Taylor Swift is the quintessential American success story: Armed with little more than a guitar, a boatload of ambition, and an uncanny knack for creating a proliferation of perfect pop songs, Swift has spent a decade engineering her own perfectly executed rise from that storied Pennsylvania Christmas-tree farm to the covers of magazines like this one. (So many magazines...) The past 12 months mark Swift’s best year ever, she says: She became tourism ambassador for her adopted hometown of New York, playfully satirized tabloid perceptions of her, and pivoted from her country roots to debut her first-ever pop album, earning the Billboard Woman of the Year award for the second time and assuming her rightful role among a small circle of international superstars. Swift breaks album sales records like lesser pop stars break hearts, all while somehow retaining the same wide-eyed charm that made her so likable in the first place. She is also deeply unconcerned with whether or not you consider her attractive, which of course only makes her more so. We spoke with Swift, as she wrapped up the last day of her 1989 tour rehearsals, about life on the road, feminism, and what it feels like to be named by Maxim the most talented woman alive.
How does it feel being named No. 1?
It’s really nice and such an incredible compliment. This year has been my favorite year of my life so far. I got to make an album exactly the way I wanted to make it. I got to put it out exactly the way that I dreamed of putting it out. Every one of these kinds of whims and ideas came to fruition. The videos—I’m proud of those, I’m proud of the tour, I’m proud of the way this has all happened. In the midst of all that, this is really nice. It really feels like a wonderful celebration of my favorite year.
You’re getting ready to go on tour for "1989." What are you doing to prepare?
We’ve been in rehearsals for months, trying to get the live instrumental versions of these songs to as close to the album sounds as possible. And also you’re lengthening things, creating mash- ups with things. It was fun to play around and get everything sonically right before we got on the actual stage and started doing the choreography. But before all that—probably close to a year ago—we started setting the stage, so that was when the drawing started. Now all we have to do is actually…do the tour.
Given all that, how do you make time for all your friendships? It seems like everyone is your best friend. Can I be your best friend?
[Laughs] Thankfully, 10 years into my career now, I’ve learned how to work in a smarter way. You have to have time to breathe and have a happy life, and friendships are so important to me. Thankfully—thanks to the fans—now we get to play stadiums, so we do two or three stadium shows a week. I’ll see my friends in whichever city I’m closer to.
You’ve become more vocal about feminism recently. What changed?
Honestly, I didn’t have an accurate definition of feminism when I was younger. I didn’t quite see all the ways that feminism is vital to growing up in the world we live in. I think that when I used to say, “Oh, feminism’s not really on my radar,” it was because when I was just seen as a kid, I wasn’t as threatening. I didn’t see myself being held back until I was a woman. Or the double standards in headlines, the double standards in the way stories are told, the double standards in the way things are perceived. A man writing about his feelings from a vulnerable place is brave; a woman writing about her feelings from a vulnerable place is oversharing or whining. Misogyny is ingrained in people from the time they are born. So to me, feminism is probably the most important movement that you could embrace, because it’s just basically another word for equality.