"Honestly, I’m just masquerading as a pop star." Coming from Katy Perry — that most DayGlo of pop stars — such a statement could verge on the absurd. But today, Perry has stepped outside the smoke and mirror balls. Sitting on a couch in a rehearsal studio in Burbank, Calif. — where she is preparing for a live appearance at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas in just a few days — Perry carries only a fleeting resemblance to the cotton-candied persona she’s crafted during the last five years. Wearing zero makeup, with her hair pulled back and sporting black Adidas workout tights and a faded hoodie over a "Christian Death Metal" T-shirt, Perry sips on a grande Starbucks iced green tea. She more resembles an art-school undergrad on her way to the gym than, well, Katy Perry.
The reason for that is simple: To get ready for the rigorous routines of the new stage show that she unveiled at the iHeartRadio festival on Sept. 20, Perry has undertaken intensive training regimens. “I am exhausting so much energy right now,” Perry exclaims between bites of Cheez-Its — furtive bites, because eating Cheez-Its is breaking training. “For eight days straight, I’ve been conditioning — just going, going, going at the height of my physical capabilities. I’m supposed to eat meals every two hours, but it takes me an hour to think of what I want to eat, so by lunchtime, I’m starving. I’m just so hungry all the time.”
Hunger and drive have characterized Perry’s career up to this point-and despite past triumphs, right now is no different. The success of 2010’s “Teenage Dream” — Perry’s second major-label effort-set a dizzying amount of records and has sold 2.8 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Most notably, she became the first woman, and second artist overall following Michael Jackson, in the 55-year history of the Billboard Hot 100 to send five songs from the same album to No. 1. The bar, meanwhile, keeps rising: With the rapid ascent of “Roar” — the instantly ubiquitous first single from the upcoming “PRISM,” due Oct. 22 — Perry has tied Rihanna for the most No. 1s on the Pop Songs tally with her ninth chart-topper. At this point, all metrics suggest PRISM will equal Teenage Dream’s multiplatinum trajectory, but Perry doesn’t take such rosy projections to heart. “It’s a comfy spot to be in, but I can’t get too comfortable,” she says. “Otherwise, I’ll lose perspective.”