Taylor Swift unpacked her years-long drama with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and Scooter Braun and how it changed the trajectory of her career in a new interview with TIME.
“I’ve been raised up and down the flagpole of public opinion so many times in the last 20 years,” Swift, who was named TIME‘s Person of the Year, said. “I’ve been given a tiara, then had it taken away.”
One moment in particular was a sort of fulcrum: When West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, cutting her off onstage to insist that Beyoncé should have been the recipient of female video of the year, not “You Belong With Me.” Swift, at least at one point, had a framed photo of the moment hanging in her house, and the domino effect over the years is ongoing.
“I had all the hyenas climb on and take their shots,” she said. She released “Innocent,” a track of forgiveness that was interpreted as finger-wagging West, and then came the tabloid scandal over West’s “Famous” and lyrics that referenced Swift. West’s then-wife Kardashian posted video purportedly of a phone call where Swift gave permission for West to drop her name in the song. She called the ensuing circus “career death.”
“Make no mistake—my career was taken away from me,” she said.
“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 said. “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.”
“I thought that moment of backlash was going to define me negatively for the rest of my life.”
In 2017, she released Reputation, which she now calls “a goth-punk moment of female rage at being gaslit by an entire social structure.” In 2019, another blow came: Braun, who managed West and other stars, bought Swift’s former label, Big Machine, and held the masters to Swift’s recordings.
“All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I’ve received at his hands for years,” she wrote on Tumblr at the time. She signed off on the post, “sad and grossed out.”
“With the Scooter thing, my masters were being sold to someone who actively wanted them for nefarious reasons, in my opinion,” Swift told TIME. “I was so knocked on my ass 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.’”