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How Katy Perry Became America's Top Pop Export
My black Mercedes is weaving through Rome’s heavy traffic at dusk when a strange voice calls my cell with instructions straight from a John le Carré novel: Exit the vehicle immediately. Walk toward the Colosseum, about half a mile away. And then call back when you approach an arch.

Such are the cloak-and-dagger measures when you’re scheduled to meet Katy Perry, one of the most famous and highest-earning stars in the world. Three paparazzi had apparently been trailing my car–I hitched a ride from Perry’s driver–and so her head of security, from some seemingly omniscient location, dispatched me on foot. I pass the Forum and statues of various Caesars before coming upon the Arch of Titus, a 1,933-year-old structure that served as inspiration for the Arc de Triomphe. I call Perry’s guy, who instructs me to look to my left, where dozens of people are strolling past the 30-year-old singer, incognito in a white fedora and oversize Ray-Bans.

She is immersed in a conversation with her personal tour guide, an affable art historian who looks like an Italian version of Ron Weasley. He’s detailing the types of animals that gladiators battled on the floor of the Colosseum, which looms in the background, and she’s already finishing his sentences. “So they had no idea what they were fighting,” she says. He nods. A passing street merchant, apparently duped by Perry’s disguise, tries unsuccessfully to sell her a selfie stick.

“I’m over this,” says Perry, cheerfully. “Let’s go. What else are we going to see?”

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