At the age of 20, Taylor Swift became the youngest singer to snap up a Grammy for ‘Album of the Year’ for her record ‘Fearless’. Since then, this Pennsylvania born pop star has become one of the most familiar faces on the Billboard Charts. With beauty, drive, talent and her ‘Swift Squad’ on her side, she has risen to superstardom. Radhika Talwar takes a look at the sassy young lady and her indestructible friendships
As with all young hopefuls trying to get a big break in the music industry, Taylor faced plenty of rejection early on. The difference is, she was 12 and had no music background or connections. All she had to rely on was her raw talent. Born to Merrill Lynch president, Scott K Swift, and Andrea Finlay, a former marketing executive, Taylor would have actually been a fourth generation bank president if she chose that career path. Luckily for her, and us, her parents gave her full reign to pursue any vocation she chose. And what a career it has been. With the full resources and support of her family, and tenacity that has landed her at the top of the charts, she persuaded her mum to take her to Nashville and showcase her fantastic pipes. Although her big break did not come immediately, Taylor’s persistence and drive eventually landed her a deal at age 14.
One of the many things that set Taylor Swift apart from the majority of her peers is her song-writing skill. Her big break into the music industry came with the recognition of that talent and this is something she has continued to fine tune and build upon. Like any artist worth their salt, Taylor writes her songs from the heart, which is without question what captivates her relatively young fan base. She is an ideal to aspire to, because they relate to her and want to be her. This is definitely attested by album sales, which have landed her in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Admirably, Taylor makes it a point to maintain that ‘relatable’ quality by staying active on social media and connecting with her fans. She has dispersed advice and empathy, and personally replied to comments. This may explain her 51 million followers on Twitter! In a rather bold move she gate-crashed a fan’s bridal shower, bearing numerous gifts, and possibly making the girl’s year and decade. While it may not be uncommon for celebrities to cater to their fan base, Taylor does it with an unaffected friendliness and warmth that has a lasting impact on her adoring supporters.
However, music like all showbiz can be cutthroat and very lonely for women, particularly those in the height of success. Understandably, the ultra-competitiveness and rigours of the high-flying, fastpaced lifestyle make it difficult for stars to sustain lasting friendships. This does not appear to be a problem that Taylor Swift has. Her feud with Katy Perry has made headlines and delighted critics and gossipmongers alike. But there is no denying, that the dynamic diva knows how to rally her forces and utilise her support network.
But Taylor’s earlier music has, despite its popularity, given her the unfortunate tag of ‘hopeless romantic’ from her more vituperative critics. That her string of failed romances during the period was well publicised likely added fuel to the title. These trials played a large role in changes she wrought toward face-lifting her personal life. Last year she took a step back from romantic liaisons, and chose to focus on building friendships with the dazzling female stars of her acquaintance. Taylor’s troop of talent is an impressive list, more so that she has managed to maintain a larger number of friendships than she has lost. Iconic singer Lorde, who is part of the circle, says “She definitely brought me into this amazing world of supportive female friendship”.
Although Taylor has an undeniably large group of women forming her friend circle, Karlie Kloss has been a constant since the pair met at a Victoria’s Secret Fashion show in 2013. Taylor’s admiration of Karlie seemed to be the catalyst, beginning a truly modern-day Twitter friendship. “I love Karlie Kloss… I want to bake cookies with her!” is the catchphrase that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. From gym buddies to restaurant explorations, shopping excursions and, of course, the coveted Big Sur road trip they took in 2014, they have stuck together through it all.
They are a captivating pair with Karlie’s striking and unique angular beauty and Taylor’s softer, cat-like grace. And yet they seem to have a rather natural, normal interaction, which is endearing and envy-inducing all at once. Taylor, in her charmingly selfdeprecating manner, described her philosophy on friendship as “wear ’em down till they like you”. Laughable, when by all accounts she “simply clicked” with Karlie from the moment Lily Alderidge introduced them.
She has been a heartfelt supporter of all her friends’ endeavours, from baking Karlie’s Kookies, to writing songs with childhood friend, Selena Gomez. She performed with Selena at the 1989 world tour, and did a duet of one of Selena’s numbers to hordes of adoring fans. You’ve got to love the synchronicity of friends who work and play well together!
Many consider Taylor’s friendship with Lena Dunham somewhat unlikely. Where Taylor is a self-professed good girl, with a pretty, clean-cut image to boot, the quirky writer of ‘Girls’ is not afraid to make waves. And yet, Lena has no end of praise for Taylor, describing her as the “Betty Crocker of friendship”. Karlie adds extra weight to the analogy, claiming that “Swift is a great friend because she can cook, and also does the washing up”.
Taylor’s loyalty to her friends seems to have been reciprocated, if the reception to her single ‘Bad Blood’ is anything to go by. The exclusive, and thoroughly impressive roster of gorgeous, feisty ladies she rounded up for the video is something short of miraculous. What’s more is that the stars did not do it for a paycheque, but because they wanted to. Apart from her entire ‘Swift Squad’ comprising of Selena Gomez, Lena Dunham, Cara Delevigne, Ellie Goulding, Hailee Steinfeld and of course Karla Kloss, Taylor also recruited Cindy Crawford, Jessica Alba, Mariska Hargitay and Ellen Pompeo.
With a ‘Sin City’ meets ‘Kill Bill’ vibe, in a post-apocalyptic world, you find yourself having to watch ‘Bad Blood’ over and over to simply take it all in. Like with all favoured movies you watch multiple times, new facets are discovered, and gleefully enjoyed. Ellie Goulding tried a new image in the project, “It was a fun video to film – that bazooka was pretty heavy. It’s funny as well because I’m so not like that character. But watch this space, I might be a bit more kick-ass in my videos. It’s given me a bit of inspiration. I like that whole ‘don’t mess with me vibe’.”
Apart from the sheer beauty on display, there is an irrefutable chemistry among the star cast. The chemistry of co-stars who know and like each other, that is, if you ignore the ‘beating each other to a pulp’ part! Let’s not forget the commendable part, where the common denominator for these amazing ladies is the stunning Taylor Swift. As Dunham phrased it “’I feel that Taylor [Swift] has really taken control and said, ‘I’m going to get us all together in the same place, I’m going to make it very clear that friendship is powerful and women are magic and if anybody thinks this is a witches’ coven they might be right.’”
The phrase ‘BFF’ is a popular, if slightly empty inscription in the modern, digital world. While most of the women that Taylor considers friends have been plugged as her BFF at some time or the other, the point is that they are genuine friends. Among all the inspirational memes and quotes floating around social media, the common theme is often about valuing true friends, and holding on to them. Taylor Swift may be young, but she displays wisdom beyond her years with the relationships she has forged among the strong, diverse group of women. Rather than find their strength and talent a threat, she draws her own power from the synergy. Jealous? You certainly ought to be. Inspired? Good! It’s never to late to take a page out of her book.
Cover photo: Chris Nicholls/ Contour by Getty Images