Wow, Taylor Swift Just Got My Respect

The singer called Kanye West “two-faced,” and I love it

Katherine Singh
(Photo: Getty Images; Illustration: Joel Louzado)

Turns out Taylor Swift isn’t ready to make nice with the Kardashian-Wests, and I’m 100% here for it. In a September 18 interview with Rolling Stone, the “Calm Down” singer spoke out about her on-and-off feud with rapper Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, calling the rapper “two-faced” because of how different his actions toward her are behind closed doors versus out in the open.

Speaking about *that* 2016 phone-call incident (ICYMI, Kardashian West released a video showing Swift approving controversial lyrics about herself in West’s 2016 song “Famous”; the video was released on the heels of Swift low-key calling out West at the GRAMMYs for the lyrics and using her nude likeness in the corresponding music video), Swift gave further context for the debacle, revealing a prior BTS incident at the 2015 VMAs, when Swift presented West with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. “[West] called me up…and he’s like, ‘I really, really would like for you to present this Vanguard Award to me, this would mean so much to me,’ and went into all the reasons why it means so much, because he can be so sweet. He can be the sweetest,” Swift told the outlet. “And I was so stoked that he asked me that.” But, Swift says, after she wrote a speech and presented West with the award, he went on-stage and undercut her, yelling: “You know how many times they announced Taylor was going to give me the award ’cause it got them more ratings?”

“And I’m standing in the audience with my arm around his wife, and this chill ran through my body,” Swift said of the moment. “I realized he is so two-faced. That he wants to be nice to me behind the scenes, but then he wants to look cool, get up in front of everyone and talk shit.”

Reading her comments about West, I couldn’t help but be kind of impressed. (I know, it’s shocking to me too.) By calling out West so blatantly, Swift offered us a moment of true transparency and authenticity, something we’ve always been looking for in the seemingly-image-obsessed pop princess. And by standing up for herself in this way, Swift is actually setting a great example for women in similar situations.

Taylor has always controlled her narrative—except when it comes to West

Much like the queen of controlled public image, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, Swift has become a mastermind of controlling her narrative. She has successfully reinvented herself and her image numerous times to fit with her albums, going from country sweetheart to pop princess to social pariah to, finally, hopeless (but also politically woke) romantic. And she’s known for putting *a lot* of thought into both her image and her music, frequently leaving “easter eggs” in her songs for fans to find. This is the woman, don’t forget, who took the media narrative of her as a man-eating monster and turned it into a hit song.

She knows how she appears to people, and she uses it to her advantage. However, in the past, the singer has been called out for her calculated behaviour and tendency to flip the script, most memorably by ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris, who, in a post-breakup Twitter rant in July 2016, alluded to the singer’s feud with Katy Perry: “I know you’re off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC but I’m not that guy, sorry. I won’t allow it.” Which, ouch.

But, for a woman who seems to always be so firmly in control of her image, when it comes to her relationship with West, Swift has always been a few steps behind. This goes all the way back to the 2009 VMAs, when West crashed the stage and effectively thrust Swift into a victim narrative. (Mind you, some say Swift has been perpetuating that narrative from the beginning.) And since then, she’s been unable to get control of it in the way she has other relationships.

And it’s for a really relatable reason

There might be a reason for that. As Swift told Rolling Stone, she continued to try to befriend West after the 2009 debacle because she wanted the respect of such an industry heavyweight. “All I ever wanted my whole career after that thing happened in 2009 was for him to respect me. When someone doesn’t respect you so loudly and says you literally don’t deserve to be here—I just so badly wanted that respect from him,” Swift said of her relationship with West. “And I hate that about myself, that I was like, ‘This guy who’s antagonizing me, I just want his approval’…. It just felt like I was healing some childhood rejection or something from when I was 19.”

Speaking about the lyrics debacle and the events leading up to it, Swift said, “Basically, I got really sick of the dynamic between he and I.” It was a dynamic wherein Swift tried to appease West in order to gain his respect—which is a confession that helps explain why she may have approved West’s lyrics, even if she wasn’t totally comfortable with the whole thing.

Which is *super* relatable. Who among us hasn’t continually tried to cater to and be friendly with someone we looked up to in the hopes that they might praise us or welcome us into their circle?

But while Swift may have been trying to stay in West’s good graces, doing so put her firmly in everyone else’s bad books. Because the back and forth—playing the victim on-stage while chumming it up behind the scenes, perhaps in an effort to appease both West and her fans—made her look seriously two-faced.

But this seems actually authentic

But this interview feels different. As opposed to the carefully calculated victimhood we get in Swift’s songs—this is, after all, the woman who literally sang “look what you made me do” in 2016—Swift has, for what seems like the first time in her career, dropped the nice-girl act and seemingly eschewed the desire to appease others. She honestly just seems fed up with the whole situation, telling the magazine: “I really don’t want to talk about it anymore because I get worked up, and I don’t want to just talk about negative shit all day.”

And that’s refreshing. As someone who would firmly put themselves on Team *not* Taylor, I respect the pop star for *finally* cutting the BS and being straight up about how she feels, something that seems to completely counter her calculated image.

And it shows women they can drop the nice act

And, whether or not it’s her intention, by finally standing up for herself (10 years after the VMA scandal), TSwift is actually doing something positive for young women who find themselves in a similar situation.

True, not many of us are in a public on-again, off-again feud with a millionaire rapper, and most of us probably don’t have the kind of financial privilege that makes it easier to say what we want to say without repercussions. But by speaking out, Swift is showing women that they don’t always have to be cordial or worry about ruffling feathers to be successful. TBH, you don’t have to put up with shit and mistreatment from those above you.

And you don’t have to give a fuck about what other people think of you. After phone-gate, Swift stopped clapping back at both West and haters for a period of time, probably because she knew that anything she said would get flack (something she addresses when talking about the reaction to her “girl squad” and also alluded to in the lyrics for “The Man“). But it’s clear that she really doesn’t care anymore, and neither should we.

 Related:

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Taylor Swift Thinks We Need to Stop Asking Women When They’re Going to Have Children
Taylor Swift Can’t Keep Claiming Ignorance When It Comes to Her “Inspiration”

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