun you’ve ever had dressing up for a red carpet?
I did love my Gucci dress I got to wear to the Grammys one time [2013’s mint green gown with a keyhole cutout] and I got to wear a moving carousel from Manish Arora for the EMAs [MTV European Music Awards in 2008]. It was a dress that had a moving carousel on the bottom of it. There have been a lot of fun outfits.