Katy Perry has no clothes on.
But this is not another pop-star publicity ploy: There's no swinging on construction equipment, no seductive licking of dusty tools. It's a mild early-fall afternoon in London, and she's pouring her pinup-girl curves into a red sequined Dolce & Gabbana gown for a holiday-themed photo shoot. Later she'll insist, possibly delusionally, "I don't have the most rocking body. Rihanna has a fantastic body. Same with Miley they can get away with so much more stuff. Me, honestly, I've got cellulite. I'm just hiding it." Right now, though, she's vamping like a pro. After several setups, the British hipster playing the Mr. to her sexy Mrs. Claus heads for the exit. "Bye, Santa! Thank you!" she yells. Then she adds, in a breathy Marilyn Monroe whisper, "Don't forget what I told you."
Odds are he won't, and neither will we. Yes, we just saw her boobs. But the biggest reveal from the week we spend jet-setting with Katy Perry? Her naked truth.
"You're gonna see all different kinds of things," Perry warned at the outset of our adventure, prepping EW for a promotional onslaught that will include multiple events in Berlin, then London. And she's not kidding: flirting with Santa in September. Sipping champagne with a giant German gentleman with bedazzled eyebrows named Bubbles (he's a member of the superfan contingent known as Katycats). Late-night tea in a London hotel lobby with a rock icon that will stretch into the wee hours of the morning. Twitter accounts named after her breasts. Near-constant jet lag. It's an exhausting, exhilarating ride. But that's what it means to be the biggest pop star on the planet in 2013.
Thanks to 2010's candy-coated blockbuster Teenage Dream, Perry tied Michael Jackson's all-time record for the most No. 1 singles from one album: five total, including "California Gurls" and "Firework." Eye-of-the-tiger anthem "Roar," the lead single from her third major-label album, Prism, easily became her fastest-selling track to date. Expectations are similarly mammoth for Prism, released Oct. 22 three days before her 29th birthday. (It too will take the No. 1 spot in the country.) But it's also arriving in an increasingly crowded field that finds her competing against fellow supernovas like Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. "There's a lot more work than there is play, but that's just the time right now," she says. "Because you want to go to the next level, and it's difficult." Or, in the words of another pop chanteuse: You better work, bitch.
Guten Tag, Berlin!
A groggy Perry is facing down a crowd of stylish German journalists, bloggers, label executives, and tastemakers at the Puro Sky Lounge, a bar lofted 20 stories above the busy streets of Berlin. Amid a sea of artful scruff and infinity scarves, she sits on stage in a zippered blue leather dress, introducing each of Prism's 13 tracks. The bouncy party ode "This Is How We Do" ("This one goes out to the ladies at breakfast/...In last night's dress!") pours through the speakers and inspires Perry to seek out some of her own social lubrication. "I'm getting a glass of champagne," she announces.