Yesterday, the most-followed person on Instagram, Taylor Swift, posted a series of photos from her new photoshoot with GQ.
The photos depicted the singer-songwriter and the world’s most popular person by the beach, in sultry poses and sexy clothes. But the real reveal of the magazine comes inside, where an in-depth interview with Swift reveals a lot about her image, the way she approaches her career, and how she thinks about herself as a real person.
Here are 7 things we learned about Swift in this intimate interview:
She prizes self-awareness as the single most important characteristic a successful musician should have when building a long-term career:
“I would see these bands that were doing so well, and I’d wonder what went wrong. I thought about this a lot. And what I established in my brain was that a lack of self-awareness was always the downfall. That was always the catalyst for the loss of relevance and the loss of ambition and the loss of great art.
So self-awareness has been such a huge part of what I try to achieve on a daily basis. It’s less about reputation management and strategy and vanity than it is about trying to desperately preserve self-awareness, since that seems to be the first thing to go out the door when people find success.”
Her song “Bad Blood” may not be entirely about Katy Perry after all:
“You’re in a Rolling Stone interview, and the writer says, ‘Who is that song about? That sounds like a really intense moment from your life.’ So you say, ‘That was about losing a friend.’ And that’s basically all you say…
I knew the song would be assigned to a person, and the easiest mark was someone who I didn’t want to be labeled with this song. It was not a song about heartbreak. It was about the loss of friendship.
Listen to the song. It doesn’t point to any one person or any one situation…It was important to show that losing friendships can be just as damaging to a person as losing a romantic relationship.”
Her social media interaction is meant as a tool to control the media’s often false narrative of her:
“Because if enough people say the same thing about me, it becomes fact in the general public’s mind. So I monitor what people say about me, and if I see a theme, I know what that means. I’ve had it happen twice before.
In 2010, it was She’s too young to get all these awards. Look how annoying she is when she wins. Is she even good? And then in 2013, it was She just writes songs about guys to get revenge. She’s boy-crazy. She’s a problematic person. It will probably be something else again this year.”
She’s admitted she’s “calculating,” a heavy criticism constantly leveled against her, but also thinks it’s not a bad thing:
“In that sense, I do think about things before they happen. But here was someone taking a positive thing—the fact that I think about things and that I care about my work—and trying to make that into an insinuation about my personal life. Highly offensive. You can be accidentally successful for three or four years. Accidents happen. But careers take hard work.”
Her female friendships are genuine, thank you very much:
“I honestly think my lack of female friendships in high school and middle school is why my female friendships are so important now. Because I always wanted them. It was just hard for me to have friends.”
If you’ve listened to “Blank Space” and that cemented your view of her as a jealous harpy, the joke is on you:
“A nuanced sense of humor does not translate on a general scale, and I knew that going in. I knew some people would hear ‘Blank Space’ and say, See, we were right about her. And at that point, I just figure if you don’t get the joke, you don’t deserve to get the joke.”
She fought long and hard for every creative decision she made on 1989:
“I had so many intense conversations where my label really tried to step in. I could tell they’d all gotten together and decided, ‘We gotta talk some sense into her. She’s had an established, astronomically successful career in country music. To shake that up would be the biggest mistake she ever makes.’
But to me, the safest thing I could do was take the biggest risk. I know how to write a song. I’m not confident about a lot of other aspects of my life, but I know how to write a song.
I was trying to make the most honest record I could possibly make, and they were kind of asking me to be a little disingenuous about it: ‘Let’s capitalize on both markets.’ No, let’s not. Let’s choose a lane.”