Katy Perry pays touching tribute to mentor who 'willed me into existence as a young artist'

Angelica Cob-Baehler (Photo: Variety)
Angelica Cob-Baehler (Photo: Variety)

An emotional Katy Perry took to Instagram Tuesday to pay touching tribute to her friend and mentor, music industry visionary Angelica Cob-Baehler, who died last week after a long battle with cancer. Perry believes that without Cob-Baehler’s unwavering support, she may have never gone on to a superstar career.

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The two met in the mid-2000s, when Cob-Baehler (known as “Geli” to Perry and other close friends) was a vice president at Columbia Records. The unknown Perry was signed to Columbia at the time, but the label was sitting on her finished album with no evident plan to release it. When Cob-Baehler, a true believer in Perry’s talent and frustrated with the situation, left Columbia in 2005 to work for the EMI Music Group, she stole Perry’s files from Columbia and got them into the hands of Jason Flom, the then chairman and CEO of Capitol Records. Capitol eventually released Perry’s breakthrough album One of the Boys, and the rest is history.

“We had a lot of wins together for over 10 years, and I am incredibly grateful she was a born fighter/no s***-taker because she practically willed me into existence as a young artist when she ‘stole my files’ from limbo at Columbia Records and brought them to life at Capitol Records. She was like a big sister to me, showing me the ropes and always having my back. She never became a yes-person and was quick to check me when I needed checking — that was family,” Perry shared in a lengthy Instagram essay, in which she also called Cob-Baehler “one of my biggest champions and realest friends,” “one of the strongest women I have ever known,” and “a woman of incredible integrity and character, a massive giver, and a DOPE human being.”

In honor of #GivingTuesday, Perry also directed her devoted fans, the KatyCats, to a link in her Instagram bio for Generosity.org, Cob-Baehler’s favorite charity.

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“Geli” became a mythical figure and heroine to the KatyCats when she appeared in Perry’s 2012 documentary, Part of Me, telling the story of how she helped Perry escape from her previous dead-end record deal. “[Columbia] didn’t understand her clothes, they didn’t understand her personality, and they didn’t understand her point of view,” Cob-Baehler said. “The record wasn’t going to come out, and she was signed to the record company and nothing was happening. And I remember one of the heads of the record company saying, ‘You know, we really can’t drop her, because she’ll probably sign somewhere else and become a big star, and we just can’t have that.’ I just thought they should just let her go. It was like holding somebody hostage.”

Cob-Baehler continued, “I cared about her too much as a person to think that somebody could just crush this girl’s life, just crush her dreams for their own ego. And I just remember thinking, ‘I can’t work here anymore. They’re not going to do anything with her. Let’s see. Let’s see if we can get her over to Capitol.’ So I stole all the Katy files. I just grabbed them and I put them under my arm, and I just snuck out.” Upon the release of Part of Me, Perry tweeted that Cob-Baehler was the “hero of the movie.”

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Cob-Baehler, who began her career as an intern for Elektra Records and followed by a stint in the ’90s as a publicist for Atlantic Records (where she first met Flom) before moving on to Columbia, was also instrumental in the careers of Stone Temple Pilots, John Mayer, 30 Seconds to Mars, Kid Rock, Jewel, the Offspring, System of a Down and many others. Most recently, she was the chief marketing officer for Big 3, a basketball league founded by Jeff Kwatinetz, former CEO of the Firm, and Ice Cube. Last week, Kwatinetz wrote in an email to Big 3’s employees, “As someone who has worked with talent and am used to not being appreciated for belief and commitment, I do want to say that the artist [Cob-Baehler] brought to the world, Katy Perry, was magnificent to her when she became sick. Katy did remarkable things and stepped up for her friend Angelica. I don’t know Katy but I love her so dearly for being that rare person that didn’t forget someone who believed in her and fought for her. That too inspired me.”

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Perry and Cob-Baehler remained friends over the years, long after Cob-Baehler left EMI in 2011 (Perry even named the jelly sandal in her shoe line “the Geli“), and during Cob-Baehler’s illness over the past year and a half, they regularly shared photos and videos of Perry’s visits.

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“I have procrastinated posting this because it makes it feel a little too final, but I don’t believe people ever really die — she just had to leave that body behind,” Perry stated in her emotional Instagram post. “Out of body, and full of spirit now. Sadly, she also left behind two amazing young girls, and an incredible husband who was the definition of ROCK through this whole process. As for me, I’ll never let them forget that Angelica embodied the angel in her name. … She may be gone from this place, but she will never be forgotten. Rest in power, my angel, and don’t worry, we got Chapman and the girls. #RIPGeli”

Cob-Baehler is survived by her husband, photographer Chapman Baehler, and her two daughters. She was 47.

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