Katy Perry's Rebranding Is All Talk If She Doesn't Show Action

Katy Perry addressed her notorious cultural insensitivity on last week's livestream for Witness. But is it a desperate attempt to please fans or does she mean it?

Last week, Katy Perry did the most internet thing I've seen in a while to promote her new and fourth album "Witness."

She moved into an apartment equipped with 41 cameras to live stream a 96-hour molting session of the superficial pop star persona she's known for, The New York Times reported. It went by the name of Witness World Wide, and it was in partnership with YouTube.

While she slept and wandered around the apartment, she also had guests over for interventions of sorts, all aimed at showing off a new, improved, and authentic Perry.

"It's a departure, and it's a necessary evolution that I have to take," she told The New York Times.


One such intervention involved Black Lives Matter activist and host of the podcast "Pod Save the People," Deray Mckesson. Perry and Mckesson sat down to talk about Perry's controversial and tone-deaf history of appropriating black and Asian cultures (not like that's anything new in Hollywood), and her white privilege.

"I will never understand some of those things because of who I am," she told Mckesson. "But I can educate myself, and that's what I'm trying to do along the way."

It's hard to determine whether or not her acknowledgment is a product of desperately trying to keep fans or a genuine shift in perspective, aka she finally got woke. Would she be speaking up if she weren't so publicly ridiculed for being problematic?

And problematic she was. Perry started off by addressing the cornrows she wore in the 2013 "This Is How We Do It" video, which also depicted her holding watermelon — basically recreating a cringe-worthy stereotype of black culture. It wasn't until her hair stylist and "empowered angel" Cleo Wade pulled her aside to explain the historical and cultural significance of the hairstyle, Afropunk reported. "And she told me about the power in black women's hair and how beautiful it is, and the struggle," Perry said. "And I listened, and I heard, and I didn't know."


Then there was her performance at The American Music Awards, also in 2013, when Perry sang "Unconditionally" while wearing a kimono with a white powdered face and umbrella. She stood in front of a Shinto shrine as lotus blossoms, giant fans, and lanterns surrounded her. At her worst, she mimicked stereotypically Japanese movements, like shuffling and bowing. As an Asian woman, it felt like watching the offensive geisha costumes from Halloween ... on steroids. It felt like misrepresentation and that more rightful voices were being silenced. Like her cornrows, it was disappointing and frankly, backward.

"Even in my intention to appreciate Japanese culture, I did it wrong with a performance," she said. "And I didn't know that I did it wrong until I heard people saying I did it wrong."

The "clapbacks," she said, were too harsh on her, and that "compassionate" criticism by angels like Wade is more effective. As Afropunk points out, this translates to Perry not surrounding herself with a diverse group of people who share with her how to approach their cultures and identities. 

As long as Perry walks the walk by truly changing and using her fame to give exposure and space to minority artists, only then will she actually be a new Katy Perry.

But she's yet to do so, even on "Witness." With a recent collaboration with Atlanta rappers Migos, it feels like she only piggybacks on hip-hop's fame without a genuine appreciation for it.


Only time will tell if Perry actually makes moves to become more culturally sensitive and if she even means what she says. But at least she knows what the challenge is to become a better artist and foster a better industry — for her and other guilty-as-charged artists.

Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters 

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