Unraveling the Leopard Print Mystery of Katy Perry’s “Roar”

Did Katy Perry kill a leopard and skin it to make the sexy top she’s wearing in this music video?

I know that the music video for the Katy Perry song “Roar” is several months old already (which is practically a century when it comes to pop music), but we really need to talk about the significance of the leopard print outfit that features so prominently in the video.

(Here’s a screen grab in case you can’t watch the video)


I mean, where did this thing come from? God forbid, did she actually kill a leopard to make this?

I’ll answer that question in a moment, but before we go too far down this road, I want to establish two important parameters for this discussion: first, we have to accept that this jungle contains capuchin monkeys, African elephants, and tigers, even though these animals’ native habitats are actually on three separate continents (South America, Africa, and Asia, respectively). Second, we have to accept the events of the video at face value, not as a dream or a mental episode, as is suggested by the animated bookends and the dream fake-out. Suspend some disbelief, please. This is a Katy Perry music video.

With these two parameters established, let’s figure out just where this leopard print came from, starting at the beginning.


Here we see Katy Perry shortly after her plane crash. She’s just arrived in the jungle, so all she has at this point is what she brought with her from the civilized world. What starts out as a leopard print fabric scarf…


…eventually turns into a belt or waistband. It’s not clear why she needed to tie it around her waist, though. Eventually she repurposes it again to fashion a spear out of a high heel and a tree branch.


Note that the spear is used to impale a banana, rather than to kill an animal.

3 zoom

We’ll file that detail away for later. The next time we see the leopard print fabric, it’s still attached to the spear, but now it’s also been fashioned into a sexy top.


Or has it?

Look at the scarf from the first shot and compare it to what’s fastened around the spear tip:


The scarf has only enough fabric to account for the spear tip, not for the halter top as well. This would be ambiguous were it not for this view of the back of her leopard print top, which clearly shows much more fabric than the scarf could possibly contain.


So where did this come from? One possibility that came to mind is that she made it out of additional leopard print fabric that was stored with her luggage. But here’s the problem with this explanation: the sequencing of the video suggests that she enters the cave wearing the ragged remains of her shirt and comes out wearing the leopard print top.


So that leaves us with a more disturbing explanation: did she kill a leopard in the cave and use its skin to make the top?

Not if we take the events of the video at face value. After she enters the cave, she sees an animated cave drawing of a tiger overwhelming its human hunters.

cave drawing

I suppose you could interpret this as Perry’s horribly twisted way of masking her memory of killing the leopard, but man, that’d be dark. And besides, remember what I said about her using the spear for bananas, as opposed to animal flesh. She’s no hunter. So we can probably rule out the leopard skin.

Where the hell did the extra leopard print fabric come from? She didn’t go back to the plane to get it out of her luggage, and she didn’t kill a leopard in the cave. At this point, I turn to the words of my other favorite Top 40 pop sensation, Sherlock Holmes, for some guidance: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

She was wearing it the whole time, or at least, she was wearing it underneath the shredded shirt before going into the cave.


I know it’s tempting to just say that the magic powers that animate the cave drawing also granted Katy Perry a leopard print top, but nothing that we see in the video–not even the supernatural tiger vs. woman roaring match–suggests that the magic in this jungle can violate the law of conservation of matter. Fabric can’t just materialize out of nowhere. Everything needs to come from something.

More importantly, this explanation is actually thematically consistent with the empowering message of the video. Perry’s transformation from damsel in distress to jungle queen may have been brought about by external circumstances, and maybe even some supernatural aid, but the fundamental strength of her character was inside her all along. Just like the piece of clothing that acts as an outward signifier of her jungle-friendly self. Sure, it’s an awkward signifier–if the leopard pattern isn’t from an actual leopard, then it was silk screened onto fabric in a factory somewhere–but then again, this video isn’t just about finding self-empowerment in nature. It’s also about achieving a balance between the artificial and the natural. Hence the tiger’s Kitty Purry bling.


At this point, I think we’ve covered every angle of the leopard print mystery and even explained its thematic significance, which is pretty damn impressive. I’m willing to declare victory at this point, but if any of you can come up with a plausible theory that explains how the capuchin monkey, African elephant, and tiger all wound up in the same jungle, by all means, let me know in the comments.


Special thanks to my wife for helping me come up with the final explanation for the leopard print top. She has won her fair share of roaring matches against tigers.

14 Comments on “Unraveling the Leopard Print Mystery of Katy Perry’s “Roar””

  1. Seminymous Coward #

    The plane had some of the animals as passengers (or are wild animals cargo?) returning from another expedition. They escaped the crash to join the native fauna.


    • Seminymous Coward #

      If you think a multi-continent expedition is too far-fetched, then the capuchin was a pet brought on the planned trip.


    • Mark Lee OTI Staff #

      They could have brought the monkey with them, but that wouldn’t explain how the African elephant (Africa) and tiger (Asia) are in the same place.

      There’s at least one bird prominently featured in the second half of the video–can anyone get an ID on that?


      • cat #

        A ship carrying animals to a zoo stopped at the island. Maybe they ran out of gas or supplies. Maybe they were researchers who decided to investigate the island and look for an as yet undiscovered species of bird. I don’t know. I didn’t write the backstory for this music video. Then, perhaps the people on the ship all perished or they were rescued but unable to bring all the animals with them on the small rescue boat.


  2. mezdef #

    Clearly (CLEARLY) Katy Perry has crash-landed on the island of Lost. That would explain the animals and the leopard print. Or at least explain why it’s mysterious.


    • Mark Lee OTI Staff #

      Someone needs to write some amazing cross-over fanfic based on this.


  3. fenzel OTI Staff #

    The cave painting interpretation is amazing. As far as I’m concerned, the role-reversal of Katy Perry as the tiger and the leopard as the human beings being devoured by the tiger as a metaphor for Katy Perry murdering the leopard in the cave and tearing off its skin is canon.


  4. Liz Coleman #

    Are we sure that’s a leopard print and not a jaguar print? She could be supressing the memories of killing a jaguar rather than a leopard.


  5. cat #

    Other thoughts… what is her connection with this tiger? She isn’t just inspired by the tiger who presumably killed or at least mauled the guy she was with. The tiger basically comes to her like Mufasa. And given the way she wins the final battle with the tiger, I have to conclude the tiger spirit that comes out of her mouth is different from the physical tiger she’s having a roaring contest with. So this is an island with tiger ghosts/spirits.

    Is the banana just a banana?

    If she was wearing the animal print top the whole time then where was it when she was “showering”? The rest of her outfit was hanging on one of the elephant’s tusks.

    The measure of her success at the end of the video seems to be the way she has domesticated/tamed the wild animals. I find this to be a quite confusing message.


    • PotatoKnight #

      Hmm. The tiger killed the dude…Katy Perry kills things then metaphorizes the memories as a coping mechanism…Katy Perry is the metaphorical tiger….

      Uh oh.

      We came here for a repressed memory leopard killing and ended up with something much more sinister!


      • An Inside Joke #

        So Roar is the music video equivalent of Life of Pi?


  6. Ben Adams OTI Staff #

    This video is just Katy Perry’s answer to the riddle, The Lady or the Tiger


  7. Sara #

    The monkey is a representation of her Id.
    The elephant her Ego
    And the leopard her Superego.


  8. MEGR #

    I don’t think we should ignore the suggestion that this is a dream. In which case we should assume that the Leopard print has a special significance in the unconscious mind of Katy Perry. Since I can have no particular insight into the mind of Katy Perry other then the context presented by the music video I think we have to take the cultural significance of Leopard skin and juxtapose that against the rest of the dream. Leopard skins represent dominance over nature, decadence and a certain kind of cheap sexiness. I think The leopard skin represents Katy Perry’s transformation from the innocent to the experienced. The dominance aspect represents her rise to power in pop culture, the decadence represents her enjoyment of fruits of her labor, and the sexiness of the leopard skin is her concession to the fact that she has had to take sexualized aspects to achieve her current dominance. The fact that the size of the leopard skin grows is her concession to the fact that although the sexuality was there all along it has had to be displayed for her to gain dominance over nature (or her environment). And the dreamlike disconnection from the growth of the leopard is representative of her belief that she has not had full control over her sexualization and consequent power.


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