From hiding from the paparazzi to beef with some of Hollywood's biggest names, Taylor Swift's journey to fame has been anything but simple. Here's a look at the untold truth about the Grammy-winning singer.
She's Named After Another Famous Singer
Taylor Alison Swift was born on December 13, 1989, to loving parents Andrea and Scott. The happy couple was inspired by one of their favorite musicians when choosing their daughter's name: the famous James Taylor.
In a full-circle moment, the two Taylors performed together in 2011. "She told me that her mom and dad had been really, deeply into my music, and I got a real kick out of the fact that she'd been named after me," James said. "Obviously, it wasn't her choice; it was her mom and dad, but nonetheless, a great connection."
She Lived on a Christmas Tree Farm
In 2019, Swift released a special song for the holidays called Christmas Tree Farm. Taylor explained that the inspiration for the track was her own childhood, as she grew up in Pine Ridge Farm in Pennsylvania, where they planted and sold Christmas trees.
In fact, the future Grammy-winner's first job was removing praying mantis pods from the trees during the holiday season! "I really love Christmas," Swift said. "I think that the fact that I love it so much is probably because I grew up on a Christmas tree farm."
Talent Runs in the Family
When Swift was 13 years old, her parents sold the Pennsylvanian farm and moved Taylor and her brother to Hendersonville, Tennessee, so that the young artist could be closer to Nashville's music scene. But while Tay later became the most famous member of her clan, talent runs in the family.
Swift's brother, Austin, studied film at the University of Notre Dame and has been paving his own path in Hollywood since. The siblings' maternal grandmother, Marjorie Finlay, was a TV personality and opera singer, so it looks like both of her grandchildren took after her!
She Learned To Play Guitar
Tay's parents supported their daughter in her dreams of becoming a country star. Even before the move to Tennesee, they helped Swift find singing gigs and get her name out there. When she was 12, Taylor began learning to play guitar from the family's computer repairman, who was also a local musician.
"This magical twist of fate [happened]," Swift revealed. "I was doing my homework [when the tech fixing my computer] looked over and saw the guitar in the corner. And he said, 'Do you play guitar?' I said, 'Oh. No. I tried, but...' He said, 'Do you want me to teach you a few chords?' and I said, 'Uh, yeah. YES!'"
She Broke Records From the Start
Taylor took guitar lessons twice a week. As she learned a new instrument, Swift also began writing her own music. The young star's talents were soon recognized, and, in 2004, a 14-year-old Tay became the youngest person to sign a deal with Sony/ATV. Two years later, she joined Big Machine Records.
The new record company helped Swift record Tim McGraw, her first Top 40 hit. The starlet stayed with Big Machine Records for over a decade until drama erupted as Scooter Braun acquired the company. But long before Tay had that on her mind, she was busy taking over the music industry.
The success of Tim McGraw was outdone by Swift's next single, Our Song. The 2007 hit landed in the top 30 on the Canadian Hot 100 and the top 20 on Billboard's Hot 100. It wasn't long before Taylor Swift became a household name, as teenagers everywhere rocked out to her music.
Some might think that a team of pros wrote the love song that took over America, but Taylor actually wrote Our Song herself for a ninth-grade school show. "At that time, I was dating a guy, and we didn't have a song," she explained. "So I went ahead and wrote us one, and I played it at the talent show."
Her VMA's Incident With Kanye
By 2009's MTV Video Music Awards, Swift had shot to fame for her country-pop music and narrative songwriting. Taylor was up against the likes of Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Pink for Best Female Video. And she took home the silver astronaut!
But not before getting famously interrupted by Kanye West, who took the mic to declare Beyonce deserved the award in Swift's hands. It was a critical point in the young artist's career. Tay even has a photo of the moment framed in her home! The shot is a reminder that life is full of interruptions, but she's gotta keep going.
Her Original SNL Monologue
2009 was a big year for the young starlet. Swift also hosted Saturday Night Live and proved she had great musical talents and a knack for making jokes. Taylor was the first person to write their own opening monologue, which is usually collaborated on by SNL's writers.
"You might be expecting me to say something bad about Kanye and how he ran up on the stage and ruined my VMA monologue," Swift sang in her Monologue Song. "But there's nothing more to say cause everything's okay I've got security lining the stage." A night of hilarious sketches followed.
Her First Grammy
Swift won her first Grammy in 2010. Fearless, which sold 12 million copies worldwide, earned Taylor Album of the Year. "I just keep thinking back to like when you're in second grade, and you sing at your talent show for the first time," she said in her acceptance speech.
"People joke around, and they say, 'Oh, maybe we'll see you at the Grammys someday.' But that seems like an impossible dream," Tay continued. "And I just feel like I'm standing here accepting an impossible dream right now, and I just thank you so much for that." Swift has won nine more Grammys since.
She Wrote All of the Songs in Speak Now
Winning Album of the Year is a big deal no matter what. But the fact that Swift wrote eight of the album's thirteen tracks? Made the feat all the more impressive. But the young singer outdid herself with her next album, Speak Now, in which she wrote every single song.
"It just so happened that the songs that made the cut on the album were the ones I wrote myself, so, which me luck," Tay said at the time. "In the past two years, I've experienced a lot of things that I've been dying to write about." The record was a hit and earned her two more Grammys.
Her Philanthropic Side
As Swift became increasingly famous, she donated her time and money to different charities. The singer's efforts were recognized in 2012 when Michelle Obama awarded her The Big Help Award at the Kids' Choice Awards. "Every step of the way, [Taylor] has always made it a point to give back," the then-First Lady said.
Michelle Obama continued, "She's supported children's charities, she's worked to combat bullying and given away books to schools and libraries all around the country. She's given so much of her own money to victims of natural disasters here and around the world."
Her Move To New York
In 2014, Taylor moved to the Big Apple. The Grammy-winner reportedly bought a $20 million penthouse on Franklin Street. And as usual, the experience led to a new hit song. Swift wrote and produced Welcome to New York as a promotional single for her 1989 album.
Tay expressed excitement for her latest chapter in life. "When we first dropped out bags on apartment floors, took our broken hearts, put them in a drawer, everybody here was someone else before," she sang in the upbeat track. Swift later made headlines for another expensive venture.
Going Above and Beyond for Her Fans
Taylor was all over the tabloids after her expensive real estate purchase in 2014. In 2015, she caught people's attention again with some big spending, but this time it was a very generous donation. Swift gave a fan who was fighting leukemia a whopping $50,000 to cover her medical bills.
Tay sent the money through GoFundMe, a fundraising platform for crowdfunding. "Taylor Swift's donation was so generous that it required us to increase the donation limit on the platform," the company's CEO announced at the time. GoFundMe upped their gifting cap from $15,000 to $50,000 because of the charitable singer.
She Helped Ed Sheeran Meet His Soulmate
Aside from a musician and philanthropist, Tay can also add matchmaker to her impressive resume. Well, kind of. The country-pop star was partly responsible for Ed Sheeran getting together with his now-wife, Cherry Seaborn. The two went to high school together and reunited at Swift's 2015 Fourth of July party.
"So the story was, I was at Taylor's party, and then a girl I went to school with who's pretty cool ended up being in Rhode Island. I was like, 'Taylor, can she turn up?' And here we are," Sheeran explained. The event even inspired one of the lines in Tay and Ed's song End Game,
She Had Beef With Kim Kardashian
For a few years, it seemed that the Taylor/Kanye drama might have been behind us. The acclaimed rapper publicly apologized a few times, and Swift released a song where she seemed to forgive him. The pair even hugged it out at the Grammys in 2015. And then West released Famous in 2016.
The song referred to Swift by an explicit name, and Tay said she never agreed to be spoken about in that way. In response, Kim Kardashian released a recorded phone call where Taylor seemed to permit the song. The singer later swore she was never "given the full story."
When the Old Taylor Died
The tensions between Taylor and Kanye, now further fueled by Kim Kardashian, were not fun for those involved. But lucky for Swift fans, it led to a whole new album from the award-winning artist! Tay went off the grid for some time and made her big return with Reputation.
Look What You Made Me Do, one of the album's hit singles, had a few lines that were non-discreetly aimed at Kimye. Many fans speculated that the snake, which became the Reputation tour's symbol, referenced the snake emojis Kardashian used when tweeting about Swift.
James Reynolds Was Featured in One of Swift's Songs
While it was Swift's enemies that inspired much of her new album, her friendships did, too. In fact, the daughter of two of the musician's closest friends was featured on one of the tracks. A recording of Blake Lively and Ryan Reynold's child, James, is used a the beginning of the song Gorgeous.
"That was a voice memo that ended up on a [Taylor Swift] song," Ryan Reynolds explained. "It's pretty amazing. My daughter has a really, really terrible ego problem now after that song." But while some of Tay's friendships were growing, others were breaking.
Her Falling Out With Karlie Kloss
Sadly, Kanye West is not the only person Tay has had a falling out with. Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift were best friends for a few years. The two celebrities showered each other with love on social media, went on road trips together and sat next to each other at events.
But in 2018, the BFFs stopped appearing together in photos and outings. Worried fans speculated that former besties were no longer friends. While neither had confirmed the news, Taylor's absence from Karlie's 2019 wedding spoke loudly. But it was Swift's romantic relationships that got most of the media attention.
A Heartbreak Queen
Taylor became famous for her songs about love, sometimes unrequited, and heartbreak. And believe it or not, the young starlet was often singing about her own experiences. Since becoming famous, Swift has been romantically involved with some big-name celebrities.
Tay's list of former boyfriends includes Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Jake Gyllenhaal, Conor Kennedy, Harry Styles, Calvin Harris, and Tom Hiddleston. Tabloids analyzed and gossiped over each of Swift's relationships, and she had something to say about it.
She Called Out Double Standards
Taylor grew tired of being labeled a "serial dater" and felt she faced a double-standard that her exes did not. "I don't think people understand how easy it is to infer that someone who's a female artist or female in our industry is somehow doing something wrong by wanting love, wanting money, wanting success," Swift said.
She explained, "Women are not allowed to want those things the same way men are allowed to want them." Tay later took her frustrations and turned them into The Man, an upbeat song that imagines how the media would treat her differently if she were a man. Swift even dressed up as a man for the music video.
Her 2013 Court Case
About two years before releasing The Man, Swift went to court after getting sued by a man. David Mueller, a country radio DJ, blamed Taylor for getting fired from his job after the starlet claimed he had touched her inappropriately during a meet-and-greet.
In response, Swift sued him back for a symbolic $1, sticking to her story about what happened with Mueller. The jury sided with Taylor after a very moving and explicit testimony of what happened. Time magazine later recognized the singer's bravery in a very big way.
2017 People of the Year
Swift was featured on the cover of Time's Person of the Year edition and named one of the year's "silence breakers." Tay was recognized alongside a multitude of other women who were speaking out on inappropriate attitudes towards women in the entertainment industry.
"The brave women and men who have come forward this year have all moved the needle in terms of letting people know that this abuse of power shouldn't be tolerated," Swift said in her Time interview. "Going to court to confront this type of behavior is a lonely and draining experience, even when you win."
She Boycotted Spotify
2017 also marked Swift's return to Spotify. The artist had a long and complicated relationship with the music streaming site and didn't allow her content on it for years. "Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable," she said. "Valuable things should be paid for."
Tay continued, "It's my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album's price point is." But Swift changed her mind and returned to Spotify in June 2017. The singer said she did it to "thank her fans" after 1989 sold over 10 million copies.
Her Very Private Romance
After years of the media scrutinizing every move Swift made in her romantic endeavors, the singer went to great lengths to keep her latest relationship out of the spotlight. Taylor and her current beau, Joe Alwyn, have now been dating for four years but are rarely photographed together.
"I think there's a very clear line as to what somebody should share, or feel like they have to share, and what they don't want to and shouldn't have to," Joe Alwyn said in an interview on why the pair keeps their romance so private. Swift said she protects the couple from "the nasty world that just wants to ruin things."
She's a Total Cat Lady
Tay might keep her love for Joe private, but she certainly doesn't hide her admiration for felines. "Number one for me, most influential factor in my life, is cats," Swift once shared. "I have cats. I'm obsessed with them. They're just a real joy to live with."
She added, "I love my cats so much that when a role came up in a movie called Cats, I just thought, I've got to do this." And so she did! Taylor played a cat for the on-screen adaptation of the musical Cats. Swift made her acting debut alongside Rebel Wilson, Ian McKellen, and Jennifer Hudson.
She's Still Friends With That Redhead Named Abigail
While Swift has many celebrity friends, from Selena Gomez to Gigi Hadid, she's also besties with one of her OG BFFs: Abigail Anderson. Fans learned about Abigail after Tay released Fifteen, in which she sang, "You sit in class next to a redhead named Abigail, and soon enough you're best friends."
The two women stayed close throughout Taylor's meteoric rise to fame, and Abigail appeared in some of the star's music videos. Swift was even a bridesmaid at Anderson's wedding. While the two live completely different lives and careers, they're as close as ever.
Tay Lost Ownership Over Her Albums
Stable friendships like the one with Abigail are likely what helped Taylor get through one of the hardest times in her professional career: losing ownership over all of the albums she recorded throughout her 13 years with Big Machine Records. The scandal erupted in 2019 when Scooter Braun acquired the company.
Swift lost six albums worth of master recordings. But in 2021, the artist announced she planned on re-recording all of her old songs after losing ownership of the original recordings. Tay already released "Taylor's Version" of 2015's Love Story. And all of Fearless will be re-released in April 2021!
She Owns a Lot of Homes
But despite some big setbacks, it's safe to say Taylor's career has been mostly uphill. The starlet has a whopping net worth of $400 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. And she spends that money on much more than just plenty of goodies for her cats.
Swift owns homes and properties in multiple cities. The singer reportedly has more than one multi-million dollar apartment in New York City. She also has had homes in Nashville, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Los Angeles. According to Business Insider, in 2020, Tay owned more than $81 million worth of real estate.
Her $40 Million Legs
Swift's many homes are not the only thing reportedly worth millions. Multiple sources claim the musician's legs are insured for $40 million, presumably $20 million for each leg. While Tay has yet to confirm the speculation, she has made some jokes about it.
"GREAT WORK MEREDITH," Swift wrote on Instagram after one of her cats scratched her leg. "I WAS JUST TRYING TO LOVE YOU AND NOW YOU OWE ME 40 MILLION DOLLARS." The singer shared a shot of the scratch alongside the text. Poor Meredith, that's a pretty hefty bill!
Hiding From the Paparazzi
Whether it be because of the double-standard she's faced from the media or a simple want for more privacy, it's no secret that Swift often goes out of her way to avoid being photographed. The starlet has admitted that there are times where she stays home to avoid the attention.
In fact, in 2018, Tay's pal and fellow musician Zayn Malik revealed a secret about her need for privacy: Swift sometimes hides from the paparazzi inside a suitcase. "She was traveling around in a suitcase," he shared in an interview about his experience working with the singer. Well, whatever it takes to make good music!