Katy Perry and Leaving Fundamentalism: An Open Letter
Dear Katy Perry,
I want to start off by saying your song “Roar” is one of my favorites. When I first heard it, it stuck with me.
"I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agreed politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything."
I felt like the song was telling my story.
When I came across your interview therapy session with Dr. Siri Singh on YouTube it all made sense.
I appreciated the vulnerability in which you shared. I honestly didn’t expect to connect with you as much as I did, but the more I listened the more I found that you and I have quite a bit in common.
I too grew up in fundamentalist Christianity. I also came from a family with several ministers, so I know what it is like growing up having the pressure of the church’s spotlight pointed at you. People watch your every move with expectation.
In the interview, you talked about your strict upbringing. You talked about feeling restricted and unable to fully explore your curiosity. I noticed how careful you were when you talked about this. There is an inner struggle of knowing many religious influencers were well meaning but also realizing that some of the things they passed on from their particular belief system weren't helpful to your personal development or your relationship with God.
When you talked about yourself, you described having the body of an adult while feeling like you are still a young child inside at times, because your strict religious upbringing stunted your natural growth. I didn’t feel safe to ask all of the questions I had either. When I tried to express myself, it was often seen as rebellious or overly emotional, so I stuffed it down and didn't allow myself to stretch my wings. Some days I feel like I’m catching up from my childhood too.
Just like you, music was my first go-to. I started singing in church around the age of eight. I found that it was an “approved” way to use my voice and express myself in my religious community. I never hit it big like you, but at one time I aspired to be a traveling singer. I ultimately realized that it wasn’t the singing that I was drawn to specifically, but the opportunity to use my voice, to communicate what I was thinking and feeling. I wanted to connect with other people vulnerably, and music was one of the few approved ways for me to do that. I rarely sing anymore, but I have begun to find my true voice. I think you are doing the same thing with your music and now with this interview. You are using your voice and showing your true self.
It must have something to do with our backgrounds, because I too had a drastic haircut. I used to have hair that reached my waist, but I finally hit a point where I just knew I needed to do something different. So about a year and a half a go I chose a pixie style as well. (Isn’t it freeing to cut it all off? It feels like releasing some kind of negative energy.) I didn’t want people to look at me and see the quiet, submissive, controlled little girl that I used to be. I wanted them to accept me for the bold, strong woman I am becoming. The woman who isn’t afraid to ask questions, to challenge old thought patterns, to tell the truth about my feelings and experiences. I didn’t realize how life-changing a haircut could be at the time, but it truly did something for me. You mentioned that you’ve gotten some backlash for cutting your hair. I’m so sorry. Don’t let anyone shame you for choosing to cut your hair. You are beautiful, and the growth it signifies is beautiful too.
Leaving specific faith expressions of your childhood can be difficult and extremely isolating at times. People who are close to you often don’t understand, and it can seem like no one gets what you are going through.
In your new song “Witness,” you say it beautifully.
“We're all just looking for connection
Yeah, we all want to be seen
I'm looking for someone who speaks my language
Someone to ride this ride with me
Can I get a witness? (Witness)
Will you be my witness? (Witness)
I'm just looking for a witness in all of this
Looking for a witness to get me through this.
Will you be my witness?”
I’m writing this letter to say that you are not alone. It feels isolating sometimes, but there are actually a lot of us ex-fundamentalists out here who give witness to what you are going through. We understand the language and culture you came from, but also deeply connect with where you are now, a season of asking questions and trying to understand who God really is
You and I likely hold different views on a variety of things but this journey of learning and growing makes me feel a connection to you.
I want you to know that I applaud you for not giving up on working towards healing and discovering who you were created to be. I know it isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
Keep up with those therapy sessions! It’s important to have a safe place to process your emotions. Keep asking questions too!
Blessings on your journey.
Note: I am not familiar with the particular church Katy Parry grew up in. I am basing my letter on her experiences described in the interview.