- Taylor Swift opens up about eating disorders in Netflix doc
- Eating disorders can take many forms
- What can lead to an eating disorder?
- How to navigate the media to help protect yourself from body shame
- How to get help
- Taylor Swift reveals eating disorder in Netflix documentary
- Political awakening
- For most of her life, Swift has been obsessed with the idea of being a “good girl.”
- One way this played out was via an eating disorder that lasted several years.
- She reacted very calmly to the news that Reputation wasn’t nominated for any of the “big” Grammy categories.
- Her socks match her pajamas exactly in this scene.
- “Me!” sounds better in development than it does in its final form.
- Despite her natural affinity for songwriting, she feels an immense internal and external pressure to get better with every record.
- She drinks white wine with ice.
- When she hit her professional peak, winning Album of the Year twice in a row, Swift says she realized she’d gotten “everything ever wanted” — but that she had nobody to share it with.
- The Kanye West incident — and its resulting fallout — messed her up more than she let on.
- And so did her sexual assault trial.
- The assault trial was the catalyst for Swift’s political outspokenness.
- She didn’t try a burrito until she was 26 years old.
- Joe Alwyn helped Swift figure out how to live a happy life detached from public approval and scrutiny.
- She lets her cats eat at her dinner table.
- She puts her cats in a backpack with a window in it when she travels.
- She’s not ready to start a family, despite feeling, in many ways, “57 years old.”
- She does professional-grade manicures on herself and her friends.
- Despite overcoming some of her psychological insecurities, she still thinks she only has a few years left where the public will “allow to be successful.”
- More From This Series
Taylor Swift opens up about eating disorders in Netflix doc
Taylor Swift reveals she struggled with disordered eating in the new Netflix film, Miss Americana.
Taylor Swift is opening up about her history with disordered eating in her new Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, which you can stream now. In the film, she reveals that comments made about her body caused her to “just stop eating.” In the documentary she remarks, “It’s only happened a few times, and I’m not in any way proud of it. A picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or…someone said that I looked pregnant…and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit.”
The revelation comes as surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in the US will have an eating disorder in their lifetime.
Swift said her disordered eating habits affected her performance stamina during the tour for her album, 1989.
Someone as high-profile as Swift coming out and talking about starving herself sparks a discussion about the intense scrutiny women endure about their weight and appearance, and the disordered eating behaviors many use to achieve an “ideal” body. Those behaviors are dangerous, often difficult to treat and can even be deadly.
Read on to learn about what you should know about eating disorders and how to get help if you or someone you know struggles with those behaviors.
Eating disorders can take many forms
Anorexia (self-starvation) and bulimia (binging followed by compensation like vomiting or excessive exercise) are two of the most commonly-known eating disorders, but there are many different types. Someone can also have disordered eating behaviors (like obsessively counting calories or categorizing each type of food as “good” or “bad”) without meeting the criteria for a diagnosis.
According to the the American Psychiatric Association, eating disorders can fall into the following categories:
- Anorexia Nervosa — self-starvation
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder — having an obsession with viewing the body in an imaginary way, the person suffering often sees themselves in a mirror as bigger than they actually are
- Bulimia Nervosa — binging large amounts of food, followed by a pattern of compensating like vomiting, over exercising or using laxatives
- Binge Eating Disorder — eating large amounts of food with feelings of loss of self control and guilt
- Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder — restricting or avoiding certain foods to the point where someone can’t meet their nutritional needs
- Other or Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder — if someone meets some of the symptoms of a categorized eating disorder or displays other behaviors that cause negative emotional or physical effects
It’s important to know that anyone can have an eating disorder, even though they are stereotypically tied to young, straight and white females. Eating disorders can happen to anyone at any age, regardless of sex, gender, race or sexual orientation.
It is also a misconception that someone has to be thin or “skinny” to be diagnosed with an eating disorder or disordered eating habits. The distinguishing factor is not how much someone weighs, but the manner in which their relationship with food or body image impacts their daily lives. Eating disorders are just as concerning and harmful for someone with a larger body as someone with a smaller one.
What can lead to an eating disorder?
Eating disorders can be triggered by a number of complex factors. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) those can include “a combination of long-standing behavioral, biological, emotional, psychological, interpersonal and social factors.”
Eating disorders are not a “choice,” and it’s hard to pinpoint exact causes, which have roots in genetics, emotional health and social environment.
Some common experiences known to trigger eating disorders, according to NEDA include:
Bullying. Whether online, on social media or in person, bullying is a major trigger for many people. Whether in real life or online, even just one encounter with a bully can affect someone for the rest of their life.
Comments from others. Any type of comment, about someone’s body, weight, or appearance can be a trigger. In a Variety interview about the documentary, Swift recalled the first time she was on the cover of a magazine. “And the headline was like ‘Pregnant at 18?’ And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment.”
Perfectionism. A major risk factor for eating disorders is perfectionism or someone with perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionists often place extreme amounts of pressure on themselves to be perceived in a certain way.
A history of anxiety. Research has shown that those with a history of an anxiety disorder are more likely to develop an eating disorder.
Weight stigma and societal or media pressure. Society has consistently praised an “ideal body image.” This norm says, especially for women, that the thinner you are, the more beautiful and attractive people will find you. This harmful image, especially prevalent in social media, is also tied to media norms that place immense pressure on women and teenage girls to look sexy. This type of objectification of women’s bodies is also one of the driving factors behind harmful attitudes that are tied to high rates of violence and sexual abuse against women.
Trauma. If someone experiences trauma that’s left untreated or unresolved, it can be a driving factor in an eating disorder. Studies have shown a strong link between bulimia and binge eating disorder, specifically in someone who’s experienced trauma. One likely cause is that someone who’s experienced trauma feels the need to control something in their life when everything else feels out of control.
When you scroll through social media images or see people on TV or in the movies, it’s natural to compare yourself with others. But just because that’s a natural instinct, doesn’t mean you don’t have control over what you see.
Swift mentions that when she was healing from her disordered eating, she found people like Jameela Jamil (an actress and leader in the body positive space) and Brene Brown helpful for navigating shame, especially as it relates to body image.
If you follow accounts that praise unhealthy and unrealistic body image, unfollow or “mute” them from your feed so you don’t see them. Find and follow more body-positive people like Jamil, Lizzo, and Katie Sturino among many others.
How to get help
If you think you may have an eating disorder, it’s important to reach out for help. If you’re not sure if you need help, the National Eating Disorder Association has an online screening tool that can help you get clarity around if you should seek professional help. You can also contact their helpline if you need to talk to someone.
Treatment for an eating disorder usually involves a number of approaches, including nutritional and psychological counseling. Treatment options will address the physical and medical symptoms, as well as the other personal factors that could be contributing to it.
For more information on how to get help and treatment options, visit the National Eating Disorder Association.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Trigger Warning: The following discusses details about eating disorders and related behaviors.
In a recent interview with Variety, Taylor Swift opened up about dealing with an eating disorder in the past, which the singer-songwriter explains further in her Netflix documentary, Miss Americana. As news of Taylor’s experience made headlines, and her words circulated among fans, a powerful message was instantly made clear: You are not alone.
Taylor told Variety that the endless criticism — and, yes, compliments too — about her body caused her to view food in a reward-based way, which led to disordered eating. “You just start to accommodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body,” the singer-songwriter said. In the documentary, Taylor opened up more about that circular thinking, discussing the physical consequences of restricting her food intake. “I thought that I was supposed to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it,” she said in the film. “Now I realize, no, if you eat food, have energy, get stronger, you can do all these shows and not feel (enervated).”
Today Taylor is in a better place, thanks in part to role models Jameela Jamil and Brené Brown. “I pick and choose now, for the most part, what I care deeply about,” Taylor told Variety. “And I think that’s made a huge difference.”
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), at least 30 million people of all ages and genders in the U.S. are dealing with an eating disorder. But despite the prevalence of eating disorders, they are still shrouded in stigma, which can sometimes prevent people from seeking the help they need.
“We’ve come a long way in terms of how the public views eating disorders, but there’s still a great deal of shame and secrecy,” Claire Mysko, CEO of the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA), told Teen Vogue. “Because of that shame, many people who suffer from eating disorders deal with a lot of loneliness and isolation. The perception that this is just about weight and vanity makes people struggling feel they are not deserving of help.”
But anyone battling an eating disorder is deserving of help, and that point has clearly resonated with Taylor’s fans, especially those who might be quietly suffering.
“As a fan, someone in recovery, and as an advocate and intern in the field, it is so impactful for Taylor to have shared this experience,” Chris, a Swiftie from New York, told Teen Vogue. The 24-year-old has been in recovery for bulimia nervosa since he was diagnosed in 2013, and he felt personally touched by Taylor’s admission to her own struggles. “It shows the 30 million individuals, both struggling in darkness and also in recovery, that we are not alone in this battle. That means everything and more than words could ever describe.”
We’ve felt the ripple effect of Taylor’s impact on her fans and the public at large before. After the singer-songwriter testified in 2017 that she was allegedly groped by a DJ at a meet-and-greet, reports showed that calls to sexual assault hotlines skyrocketed, with others feeling empowered to come forward about their own experiences. In 2018, when Taylor encouraged her fans to register to vote ahead of the midterm elections, her home state of Tennessee saw an uptick in voter registration. In a nutshell: Taylor has power. By opening up about her own experiences, she’s allowed others to feel seen, heard, and understood.
The very premise of Miss Americana, which premiered on Thursday night at the Sundance Film Festival, sounds like an oxymoron; could a revealing documentary about Taylor Swift possibly exist? It depends who you ask, but suffice it to say the film, which was directed by Lana Wilson, isn’t exactly earth-shattering. For the most part, Swift tackles topics that aren’t just expected, but almost obligatory: There’s her stance on politics, her support of the LGBTQ+ community, her legal battle with DJ David Mueller, and her decade-long feud with Kanye West.
Surprisingly, though, Swift gets into one subject that she definitely didn’t have to mention, let alone open up about: her struggles with an eating disorder.
“I think I’ve never really wanted to talk about that before,” Swift told Variety in an “exclusive” interview about the documentary’s big reveal. “I didn’t know if I was going to feel comfortable with talking about body image and talking about the stuff I’ve gone through in terms of how unhealthy that’s been for me—my relationship with food and all that over the years.” Swift is still “pretty uncomfortable talking about it now,” she added, “but in the context of every other thing that I was doing or not doing in my life, I think it makes sense .”
For Swifties, the news might come as less of a shock. Over the past year, Swift has twice alluded to her struggles with her body image, starting with reflecting on her 30th birthday in a story for Elle. “I learned to stop hating every ounce of fat on my body,” she wrote. “I worked hard to retrain my brain that a little extra weight means curves, shinier hair, and more energy. I think a lot of us push the boundaries of dieting, but taking it too far can be really dangerous. There is no quick fix. I work on accepting my body every day.”
“I now can really recognize and diagnose toxic messages being sent to me by society, by culture about my body,” Swift said when she returned to the topic at the end of 2019. “I need to feel healthy in my life, and I need to take pleasure in food, and I need to not use my body as an exercise of control when I feel out of control in my life.”
But the documentary marks the first time that Swift got explicit about having an illness. “I remember how, when I was 18, that was the first time I was on the cover of a magazine,” Swift says in the film. “And the headline was like ‘Pregnant at 18?’ And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment.” In the years that followed, Swift recalled, “I’d walk into a photo shoot and be in the dressing room and somebody who worked at a magazine would say, ‘Oh, wow, this is so amazing that you can fit into the sample sizes. Usually we have to make alterations to the dresses, but we can take them right off the runway and put them on you!’ And I looked at that as a pat on the head.”
“You register that enough times, and you just start to accommodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body,” Swift continued. Clarifying that “it’s only happened a few times, and I’m not in any way proud of it,” Swift said that those types of encounters and media coverage “ just trigger me to just starve a little bit—just stop eating.”
Swift is just part of a welcome wave of celebrities who’ve started to open up about their mental health. Kendall Jenner, for one, has become increasingly candid about her struggles with anxiety, and Billie Eilish has repeatedly spoken up about her depression. (Eilish was in Friday morning’s headlines right alongside Swift, having most recently discussed her past contemplation of suicide.)
Still, Swift’s move is especially significant—and not just because her outsized platform stands to strengthen her impact. It’s always a bold, vulnerable decision to open up about one’s mental health. But discussing eating disorders—which have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness—is particularly fraught. Unlike anxiety or depression, the illness carries overwhelmingly visual connotations. For celebrities in particular, that opens them up to mass scrutiny. (Google searches for “Taylor Swift skinny” have no doubt skyrocketed since this morning, along with comments along the lines of those that triggered Swift in the first place.)
At the same time, to start a dialogue around eating disorders is to risk triggering people who have them. Anorexia nervosa in particular often breeds a strange sense of competition, making it damaging for a person (or the media) to cite specific numbers, whether calories or weight.
Swift did share her past and present sizes, but that’s not to point fingers. Significantly, she was also the first to admit that she might not be the best person to attempt to tackle such a tricky subject. “I’m not as articulate as I should be about this topic because there are so many people who could talk about it in a better way,” she told Variety. “All I know is my own experience. And my relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life: If I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad.”
Swift appears not to have addressed whether she ever received treatment, nor where she’s at with her recovery. But she did say that she is “actually really happy” these days, and “doesn’t care so much now” about comments on her weight. At least since her 1989 tour, she’s in a better place. “I thought that I was supposed to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it,” she said. “Now I realize, no, if you eat food, have energy, get stronger, you can do all these shows and not feel .”
For those who aren’t booking stadium tours, Swift’s reference to Brené Brown’s Netflix special on shame might prove a bit more useful. “She was saying something like, ‘It’s ridiculous to say I don’t care what anyone thinks about me, because that’s not possible,” Swift recalled. “But you can decide whose opinions matter more.”
Related: Taylor Swift Uses Leonardo DiCaprio As an Example to Explain Sexism in “The Man”
Taylor Swift reveals eating disorder in Netflix documentary
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The star attended the gala premiere of her documentary in Utah on Thursday night
Taylor Swift has opened up about her struggle to overcome an eating disorder in a new documentary about her life.
In Miss Americana, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, she said photographs and comments about her appearance had triggered the condition.
During her 2015 world tour, under-eating left her feeling “like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it,” Swift said.
“It’s only happened a few times and I’m not in any way proud of it,” she added.
Swift said she struggled with the condition for several years. Some days, she would “starve a little bit just stop eating”. The rest of the time, she kept lists of everything she ate and exercised constantly until she was a size double-zero (size two in the UK).
- How to find help if you or someone you know is affected by an eating disorder
But she denied having a problem when people confronted her about her weight.
“I would have defended it to anybody: ‘What are you talking about? Of course I eat. I exercise a lot,'” she said in the film.
“And I did exercise a lot. But I wasn’t eating.”
Swift elaborated on the origins of her eating disorder in an interview with Variety magazine that coincided with Miss Americana’s premiere.
“I remember how, when I was 18, that was the first time I was on the cover of a magazine, and the headline was like ‘Pregnant at 18?'” she said.
“And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment.
“And then I’d walk into a photo shoot and be in the dressing room and somebody who worked at a magazine would say, ‘Oh, wow, this is so amazing that you can fit into the sample sizes. Usually we have to make alterations to the dresses, but we can take them right off the runway and put them on you!’ And I looked at that as a pat on the head.
“You register that enough times, and you just start to accommodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body.”
The star says she now practises positive thinking when she is tempted to judge her body, telling herself: “Nope. We do not do that anymore because it’s better to think you look fat than to look sick.”
Miss Americana, which comes to Netflix on 31 January, received a standing ovation after its gala screening in Utah on Thursday night.
Afterwards, director Lana Wilson praised Swift for being so candid about under-eating.
“That’s one of my favourite sequences of the film,” Wilson said. “I was surprised, of course. But I love how she’s kind of thinking out loud about it. And every woman will see themselves in that sequence. I just have no doubt.”
“I think it’s really brave to see someone who is a role model for so many girls and women be really honest about that. I think it will have a huge impact.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The star says she is a healthier weight now than in the mid-2010s when she “starved” herself
Wilson’s candid documentary follows Swift during a turbulent period of her life, opening with a scene where the star learns her 2018 album Reputation has been snubbed by the Grammys.
The incident acts as a framing device, as the star realises she needs to stop trying to please everyone else and focus on what makes her happy.
Wilson pays particular attention to Swift’s political awakening, as she sues a Colorado disc jockey for sexual assault and begins to speak out against conservative lawmakers.
She expresses regret for not opposing Donald Trump in the 2016 election for fear it would alienate fans; and meets with opposition from her team when she decides to endorse the Democrats in Tennessee’s 2018 elections.
As she is about to press send on an Instagram post about Blackburn, her publicist warns that “the president could come after you”.
Swift replies with an expletive, adding: “I don’t care.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Swift’s Reputation album and tour saw her fight back against negative press and internet trolls
The documentary also includes some tender moments, with Swift describing how she fell in love with British actor Joe Alwyn.
The star says she was attracted by his “wonderful, normal, balanced kind of life,” and that he helped anchor her during one of the most difficult periods in her life.
However, critics felt that the officially-approved documentary only skimmed the surface of Swift’s true story.
“Swift’s awareness of her public persona and how she’s perceived gives Miss Americana a low-hum of image management, which in turn makes you question the authenticity of Swift,” wrote Matt Goldberg on Collider.
“The trouble with Miss Americana is that, although there is honesty and vulnerability, there’s also something rehearsed and distant about it,” agreed Screen Daily’s critic Tim Grierson.
“Swift invites us in, but she only lets us see so much.”
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As Taylor Swift nears her 30th birthday, she’s reflecting on the big life lessons she’s learned so far — and speaking candidly about her body image struggles.
The superstar singer, who turns 30 on December 13, wrote an essay for Elle’s April cover story called “30 Things I Learned Before Turning 30.”
In it, she covers everything from her infamous feud with Kim Kardashian West over Kanye West’s “Famous” lyrics to her fear of performing after the Manchester Arena bombing and Vegas concert shooting.
RELATED: Taylor Swift Reveals She Felt ‘Lower Than Ever’ After Kim Kardashian’s Snake Emoji ‘Hate Campaign’ — but Can Laugh About It Now
Swift also touched on her changing feelings about weight gain.
“I learned to stop hating every ounce of fat on my body,” she wrote. “I worked hard to retrain my brain that a little extra weight means curves, shinier hair, and more energy.”
The Reputation singer said that she’s constantly working on her body image.
“I think a lot of us push the boundaries of dieting, but taking it too far can be really dangerous. There is no quick fix,” she said. “I work on accepting my body every day.”
RELATED: Taylor Swift Reveals Her Mom Is Facing Cancer Again: ‘I Give All of My Worry to Real Problems Now’
Swift is also improving her mental health by tuning out social media.
“Yes, I keep comments off on my posts. That way, I’m showing my friends and fans updates on my life, but I’m training my brain to not need the validation of someone telling me that I look ]]>🔥🔥🔥
The superstar’s new doc, directed by Lana Wilson, reveals a lot: a previously unmentioned eating disorder, the story behind her political awakening, and a cat backpack. Photo: YouTube
This piece originally ran after the Sundance premiere of Miss Americana in Park City, Utah. We are republishing it now that the documentary is streaming on Netflix.
Before seeing the documentary Miss Americana, which had its second Sundance Film Festival screening on Friday night in Salt Lake City, you’d be forgiven for thinking Taylor Swift and filmmaker Lana Wilson unlikely bedfellows. Wilson is best known for After Tiller, a probing, no-holds-barred doc centering on the only doctors in America willing to perform third-trimester abortions. Swift has been, until quite recently, the sort of global superstar who manages her image painstakingly and expertly dodges questions about her own political leanings. Heading into the screening, I wondered how vulnerable Swift would allow herself to be on camera and how much we’d actually learn about the notoriously private artist.
As it turns out, Miss Americana is a relatively revealing and compelling portrait of Swift. She’s at turns self-critical and self-confident as she opens up about things like a previously unmentioned eating disorder, the psychological work she’s done and continues to do, her decision to publicly lean left, and her attempts to wipe her brain and body of inherited misogyny. When she’s not thoughtfully deconstructing her career and mind, we get to see her in her element, making music so prolifically and with such ease that it’s a little mind-blowing. Wilson and Swift leave plenty out, a lot of it quite noticeably — for example, we never see the actual face of Swift’s long-term boyfriend Joe Alwyn, and Scooter Braun is removed from the narrative — but they pull a sort of magic trick with what they leave in, resulting in a moving (if a little hagiographical) portrait of a thoughtful, smart, funny woman in the process of becoming herself while also wearing a see-through cat backpack. The movie hits Netflix on January 31, but if you can’t wait until then, here’s a rundown of the most interesting things we learn about Swift in Miss Americana.
No. 14: She lets her cats eat at her dinner table. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix
For most of her life, Swift has been obsessed with the idea of being a “good girl.”
“I had a need to be thought of as good,” she admits early on in the documentary, as she flips through old, neurotically moralizing diary entries, explaining that as a child and a young adult, “pats on the head were all I lived for … It was the complete and total belief system I subscribed to as a kid.” Her career, she explains, was initially an extension of this need — she collected and survived off of the approval and admiration of others. “I became the person who everyone wanted me to be,” she says, adding that many artists go into entertainment because they’re similarly “intrinsically insecure.” This is the ideological center of the documentary: Swift opens up about her fragile sense of self, and we watch as she becomes more and more emboldened.
One way this played out was via an eating disorder that lasted several years.
Swift admits that for most of her career, she was a double zero and “wasn’t eating.” When she did eat, she tracked every single thing she put in her mouth and exercised obsessively. She tells Wilson that she wouldn’t have characterized it as an eating disorder at the time — she would tell anybody who asked that she just “exercised a lot.” In truth, though, one bad paparazzi photo would throw her into a tailspin, and she’d begin “starving” to meet an “impossible standard of beauty.” Now a size six, Swift says she began realizing how unwell she was when her mother Andrea was diagnosed with cancer, which threw all of her own issues, including this one, into sharp relief. “Do you really care if the internet doesn’t like you today if your mom is sick from chemo?” she says. Now, she doesn’t look at paparazzi photos of her body anymore, and when she begins to spiral, she tells herself, “Nope. We don’t do that anymore. We do not do that anymore. It’s better to think you look fat than to look sick.”
She reacted very calmly to the news that Reputation wasn’t nominated for any of the “big” Grammy categories.
Early in the film, Swift gets a phone call from her publicist, the infamous Tree Paine, who breaks the news that her album isn’t nominated in any of the major categories. Swift takes the news in impressive stride, appearing briefly crestfallen but then decisive. “This is good, this is fine,” she says. “I need to make a better record. I’m making a better record.”
Her socks match her pajamas exactly in this scene.
This is just something I wanted to note.
“Me!” sounds better in development than it does in its final form.
We get to see Swift in various stages of creating several times throughout the doc. She writes lyrics and melodies rapidly, seemingly without effort, while her collaborators strive to keep up with her pace. (At one point, she comes up with the concept for the “Me!” video seemingly on the fly, describing it ecstatically and second-by-second to collaborator Brendon Urie.) When she comes up with the melody and initial lyrics for “Me!”, and plays a stripped-down version of it on the piano, the song sounds … not bad! Is it time for an acoustic rerelease of “Me!”?
Despite her natural affinity for songwriting, she feels an immense internal and external pressure to get better with every record.
“If I don’t beat everything I’ve done, it’s seen as a colossal failure,” she says during a meeting with her team in the midst of conceiving Lover.
She drinks white wine with ice.
This is her drink of choice at several pivotal moments in the film.
“Oh my god, that was all you wanted,” she remembers thinking as she walked onto the Grammys stage to accept the award for 1989. “What now? I don’t have a partner who I climbed this mountain with who I can high-five. Shouldn’t I have someone I can call?” This, along with her mother’s illness, prompted a major reevaluation of her priorities.
The Kanye West incident — and its resulting fallout — messed her up more than she let on.
In the context of the film, it makes sense that Swift disappeared from the public eye shortly after West and Kim Kardashian leaked a private phone call she’d had with West and called her a “snake.” The public’s reaction — “#TaylorSwiftIsOverParty was the No. 1 global trending topic on twitter — shook her already unstable foundation so deeply that she questioned almost everything about herself. “When people decided I was wicked and evil and conniving and not a good person, that was the one that I couldn’t really bounce back from, because my whole life was centered around it,” she says.
And so did her sexual assault trial.
Swift took Colorado DJ David Mueller to court after he groped her butt during a photo opp — an assault witnessed by seven people and captured in said photograph — then he sued her when he lost his job over the incident. Swift won the $1 in damages she sued him for, but says in the doc that the victory was relatively hollow because it made her consider all of the other women out there who’ve been assaulted and raped and “nobody believes them.” Andrea Swift is also shown sobbing into Taylor’s arms after the trial, relieved but also devastated for Taylor. Taylor herself says she was “unspeakably and unchangeably different” after the trial.
The assault trial was the catalyst for Swift’s political outspokenness.
Growing up in the shadow of the Dixie Chicks’ haunting excision from country music after lead singer Natalie Maines made a joke about George Bush, Swift was terrified to speak up about her own politics and risk isolating half of her fanbase. But after her assault trial, Swift says, she wondered why she hadn’t spoken up earlier about Donald Trump and his cohorts, and became determined to “remove the masking tape from my mouth.” In the doc, we see Swift, flanked by Andrea, arguing with a series of advisers (all white men, including her father) about whether or not it’s worth it to publicly rail against far-right conservative senate candidate Marsha Blackburn. Her father is scared for her safety, among other things, and at one point reminds her that Bing Crosby and Bob Hope always kept their politics to themselves. Andrea scoffs at this, and so does Taylor. “These are your dad’s celebrities but not your dad’s republicans,” she says, her eyes brimming with tears. “I need to be on the right side of history.” Ultimately, Swift says she’s going to do it no matter what her dad thinks, and asks for his preemptive forgiveness. Later, we watch as Taylor, Paine, and Andrea swig iced white wine and post the now-infamous Instagram. Paine warns Taylor that Trump might come out swinging for her. “I don’t fucking care,” says Taylor.
She didn’t try a burrito until she was 26 years old.
But we watch her joyfully eat one during a recording session.
Joe Alwyn helped Swift figure out how to live a happy life detached from public approval and scrutiny.
Though we only see Alwyn once, hugging Swift sweetly after a show, we do see his hand as Swift kisses it in a car and his shadow as they stroll merrily through a field (as one does). Swift never mentions him by name — she says they both want to keep the relationship private — but credits him with helping her find a more “normal, balanced” life, one that didn’t rely on others’ input. At one point, Alwyn appears to film Swift singing “Call It What You Want,” a song about their fledgling relationship; mid-verse, she stops singing to sweetly mouth, “I love you.”
She lets her cats eat at her dinner table.
Swift’s longtime best friend Abigail comes over for a spaghetti dinner and Swift pours cat food directly onto the table so that one of her cats can join them. This is another event at which she drinks iced white wine.
She puts her cats in a backpack with a window in it when she travels.
She puts … her cats … in a backpack … with a window in it … when she travels.
She’s not ready to start a family, despite feeling, in many ways, “57 years old.”
During the dinner with Abigail, Swift recounts a recent visit she paid to a friend with kids, who complained about the monotony of motherhood: “Feed. Change. Sleep.” Swift replied, “So it’s like a Tamagotchi?” Though Abigail tells Swift she’d be a great mother, Swift says in another segment that the “grown-up stuff” feels a little out of reach for her; her life is planned out two years in advance, which makes it hard to think about major life shifts.
She does professional-grade manicures on herself and her friends.
In one scene, she gives her friend Todrick Hall a manicure backstage at the AMAs. “How’d you learn to do this?” he asks, impressed. “I really like having cute nails and I really can’t go out in public,” she says.
Despite overcoming some of her psychological insecurities, she still thinks she only has a few years left where the public will “allow to be successful.”
Near the end of the doc, Swift intelligently sums up her growth as a person. She was frozen at the age she became famous, she says, and had a “lot of growing up to do to catch up to 29.” But this isn’t a pat conclusion; all isn’t solved. Now that she’s caught up, she explains, she’s got to reckon with the music industry’s inherent misogyny, and the need for female artists to constantly reinvent themselves so that they stay interesting and relevant, like a “new toy.” “This is probably my last opportunity to have that sort of success,” she says, explaining that after 30 she’s not sure she’ll have as much interest and bandwidth from the public. The doc ends after Swift makes this point — a relatively downbeat note considering everything we’ve just seen — but she does add one last hopeful thought: “I want to continue to have a sharp pen, a thin skin, and an open mind.”
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Regardless of how you feel about Taylor Swift now, during the 1989 era, Taylor Swift was cool. Or at least I (and my other 15-year-old friends) thought so in 2014.
A lot of this rooted from us wanting to look like her. We painted our lips red and winged our eyeliner… I even cut my long hair to my shoulders. Candid after candid of Taylor’s street style, it was with desperate admiration that we declared: “Everything looks good on her.”
Swift had always been skinny— lanky, even. Seemingly overnight, she went from looking like a high schooler to resembling a Victoria’s Secret model. In skin-tight costumes under stage lights and HD camera, it was clear she didn’t have an ounce of fat.
I (along with many of my friends) wanted to be Taylor-Swift-Skinny, too. With Swift’s magnitude of fame, I’m sure we weren’t alone in this.
Swift gave the illusion that her body was somewhat natural— maybe she’s just blessed with genetics, we thought. Nonetheless, we scoured the internet for her diet and exercise routine— I felt that I would finally look good if I looked like her. I thought that when I was Taylor-Swift-Skinny, I would finally like the way my clothes fit.
But Taylor’s body wasn’t only unrealistic — it was unhealthy. My friends and I developed unhealthy eating and exercise habits, (i.e. eating far too little and exercising far too much,) while constantly comparing our bodies to the pictures that flooded the internet of Swift in her matching crop tops and mini skirts. My clothes never fit like hers did— in my own eyes, I was never skinny enough.
Taylor has visibly gained weight since her 1989 album, and she looks healthy now— she looks more like me.
It dawned on me that Taylor Swift was probably very unhealthy to maintain her Taylor-Swift-Skinny.
Much less impressionable than I was at fifteen, I felt validated seeing a body more similar to mine represented through a figure I grew up idolizing. I felt proud of her. For me, her weight gain seems to be a symbol of her letting go of her untouchable and perfect image that my fifteen-year-old self nearly killed myself over trying to achieve. Now, instead of wishing that I resembled her boney structure, I feel empowered seeing an image in the media that celebrates a healthy body instead of starving it.