Katy Perry does not live in a bubble.
Despite having an army of more than 48 million Twitter followers, loads of music awards, and the constant heat of the spotlight, a four-day trip to Madagascar burst any kind of illusion that was surrounding her.
“The experience still continues to change me and reshape my thinking,” said Perry. “Everyone should take this kind of trip. It popped my bubble for sure.”
On Tuesday, UNICEF appointed her a Goodwill Ambassador, joining the elite but humble ranks of David Beckham, Susan Sarandon and Orlando Bloom. On behalf of the United Nation’s children’s agency, Perry will make additional trips to underdeveloped parts of the world, where she would like to focus attention on children with disabilities.
During her April visit to Madagascar, she visited some of the island nation’s most remote areas. Perry met young children who had never heard her infectious hits like “Teenage Dream” or “Roar,” songs that have earned Perry a consistent spot at the top of the charts.
“When I’m in the field with UNICEF, no one is my fan. They don’t even know who I am. They just see a person coming to help them, to spread the love and joy that UNICEF has.”
It was that trip of witnessing the island’s most vulnerable, fight for basic necessities and protection, that forever changed Perry’s priorities. She left Madagascar with a greater appreciation for the bond among families.
“This love that they have for each other, that’s not based on material possessions, that’s not based on social status, that’s not based on Instagram likes because there are no Instagram likes. It’s incredible that they are trading this unconditional love of sorts.”
Perry, the daughter of a pastor, has always lived a spiritual life focused on goodwill toward others, having donated time and money to a spectrum of charities. But Madagascar left her with a clearer vision of what was important in life. Though she said she “can get a little bit fearful” of her fame, she has resolved to take that attention and use her distinctive voice to raise awareness of UNICEF’s work.
Not only did she leave Madagascar with a changed view, but she came away with inspiration for “Unconditionally,” a hit from her new album “Prism.”
“‘Unconditionally’ was inspired by two things,” Perry explained. “It’s inspired by the love I have for someone. And it’s inspired by the trip I took and the unconditional love I do feel for these kids and that I see them exchange with each other.”
That love and showing her own helped her to connect with the children she met in Madagascar. It was that same vulnerability with which she said she approached “Prism.”
“I kind of think that my vulnerability is my strength,” said Perry. “I think that when I share from a pure place, from an honest place, that people relate to those lyrics more. That’s what I desire to be, is authentic and genuine.”
Perry, as one of the most visible entertainers, summed up her changed relationship with the world: “The word vulnerability is not a bad word. It’s just being able to show who you really are, and not have any defenses and not have any ego. And be open to let something like love come in.”
ABC News' Luis A. Yordán contributed to this episode.
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- Katy Perry