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The Compelling Story of Katy Perry's Path to Stardom

By Daniel Sparks – Oct 25, 2014 at 8:45AM

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Katy Perry wasn't an instant success -- far from it, in fact. Here is the real story and what we can learn from it.

Singer and songwriter Katy Perry turns 30 today (happy birthday, KP!), and she is already an international success with a wildly decorated career of hit singles, major awards, and an estimated net worth of $110 million. Her catchy songs are heard all over the world.

While Katy Perry's career in the spotlight really only started about six years ago with her controversial single "I Kissed a Girl," the years leading up to this success paint an important lesson for the rest of us: Even Katy Perry had to fail before she became the smashing hit we know her as today.

Katy Perry "Firework" video shoot. Image source:

Katy Perry's early failures
Although it seems as if Katy exploded onto the scene in 2008, she was far from an instant hit. In fact, she had a streak of unsuccessful record deals before she gained any meaningful traction in her career. Brought up in a strict Christian home where she was only allowed to listen to Christian music, Ms. Perry may have seemed too sheltered to achieve mainstream stardom. But persistence through years of failures finally led her to the limelight.

At a young age, it was clear that Katy was talented. That's why at the age of 15 she began visiting Nashville to nurture her passion for music by gaining experience in song writing and recording demos. She first signed a record label under her birth name, Katy Hudson, with Christian outfit Red Hill. The album flopped.

Hoping for better luck in Los Angeles, Katy worked with producer Glen Ballard at the age of 17. But the collaboration didn't attract any record deals.

Signing a deal with the well-known mainstream label Columbia Records in 2004 didn't improve Katy's luck. She was dropped.

It was about another four years before Katy proved she really had what it takes to be a star.

The breakthrough
It wasn't until her 2007 deal with Capital Music that Katy began to make real progress toward fame. Katy and producer Dr. Luke co-wrote "I Kissed a Girl," which ended up being the lead single on her next album.

Katy's album One of the Boys, which enjoyed a rave review by Madonna, took off, propelled by her lead single. Her place in music history was solidified when the single hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. 

And Katy turned out to be far more than a one-hit wonder. Her music is almost always found at or near the top of every major pop song chart. She has garnered four Billboard Music Awards, five MTV Video Music Awards, and a whopping 11 Grammy nominations.

Katy Perry on MTV Unplugged, 2009. Image source:

And her success carries over to the film industry: In 2012 her autobiographical film Katy Perry: Part of Me gave fans a glimpse into her life -- and raked in $30 million worldwide at the box office.

Worth a total of $110 million, Katy is now earning between $30 to $50 million per year, according to Celebrity Net Worth. The majority of her earnings come from album sales, merchandise, and touring.

What can we learn from Katy?
The biggest lesson here, of course, is that letting a streak of failures stop us from pursuing our goals can be a big mistake. It's likely that Katy's more fruitless years actually helped her grow into the record-smashing artist we know her as today.

Investors in particular can relate. Instead of letting bad investments define them, the best investors try to learn from their failures in order to improve their odds in the next bet.

To be a success in the stock market and elsewhere in life, you must keep learning, keep growing, and, most importantly, keep pressing on.

Daniel Sparks has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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