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KATY PERRY is wearing a plunging red polka dot dress and flat ballerina style shoes. After first tucking her slender legs beside her on the hotel room couch, she decides to stretch them out onto the coffee table, letting her dress fall away to expose their full length. It's an appropriate moment for this latest American pop sensation, who trades on songs with titillating titles like Ur So Gay and a busty, pin-up image she describes as "the Lolita look".
Perry is on day one of interviews in Melbourne, which will see her rise at 6am and cram an average of nine interviews, plus a performance into each day while on her Australian promotional tour. After five years of hard Los Angeles graft she has clawed her way to the top of the recognition heap, thanks in most part to her recent chart-topping hit I Kissed a Girl from her album One of the Boys. But she's discovering that the work is only just beginning.
"I'm just a little surprised, I knew it would be hard work, but it is really a lot of hard work. Lots of people who have pretty normal jobs have the weekends off, nights off, not for me. I have no weekends, and on top of that you can't get sick, you're going to all kinds of different countries." But, she insists "There's no complaining ever, I'm not complaining at all. You never bite the hand that feeds you because I know there are, like, 500 other girls behind me that want it more than I do or as much as I do."
Perry, 23, looks like a diminutive Minnie Mouse bright thick make-up, red and black clothes and a butter-wouldn't-melt grin. But any similarities to her "Disney" contemporaries Britney Spears, Myley Cyrus, Hilary Duff end there. Perry writes her own music, styles herself (often with vintage shop finds) and says she doesn't march by a company executive's tune. Certainly there are no lists of topics to avoid handed out pre-interview, nor tidy, practised answers given to difficult questions.
"I just want to be myself 100% with everything I do and I think that comes off," she says. "Even sometimes when people don't know me they come in to hate me because they have had that pop girl in the past and they're like `You're just such a f---ing Barbie and you've got 12 guys in suits watching your every move' and that's unfortunate. But then they leave like `Oh, I wanted to hate her but I love her, dammit!"'
Rising to prominence last year with her internet hit Ur So Gay, Perry has moved a long way from her first album as a blonde 16-year-old, the Christian gospel self-titled Katy Hudson (Perry is her mother's maiden name). She grew up in a Santa Barbara household where devilled eggs were called angel eggs and had little contact with popular culture. Her parents are Protestant ministers and while they don't listen to her more "sinful" songs, they haven't disowned her.
"I'm very open to everything and I love the influence gospel's had on my life. It's a great foundation. I just think that maybe my perspective has changed a little bit and, maybe, I've lived a little bit more and I am a young adult and very outspoken. That's how I am, like Lucille Ball."
She has also attracted some unwanted attention from critics who say Perry is feeding into a celebrity trend for "fauxmosexuality", undermining the hard work that has gone into gaining rights and recognition for the gay and lesbian community.
"I welcome people's opinions," says Perry in response. "I'm sharing my opinion so people are allowed to share their opinion, but there are a couple of things. First, they're so dying to be offended by everything and second they have no sense of humour. They do take themselves so seriously."
Perry has kissed a girl or two, but isn't gay. Her boyfriend is Gym Class Heroes singer Travis McCoy, who she met while recording a song in New York. She says she prefers to date people in her own industry because they understand the level of dedication needed to succeed.
"My boyfriend travels just as much so he gets the hard, tough lifestyle. I've learned a lot about self control.
"I know when I need to go to bed and I know that I can't go out to a bar and that I have an early call time in the morning and if I don't look right or good.
"If I'm not on top of my game, well the world is watching people so closely these days and just one thing can put a crack in the system. I know that this time is like laying the foundation and if I lay the foundation then I can build a really nice house."
* Katy Perry's One of the Boys is out now through EMI.
- © Fairfax NZ News