Before she ‘kissed a girl and liked it,’ Katy Perry made her appearance on the Cathedral stage at John Brown University.
As a 16-year-old, aspiring Christian artist, Katy Hudson took the stage as an opening act for Bebo Norman during September 2001. The Cathedral was full of Norman’s fans.
Marikit (Schwartz) Fain, archives coordinator, was a freshman the year Katy performed. Fain said Katy talked a lot more than she sang, and kept talking about how she did not want to become a stereotypical Christian singer and did not want to be able to fit into a box.
Jeff LeMaster was a junior at the University in 2001. As the sports editor of the Threefold Advocate that year, he interviewed Katy after her performance.
“I got the impression that she really wasn’t satisfied with the Christian music scene,” LeMaster said. It seemed like she was much more interested in the career aspect of her music than the ministry aspect.
Mandy Moore, director of first year experience, was a sophomore in 2001. She had transferred to another college that year, but came back for Bebo Norman’s concert.
At the time, Moore thought Katy seemed immature because she was only 16. She was also unpolished and talked a lot in between her songs.
“I definitely got the sense that her faith was something that had been required of her by her family, church and community,” LeMaster said.
“I remember her talking a lot about the ups and downs in her faith journey,” Moore said. “Everyone was there for Bebo Norman. I remember just wanting her to finish her part so that we could hear Bebo.”
Katy soon changed her name from Hudson to Perry, changed her look, style and music, and became a household name.
“I didn’t make the connection until I saw a promo that she was going to be a guest judge on American Idol a few years back,” LeMaster said. “I’d heard her single ‘I Kissed a Girl’ and thought it was pretty dumb, so I hadn’t really paid much attention to her music.”
“It’s not really shocking, but it’s become a fun story to tell at parties,” LeMaster said. “I got to interview Katy Perry before she was Katy Perry.”
For Moore, the connection came quickly.
“I thought it was well known she came. It’s crazy that she was here when she was starting out,” Moore said. “It’s kind of cool to think that the Katy Perry that is on TV is the same Katy Perry that was 20 feet away from me when I was a college sophomore.”
Katy has certainly changed enough to make heads turn and eyes open wide. She topped the charts and created catchy songs.
“It’s weird to me that in 2001, everyone was there for Bebo Norman and we didn’t know who Katy was,” Moore said. “Now Katy is bigger, and we hear about her all the time and we don’t hear a thing about Bebo anymore.”
LeMaster added that Katy’s faith had some influence on her story when he interviewed her in 2001, and hopes that she can experience that again.
“In interviews with her that I’ve read since then, it seems that hers is an all-too-common story of a young person whose faith early in life was all about rules and not doing the wrong thing,” he said.
“She rejected that and set out to find her own values,” LeMaster added. “I hope at some point the Holy Spirit will grab hold of her heart so she can experience God in a real way.”