Happy Birthday, Katy Perry!

It has been an incredibly busy few days of partying for Katy Perry, as not only did she celebrate her marriage to Russell Brand on Saturday (October 23), but today she’ll also commemorate her birth. Perry (born Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson) is now 26 years old, and she has crammed quite a bit into those two-decades-and-change. Her latest album Teenage Dream has made a home for itself near the top of the Billboard album chart, and the album’s first single “California Gurls” was the unofficial anthem of this past summer. She is currently kicking ass and taking names with “Teenage Dream,” an unbelievably lush song that manages to sound cutting edge but also vaguely nostalgic at the same time (the gorgeously-shot video certainly helps).

But even though she’s only 26, Perry is really in the midst of her second career run, as she began her performing life in earnest as a Christian artist who scored her first record deal by playing country songs. Her debut album (recorded under the name Katy Hudson) came out way back in 2001 and was filled with gospel rock inflections (and even by the standards of her modest record label, it was considered unsuccessful). Undaunted, Perry (with a new moniker in tow — Hudson is her mother’s maiden name) headed to Los Angeles and hooked up with producer Glen Ballard (best known for working on Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill but also notable for his contributions to albums by Michael Jackson, Aerosmith and No Doubt) for an album that was never released (though Perry did get on to the soundtrack for “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”).

Of course, it all ended well for Perry, as she finally released her proper pop debut One of the Boys in 2008, scored a boatload of hit singles and became a video icon. Just about every one of her clips is a modern classic, but “Hot N Cold” is the stuff of legend.

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