Taylor Swift has been named Time magazine’s 2023 Person of the Year, given by its editors to the person they believe to have influenced the world most that year.
For Swifties, the cover story written by journalist Sam Lansky is a must-read as the global superstar gets candid about several key points in her personal life and career; she spares no details on topics like her “Taylor’s Version” re-records, her fitness journey, feuds with Scooter Braun and Kanye West — and, of course, her relationship with Travis Kelce.
“This is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been,” Swift told Time. “Ultimately, we can convolute it all we want, or try to overcomplicate it, but there’s only one question.” She then quotes “Gladiator”: “Are you not entertained?”
Indeed, we are. Dive right in with us as we recap every thing we learned.
1. The surprising way Kenny Chesney helped Swift’s career
The cover story starts with an anecdote from Swift: When she was 17, she was booked to tour with Kenny Chesney but had to bow out because the tour was sponsored by a beer company, and Swift wasn’t old enough to participate. Her mom broke the news to her through tears.
When she turned 18, Chesney’s promoter came to Swift with a card from the country star. In it was a check and a note that said, “I’m sorry that you couldn’t come on the tour, so I wanted to make it up to you.” With that money, she said, “I was able to fuel my dreams.”
Chesney spoke to Time later in the story and said of Swift: “She was a writer who had something to say. That isn’t something you can fake by writing clichés. You can only live it, then write it as real as possible.”
2. How Swift locked down her deal with Universal
Swift had been signed with Big Machine Records since she was a budding country star that debuted in 2006. In 2018, she left Big Machine to sign with Universal Music Group, which would serve as her recorded music partner, while UMG’s Republic Records serves as her label partner.
To Time, Swift discussed her conversation with Lucian Grainge, the CEO of UMG, and Monte Lipman, who runs Republic Records: “Lucian and Monte basically said to me, ‘Whatever you turn in, we will be proud to put out. We give you 100% creative freedom and trust.’”
Grainge told Time he promised Swift, “We will utilize everything that we’ve got as a company for you.”
He also voiced his support for her re-recorded albums. “It’s got such a narrative— there’s a reason for it,” he told Time. “Imagine Picasso painting something that he painted a few years ago, then re-creating it with the colors of today.”
3. How Swift got in shape and why she gave up drinking on tour
Swift’s 44-song set list for her “Eras Tour” clocks in at 3 hours and 15 minutes per show, which, of course, requires a ton of physical stamina. She told Time about her regimen and how she got in shape.
“Every day I would run on the treadmill, singing the entire set list out loud,” she said. “Fast for fast songs, and a jog or a fast walk for slow songs.” She attends a gym in New York City, Dogpound, which created a fitness program for her with weights and conditioning.
“Then I had three months of dance training, because I wanted to get it in my bones,” she said. “I wanted to be so overrehearsed that I could be silly with the fans, and not lose my train of thought.” Her choreographer named Mandy Moore was recommended to her by Emma Stone after working with Moore on “La La Land.”
She does set aside time for recovery in between shows: “I do not leave my bed except to get food and take it back to my bed and eat it there. It’s a dream scenario. I can barely speak because I’ve been singing for three shows straight.”
She gave up drinking while on tour, too. “Doing that show with a hangover … I don’t want to know that world.”
4. Swift revisits what went down with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian
A key moment in Swift’s professional timeline — one that would set off a long series of events — came in 2009 at the MTV Video Music Awards when Kanye West, who now goes by Ye, intervened during Swift’s acceptance speech for Best Female Video to defend Beyoncé, who he believed should have won. Swift reflected on that moment in her Time story as an artist who she believes, at the time, was fighting to prove herself.
“I had all the hyenas climb on and take their shots,” she said.
Fast forward to 2016, when West released a song called “Famous” that included a lyric Swift found offensive. A spokesperson for Swift publicly condemned the lyric. When she released in 2017 her album “Reputation,” which conveyed a message of a “new Taylor,” it was met with criticism. “I thought that moment of backlash was going to define me negatively for the rest of my life,” Swift told Time.
In 2018, Kim Kardashian, who was married to West at the time, released footage of West’s phone call with Swift during which Swift appears to approve the lyric, and Swift defended herself on Twitter.
Swift told Time she felt in that moment “my career was taken away from me.”
“You have a fully manufactured frame job, in an illegally recorded phone call, which Kim Kardashian edited and then put out to say to everyone that I was a liar,” she added. “That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before. I moved to a foreign country. I didn’t leave a rental house for a year. I was afraid to get on phone calls. I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I went down really, really hard.”
Later in the story, she commented on her headspace now: “Over the years, I’ve learned I don’t have the time or bandwidth to get pressed about things that don’t matter. Yes, if I go out to dinner, there’s going to be a whole chaotic situation outside the restaurant. But I still want to go to dinner with my friends. … Life is short. Have adventures. Me locking myself away in my house for a lot of years —I’ll never get that time back. I’m more trusting now than I was six years ago.”
5. Swift opines on the Scooter Braun feud
Music executive Scooter Braun played a significant role in Swift’s efforts to re-record her first six albums, which she made under Big Machine. The label that owned her master recordings was acquired by a company owned by Braun, who also managed Kanye West.
She told Time: “With the Scooter thing, my masters were being sold to someone who actively wanted them for nefarious reasons, in my opinion.” She added: “I was so knocked on my a-- by the sale of my music, and to whom it was sold. I was like, ‘Oh, they got me beat now. This is it. I don’t know what to do.’”
Knowing what she knows now — about the success of her re-recordings and the professional statuses of West, who was dropped by multiple brands after antisemitic comments, and Braun, whose famous clients left him this past summer — she does see the light.
“Nothing is permanent,” she told the magazine. “So I’m very careful to be grateful every second that I get to be doing this at this level, because I’ve had it taken away from me before. There is one thing I’ve learned: My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art.
“But I’ve also learned there’s no point in actively trying to quote-unquote defeat your enemies. Trash takes itself out every single time.”
6. Swift shares about Kelly Clarkson encouraging her to re-record her music
Kelly Clarkson had tweeted in 2019 to Swift about re-recording her old albums when news broke about the sale of her masters. Swift told Time that Clarkson approached her personally about it.
“I’d run into Kelly Clarkson and she would go, ‘Just redo it,’” Swift says. “My dad kept saying it to me too. I’d look at them and go, ‘How can I possibly do that?’ Nobody wants to redo their homework if on the way to school, the wind blows your book report away.”
7. Swift finally speaks publicly about her relationship with Travis Kelce
Swift’s romantic ties to Travis Kelce has gripped fans (and the media) since the summer, when the Kansas City Chiefs player divulged on his “New Heights” podcast that he tried to give his phone number to Swift when he saw her on tour. Then in September, Swift shows up at Arrowhead Stadium — next to his mom — in a private suite to watch a game.
Swift shared with Time that, little to the public’s knowledge, their relationship fostered before that first public appearance.
“This all started when Travis very adorably put me on blast on his podcast, which I thought was metal as hell,” she said. “We started hanging out right after that. So we actually had a significant amount of time that no one knew, which I’m grateful for, because we got to get to know each other. By the time I went to that first game, we were a couple. I think some people think that they saw our first date at that game? We would never be psychotic enough to hard-launch a first date.”
The NFL ate it up, cutting to her between plays at that game and the others she’d attend. Swift said she didn’t know, and still doesn’t, when producers would show her on TV.
“There’s a camera, like, a half-mile away, and you don’t know where it is, and you have no idea when the camera is putting you in the broadcast, so I don’t know if I’m being shown 17 times or once.” She added: “I’m just there to support Travis. I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads, and Chads.”
While Swift can be seen in stadiums cheering on Kelce, he’s also in her corner, too. He traveled to Argentina in November to watch her “Eras Tour” stop in Buenos Aires.
“When you say a relationship is public, that means I’m going to see him do what he loves, we’re showing up for each other, other people are there and we don’t care,” she told Time. “The opposite of that is you have to go to an extreme amount of effort to make sure no one knows that you’re seeing someone. And we’re just proud of each other.”
8. Swift comments on perceived competition between herself and Beyoncé
Swift and Beyoncé were often pitted against each other this summer as two female artists on global tours and dominating the music industry with new albums. They did attempt to put such discourse to rest; both released successful concert films this fall, and Beyoncé had attended Swift’s premiere in Los Angeles, while Swift went to London for Beyoncé’s.
“There were so many stadium tours this summer, but the only ones that were compared were me and Beyoncé,” Swift told Time. “Clearly it’s very lucrative for the media and stan culture to pit two women against each other, even when those two artists in question refuse to participate in that discussion.”
She added that Beyoncé is “the most precious gem of a person—warm and open and funny.”