Taylor Swift hasn’t publicly spoken about her most infamous era often. Back in 2016, the pop star experienced her most brutal fall from grace, after her age-old nemesis Kanye West sang a disparaging lyric about her, and his then-wife Kim Kardashian leaked a phone call making it sound like Swift had approved of the verse. Swift famously asked to be “excluded from this narrative” at the time, but now, she’s revealing just how bad things got for her that year.
Swift got into the specifics of how she dealt with “getting canceled within an inch of [her] life and sanity” for the first time in her 2023 Time Magazine “Person of the Year” profile. After Kardashian leaked a recorded phone conversation in July 2016 in which Swift appeared to approve of West’s “Famous” lyrics (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex. Why? I made that b*tch famous.”), Swift revealed she experienced a “career death.” “Make no mistake—my career was taken away from me,” Swift said of the moment.
She went on to denounce the whole scandal as a “fully manufactured frame job.” At the time, Swift clarified that she had never given West the go-ahead to refer to her as a “b*tch,” and years later, the unedited phone conversation was revealed and confirmed that.
“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,” Swift recalled of the incident. “That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before.”
Swift revealed that amidst the overwhelming societal backlash, she went into hiding. It was so severe that she even fled the country.
“I moved to a foreign country,” Swift recalled. “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.”
It’s unclear exactly where Swift moved — she was famously off the grid for the last half of 2016 and first half of 2017, before returning to the spotlight to launch her Reputation era — but it was most likely somewhere in Europe. Swift privately began a relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn at the time, and also adopted the Swedish pseudonym Nils Sjöberg.
The pop star-in-hiding believed her career was done at that point, as Swift revealed in her new interview. “I thought that moment of backlash was going to define me negatively for the rest of my life,” Swift said.
But instead, Swift came back stronger than ever, and it was her adversaries who ended up falling out of favor with the public.
“I’ve also learned there’s no point in actively trying to quote unquote defeat your enemies,” Swift remarked. “Trash takes itself out every single time.”
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