Some celebrities prefer to stay quiet about their political beliefs, but Katy Perry is not one of them. Whether campaigning hard for Hillary Clinton or donating thousands of dollars to women’s reproductive health services, the pop star has long been upfront about where she stands on the political spectrum – and when she performed at the Grammys on Sunday, she didn’t hold back.
Perry was at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards to perform her single Chained to the Rhythm, her first new release since 2013’s Prism. The song itself has a political message (upon its release, the LA Times asked: “Is this the first major pop song about fake news?”) – but it wasn’t just the lyrics that got people talking.
As you might expect from a woman who went as Hillary Clinton to a Halloween party last year, Perry’s choice of onstage outfit was packed with political references. Let’s break it down, shall we?
Perry wore a band reading “PERSIST” on her right arm during her performance at Los Angeles’ Staples Centre. The word has been adopted as a feminist battle cry in recent weeks, after Republican politician Mitch McConnell explained his decision to officially silence Democratic senator Elizabeth Warren in the US Senate.
“She was warned. She was given an explanation,” McConnell said. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”
As Senate Majority Leader, McConnell has the authority to block politicians from speaking on the Senate floor. He utilised these powers on 8 February when Warren – who is already being touted by politicos as a possible Democratic candidate for the presidential election in 2020 – attempted to read a letter from Martin Luther King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.
Scott King’s letter concerned accusations of racism made against Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator and now US attorney general. Like Trump’s description of Hillary Clinton as a “nasty woman”, McConnell’s quote was quickly picked up by feminists on social media as a statement of intent.
Perry also wore a Planned Parenthood badge, in support of the reproductive health service currently under threat from the Trump administration. (The president’s team has promised to try and strip the organisation, the largest single provider of abortions in the US, of federal funding.)
This isn’t the first time Perry has aligned herself with the pro-choice cause. In November, the singer publicly donated almost £8,000 ($10,000) to Planned Parenthood, saying: “It’s time to turn words into action.”
On Twitter, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards noted Perry’s support:
The trouser suit
Finally, Perry’s white Tom Ford* trouser suit was a clear homage to her hero, Hillary Clinton – who was in turn inspired by her own political icons.
Clinton wore a white pantsuit on three major occasions over the course of the last year: to accept the nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention in July, at the final debate with Donald Trump in October, and at Trump’s inauguration in January.
Read more: All the fashion from the 59th Grammy Awards
Her choice of colour was widely noted as referencing the suffragettes of the early 20th century, who frequently wore white gowns – symbolising moral purity – while marching for the right to vote.
* Ford, incidentally, recently said that he’d never allow Melania Trump to wear his clothes – prompting Donald Trump to lash out at the designer. Coincidence? We think not.
In case anyone wasn’t sure what message she was trying to send, Perry wrapped her performance up by shouting the words “No hate!” in front of a backdrop of the United States Constitution – which Donald Trump was recently ruled to have violated in imposing his Muslim-targeted travel ban.
It wasn’t only Perry who got political at the music awards on Sunday. After winning the award for best urban contemporary album, Beyoncé used her acceptance speech to reflect on the importance of empowering “every child of every race”.
Wearing a jaw-dropping gold gown and crown apparently inspired by religious iconography, Beyoncé – who recently announced she is pregnant with twins – said: “It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House, and the Grammys, and see themselves, and have no doubt that they’re beautiful, intelligent, and capable.
“This is something I want for every child of every race, and I feel it’s vital that we learn from the past and recognize our tendencies to repeat our mistakes.”
Images: Rex Features, Getty Images