Taylor Swift is closing out 2023 on a high note, becoming the first entertainer to ever earn TIME‘s prestigious Person of the Year title on Wednesday (Dec. 6).
The news broke exactly a week prior to the pop star’s 34th birthday, with Swift gracing three unique global covers of the magazine and sitting for a rare confessional interview spanning her life, career and numerous accolades over the years. In 2023 alone, the pop star scored two new No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, released two Taylor’s Version rerecords — Speak Now and 1989, both of which topped the Billboard 200 — launched her enormously successful Eras Tour, premiered her record-breaking concert film in theaters and picked up six Grammy nominations.
She also closed out the year with an estimated net worth of $1.1 billion, with Forbes projecting that Swift has accumulated $500 million from royalties and touring, $500 million from her music catalog and some $125 million in real estate. She’s also 2023’s top global artist for both Spotify and Apple Music, as well as Billboard‘s Top Artist of the year.
But on a social level, the “Anti-Hero” singer is arguably the most popular she’s ever been. Her high profile romance with Travis Kelce has propelled her cultural exposure into unprecedented heights, and she counts A-listers such as Beyoncé, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, Sophie Turner, Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez and more as both friends and fans. (Just look at the star-studded turnout she’s seen at her Eras shows alone!)
And in her interview with TIME, Swift was candid about it all — the success she’s amassed in 2023 as well as the many highs and lows of previous years that led up to it. Keep reading to see the biggest takeaways in the profile, from going public with her romance to feuding with Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Scooter Braun and more.
The Kimye Feud Affected Her ‘Psychologically’
“Make no mistake — my career was taken away from me.”
Swift got straight to the point when talking about her age-old feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, which reached its climax in 2016 after Kim released snippets purported to be a phone conversation between her then-husband and the “Karma” singer regarding the lyric, “I made that b—h famous.” “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 described the situation to TIME.
“That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before,” she continued. “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.”
She went on to release 2017’s Reputation partially in response to the scandal, an album she remembers as being met with uproar and skepticism. “I thought that moment of backlash was going to define me negatively for the rest of my life,” she told the magazine.
She Felt ‘Knocked on My A–‘ by the Sale of Her Masters
In the interview, Swift described her fallout with Kardashian and West as being one of two springboards for the success she has today. The second? “Having my life’s work taken away from me by someone who hates me,” she said.
She’s referring, of course, to the 2020 sale of her first six album masters to Scooter Braun, who acquired them from the owner of Swift’s ex-label, Big Machine Records’ Scott Borchetta. “With the Scooter thing, my masters were being sold to someone who actively wanted them for nefarious reasons, in my opinion,” she told TIME. “I was so knocked on my a– 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.’”
After lots of public back and forth, she decided to reclaim her lost albums by re-recording them one by one, a project she is now two-thirds of the way through (only her 2006 self-titled debut and Reputation are left). “My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things,” she said. “Keep making art … But I’ve also learned there’s no point in actively trying to quote unquote defeat your enemies. Trash takes itself out every single time.”
‘Reputation (Taylor’s Version)’ Is on Its Way
Speaking of Reputation, Swift did take a moment to tease that she’s already thinking about her next “Taylor’s Version” release. “It’s a goth-punk moment of female rage at being gaslit by an entire social structure,” she said of her 2017 album. “I think a lot of people see it and they’re just like, ‘Sick snakes and strobe lights.’”
As for the From the Vault tracks coming on the still unannounced Reputation (Taylor’s Version)? Swift teases they’re “fire.”
She Was Hesitant to Re-Record Her Albums
Swift wasn’t immediately sure whether she wanted to embark on her “Taylor’s Version” quest. “I’d run into Kelly Clarkson and she would go, ‘Just redo it,’” she recalled. “My dad kept saying it to me too. I’d look at them and go, ‘How can I possibly do that?’ Nobody wants to redo their homework if on the way to school, the wind blows your book report away.”
“It’s all in how you deal with loss,” she added. “I respond to extreme pain with defiance.”
She Thinks of Reclaiming Her Masters as ‘Collecting Infinity Stones’
If you’ve ever wondered how Swift feels about the process of re-releasing her first six albums, she says it’s akin to something out of a fantasy-adventure film. “I’m collecting horcruxes,” she joked, referencing Harry Potter before dropping nods at Marvel and the Lord of the Rings. “I’m collecting Infinity Stones. Gandalf’s voice is in my head every time I put out a new one. For me, it is a movie now.”
How She Prepped for the Eras Tour
People have been wondering since Swift’s Eras Tour kicked off in March how she’s physically able to get through such an arduous three-hour show each night — all while making it look completely effortless. “Every day I would run on the treadmill, singing the entire set list out loud,” she explained to TIME. “Fast for fast songs, and a jog or a fast walk for slow songs.”
She also started a fitness routine designed specially for her by her gym, which included strength, conditioning and weights. “Then I had three months of dance training, because I wanted to get it in my bones,” Swift continued. “I wanted to be so over-rehearsed that I could be silly with the fans, and not lose my train of thought.”
Plus, Swift said she’s completely ditched alcohol (with one exception: Grammy night). “Doing that show with a hangover …,” she added. “I don’t want to know that world.”
She Doesn’t Like the Beyoncé Comparisons
Swift and Beyoncé have both spent the year touring. And while the two have long been friends and even attended each other’s concert film premieres this fall, the two women haven’t been able to escape comparisons of their talents and stage shows.
“She’s the most precious gem of a person — warm and open and funny,” Swift said of the “Break My Soul” singer. “And she’s such a great disrupter of music-industry norms. She taught every artist how to flip the table and challenge archaic business practices.”
“There were so many stadium tours this summer, but the only ones that were compared were me and Beyoncé,” she added. “Clearly it’s very lucrative for the media and stan culture to pit two women against each other, even when those two artists in question refuse to participate in that discussion.”
She Broke Her Silence on Her Travis Kelce Romance
The world was blown away when Swift showed up to one of Kelce’s Chiefs games at Arrowhead Stadium earlier this year, sending fans into a spiral over whether or not she and the Kansas City tight end were dating. But according to her, they were already boyfriend and girlfriend by the time she went to the game.
“This all started when Travis very adorably put me on blast on his podcast, which I thought was metal as hell,” she recalled. “We started hanging out right after that. So we actually had a significant amount of time that no one knew, which I’m grateful for, because we got to get to know each other. By the time I went to that first game, we were a couple. I think some people think that they saw our first date at that game? We would never be psychotic enough to hard launch a first date.”
She Doesn’t Care About the Complaints From NFL Fans
As beloved as her relationship with Kelce already is, there have been some grumblings from football fans who think the NFL is focusing too much on the pop star. “I don’t know how they know what suite I’m in,” she said of the sports media attention. “There’s a camera, like, a half-mile away, and you don’t know where it is, and you have no idea when then camera is putting you in the broadcast, so I don’t know if I’m being shown 17 times or once.”
“I’m just there to support Travis,” she continued. “I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads and Chads.”
She’s Done Hiding Her Relationships
Swift is very aware of the general surprise people have shown in response to the public nature of her relationship, especially in comparison to her last longterm romance. In the past few months alone, for reference, she and Kelce have probably been seen together more times than she and her ex-boyfriend Joe Alwyn ever were over the course of six years. But according to Swift, there’s a reason for that.
“When you say a relationship is public, that means I’m going to see him do what he loves, we’re showing up for each other, other people are there and we don’t care,” she said. “The opposite of that is you have to go to an extreme amount of effort to make sure no one knows that you’re seeing someone. And we’re just proud of each other.”
“Over the years, I’ve learned I don’t have the time or bandwidth to get pressed about things that don’t matter,” she added. “Yes, if I go out to dinner, there’s going to be a whole chaotic situation outside the restaurant. But I still want to go to dinner with my friends … Life is short. Have adventures. Me locking myself away in my house for a lot of years — I’ll never get that time back. I’m more trusting now than I was six years ago.”