Laith Ashley didn’t get much sleep last Thursday. That night, Taylor Swift dropped the long-awaited visuals for “Lavender Haze,” her third video from Midnights. In it, Ashley plays Swift’s love interest — and though the video came out around 9 p.m. his time in Los Angeles, he ended up staying awake until 5 a.m., watching the love from friends, family and millions of Swifties pour in.
A fan since 1989, Ashley was kind of prepared for an intense response since he considers himself a Swiftie as well. “It’s so crazy, the passion and the reach that she has because my phone has not stopped buzzing. It felt overwhelming but also exciting,” he exclaimed over the phone. “I’m really grateful.”
Ashley first got the call about appearing in a new Swift video back in July. Her team had reached out to his team to cast him specifically for the role. He was told he would play her love interest, but got zero other details from Swift’s camp. Like so many other fans, he guessed Swift was working on a re-recorded album and thought the video he would appear in was for that ongoing project.
He first met Swift in bed, on set. She showed him the “ear wig” she would be wearing the entire time they were filming. Only she could hear the song, something that helped keep all of Midnights under wraps until she was ready to announce it in late August. Ashley found out the album name and concept along with the rest of the world — and finally figured out what song his video was for when it was announced last week.
“I was trying to guess based off her ‘Midnights Mayhem’ TikTok videos,” he says. He also only learned that there were three videos when she released a preview of the visuals ahead of Midnights’ album release in October.
Even with all the secrecy, Ashley felt trusted and included by Swift, who wrote the video treatment and directed it herself. Ashley was thoroughly impressed by how she was able to precisely execute her vision.
“She was very focused but very kind,” he recalls. “She had this intensity In her eyes when she was watching the monitors. She knew exactly what she wanted and wanted everything to look like.”
He appreciated that they let him watch playback with her on the monitor, something that is not very common for actors on sets to do.
Ashley kept the secret for six months; only his team and his parents knew that a Swift video was coming. His cousin, a huge fan of Swift’s, had been texting him nonstop about how much she loved Midnights and the “Anti-Hero” video. She had missed Ashley’s brief appearance in the video teaser in October so was extremely shocked to see her cousin in “Lavender Haze.”
“She texted me in all-caps ‘I FEEL SO BETRAYED,’ jokingly of course,” he says with a laugh.
For Ashley, this moment is as huge for him as it is for the LGBT+ community as a whole. Having a trans man playing the main love interest in a major pop star’s music video is a major win for representation in a political climate that is continuing to silence and oppress the trans community.
“She obviously knows she has such a huge reach and platform,” Ashley says. “So to have someone like me be in a music video with her, she’s essentially given me access to a lot of that platform. It means a lot to me and I’m sure to the LGBT community.”