Tragic Things About Taylor Swift's Life

The following article mentions an eating disorder and sexual misconduct. 

World-famous singer Taylor Swift rarely goes a day without making headlines. Whether it's for record-breaking album sales, new Easter eggs found in her song lyrics, selling out stadium tours, or the latest updates on her romantic life, there's always something to talk about with this artist. Since she released her self-titled album in 2006, fans have loved Swift for her raw songwriting and catchy singles. Her fame and accolades have only grown since then as she's transitioned from country music darling to global pop star.

But, even amidst the "Anti Hero" singer's staggering success, she's also experienced her share of challenges and heartache. Going through her teens and adult life in the spotlight hasn't always been easy for Swift, as she's navigated personal and career disappointments as well as public backlash. Swift has also gone through family illness and the typical growing pains that come with moving into adulthood. There have been struggles, both public and private, that you may never have known deeply affected the successful singer.

She was bullied throughout school

Over the course of her music career, Taylor Swift has amassed one of the largest fan bases in the world. Between sold-out stadium tours and over 270 million Instagram followers, it's hard to imagine the "Shake It Off" singer being unpopular. Still, she didn't always have the popularity she does today. Swift has shared that she spent most of her school days with hardly any friends and was often left out and bullied. "Junior high was actually sort of hard, because I got dumped by this group of popular girls. They didn't think I was cool or pretty enough, so they stopped talking to me," she told Teen Vogue in 2009.

Speaking to GQ, Swift relayed a story from when she was in middle school. She'd called several of her classmates to invite them to the mall, but all of them claimed to be busy. She went to the mall with her mother instead, only to see that all the girls who had made excuses not to go with her were already hanging out at that very mall.

Her own school experiences have made the singer especially compassionate towards her young fans. In a private Instagram message (via ABC News) sent to a teen girl dealing with bullying, she wrote, "I know why you're crying because I've been in your place." Later in the heartfelt message, she encouraged the fan, saying, "Just don't let them change you or stop you from singing or dancing around to your favorite song."

She was blindsided when she lost the rights to her music

Before signing with Universal Music Group, Taylor Swift worked with Big Machine Label Group and its founder, Scott Borchetta, throughout her entire career, meaning that the label had ownership of the masters of all her music. Because her music is so important to her, the songwriter asked if she could buy ownership of her catalog before switching labels. "Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and 'earn' one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in," Swift explained in a 2019 Tumblr post. She refused this deal, sadly giving up ownership of her music.

Losing ownership of her music became more painful when her masters were acquired by Scooter Braun in 2019. Braun is a music executive known for working with stars like Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and Ariana Grande. Learning about the acquisition, Swift wrote, "All I could think about was the incessant, manipulative bullying I've received at his hands for years ... Essentially, my musical legacy is about to lie in the hands of someone who tried to dismantle it." In 2020, Braun sold the masters to Shamrock Holdings. 

Following the sale of her masters, Swift began re-recording her discography and rereleasing old records such as "1989" and "Red" all with "(Taylor's version)" after the original title. The re-recordings are her way to regain ownership of her work.

She's struggled with an eating disorder

In the "Miss Americana" documentary, Taylor Swift opens up about her struggles with body image and disordered eating. The "Lover" singer speaks candidly about how the constant media attention and discussion around her body affected her, admitting it sometimes triggered her to the point she would "just starve a little bit."

Swift discussed her struggle in more depth with Variety, saying, "My relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life: If I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad." She recalled how a tabloid suggested she was "pregnant at 18" and how she was praised for fitting into sample-sized dresses for photoshoots. These experiences and others formed her relationship with her body and food.

In the aforementioned doc, she also shares how her overexercising and food restriction affected her ability to perform. At the time, she thought it wasn't a problem and that it was normal to feel like she was going to pass out in the middle of her shows, but now that she's healthier, she can finish her performances feeling strong instead of faint.

Her dating life has been scrutinized and shamed

During her teens and 20s, the songstress' love life was put under a microscope as tabloids speculated about who she was dating and shamed her for her number of boyfriends. Of course, celebrity dating lives are often a point of discussion in pop culture. And as many of Taylor Swift's love and breakup songs are autobiographical, it's only natural that many listeners speculate on the subject of those songs. However, especially during the 2010s, coverage of Swift's dating life seemed to take a mean-spirited turn, with many reporters and others taking jabs at her for the famous men she was rumored to date.

In the prologue to "1989 (Taylor's Version)," released in October 2023, Swift reflects on that time. Now that she's in her thirties, she feels she was unjustly shamed for having a normal dating life. "I had become the target of slut shaming — the intensity and relentlessness of which would be criticized and called out if it happened today," Swift wrote about the years preceding the  release of the original "1989." As a result of the shaming, she made an effort to no longer be seen with men publicly, as even her friendships with men were assumed to be romantic. "[I] swore off hanging out with guys, dating, flirting, or anything that could be weaponized against me by a culture that claimed to believe in liberating women but consistently treated me with the harsh moral codes of the Victorian era," she said.

Her mother's cancer diagnosis was one of the hardest points in her life

Taylor Swift has a close bond with her mother, Andrea Swift. Her song "The Best Day" is even dedicated to her mother with touching lyrics about how Andrea looked out for her and encouraged her throughout her childhood. Given their strong connection, it was very painful for Taylor when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. "Everyone loves their mom; everyone's got an important mom," Taylor told Variety. "But for me, she's really the guiding force. Almost every decision I make, I talk to her about it first." While Andrea was going through treatment, the family kept the details very private. The singer later disclosed that when her mother was going through treatment for cancer, they discovered a brain tumor. "The symptoms of what a person goes through when they have a brain tumor is nothing like what we've ever been through with her cancer before. So it's just been a really hard time for us as a family."

The uncertain and distressing time of watching her mother go through treatment inspired Taylor to write the heartbreaking song "Soon You'll Get Better." Discussing the subject of the song with CBS Sunday Morning, she said, "It's just not something that we deal with until we have to, until we see it, until we experience it, until someone close to us is going through something like that. So, writing about it was really emotional."

She's no stranger to misogyny

Despite being one of the most successful music artists of all time, Taylor Swift has struggled to be taken seriously as a female songwriter. Along with having her dating life and body up for public discussion as a young woman, she's also had to fight for recognition of her work.

Speaking to Vogue, Swift said she didn't recognize sexism in the industry when she first came on the scene. Looking back, she believes this is because she was so young. As a teenager, people saw her as cute and didn't necessarily take her or her success all that seriously. "It's fine to infantilize a girl's success and say, 'How cute that she's having some hit songs ' ... But the second it becomes formidable? As soon as I started playing stadiums — when I started to look like a woman — that wasn't as cool anymore," Swift said.

As she gained confidence and success, she also gained criticism. Her songs were often critiqued for being all about boys or breakups. "I wanted to say to people, 'You realize writing songs is an art and a craft and not, like, an easy thing to do? Or to do well?'" Swift said. "People would act like it was a weapon I was using. Like a cheap dirty trick." Despite the misogynistic feedback her songs received, she continued to write hits, even releasing "The Man" in 2019, a song that points out how differently her achievements would be perceived if she were a man.

She was humiliated by Kanye West at the VMAs

Perhaps one of the most public low points in Taylor Swift's life came during the 2009 VMAs. A 19-year-old Swift had just won Best Female Video for her hit song "You Belong with Me." The young country star was all smiles when she took to the stage in an off-shoulder silver dress and signature red lip. But, what should have been an exciting win turned into a dramatic incident when Kanye West interrupted her during her acceptance speech. As the excited Swift gushed over winning her first VMA, West came on stage and took the microphone to say, "Yo Taylor, I'm really happy for you. Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time." The crowd and viewers were shocked by West's behavior, with Beyoncé even later inviting Swift back onto the stage to have her moment that West ruined.

For many, the shocking pop culture moment became nothing more than a meme, but it was much more impactful for Swift. Years later, when speaking about West's interruption during the "Miss Americana" documentary, it still made the singer emotional. "It was so echoey in there. At the time, I didn't know they were booing him doing that; I thought that they were booing me," Swift said. "For someone who's built their whole belief system on getting people to clap for you? The whole crowd booing is a pretty formative experience."

She faced public backlash in 2016

The feud between Taylor Swift and Kanye West may never end. In 2016, West released "Famous," a song that features the lyrics "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex" and "I made that b***h famous" in reference to Swift. The pop star apparently then called West out during her Grammy acceptance speech. In response, Kim Kardashian (who was still married to West at the time) leaked edited footage of a phone call between Swift and West. In the call, Swift seems to approve of the lyrics, which she later criticized West for. Following Kardashian's release of the phone call, Swift received a massive amount of backlash on social media. "A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote canceled, is a very isolating experience," the pop star told Vogue in 2019. "I don't think there are that many people who can actually understand what it's like to have millions of people hate you very loudly."

During a particularly vulnerable scene in "Miss Americana," Swift breaks down about the way that edited clip was received and how loud the hate about her had started to get. "When people fall out of love with you, there's nothing you can do to make them change their mind," she said. "I just wanted to disappear. Nobody physically saw me for a year." In 2020, the full version of the call was leaked. Swift shared on Instagram Stories that the unedited call showed she hadn't lied about the conversation after all.

She was sexually assaulted by a radio show host

In 2013, Taylor Swift was groped by radio host David Mueller when he reached his hand under her skirt as they posed for a photo. Swift's team reported the incident to the radio station, resulting in Mueller's dismissal. The pop star's team did their best to keep the situation quiet. As her mother, Andrea Swift, later said in court (via BBC), "I did not want her to have to live through the endless memes and gifs that tabloid media and internet trolls decided to come up with — doctoring the pictures... and making her relive this awful moment."

Unfortunately, it became public knowledge when the ex-DJ sued Swift for defamation. Rather than backing down, the singer made a countersuit, claiming sexual assault, which she won. Swift only asked for $1 in damages. As a multi-millionaire, she hardly needed the extra money, and the dollar was more symbolic.

The assault and court case clearly impacted Swift. During one of her concerts a year after the trial, Swift told the audience, "This day a year ago was the day that ... the jury sided in my favor and said that they believed me. I guess I just think about all the people that weren't believed ... And I just wanted to say I'm sorry to anyone who wasn't believed because I don't know what turn my life would have taken if people didn't believe me when I said that something had happened to me. "

Taylor Swift has gone through heartbreak in the public eye

With many of her hit songs focused on love and loss, the public has taken a keen interest in Taylor Swift's love life even when things don't work out all too well. Since her rise to fame as a teenager, she's had many relationships, both rumored and confirmed with other celebrities. In early 2023, she and her long-term partner, actor Joe Alwyn, called it quits after six years together, and once again, she was plagued by speculation about why the two broke up and a media frenzy around her possible new relationships.

As her many poignant breakup songs suggest, Swift is no stranger to heartbreak. But, unlike most of us, she's gone through those low points while being constantly observed by her fans, critics, and the media. Swift opened up about her experience with heartbreak while speaking to Elle about her album "1989." "It's this mental, physical, emotional ache and feeling so conflicted. Nothing distracts you from it," Swift said. She went on to describe the added pain from having her breakups scrutinized and trivialized by the media, "I'd been in this media hailstorm of people having a very misconstrued perception of who I was. There were really insensitive jokes being made at awards shows by hosts; there were snarky headlines in the press—'Taylor Goes Through a Breakup: Well, That Was Swift!' — focusing on all the wrong things."

She's dealt with many stalkers

As one of the world's biggest superstars, Taylor Swift has millions of admirers. Sadly, some people take their adoration for the artist much too far, and Swift has lived with the fear of stalkers for years. These stalkers have harassed her with countless letters and threatened violence against her; some have even shown up at her residence. Perhaps the most sinister among them is Roger Alvarado, who broke into Swift's New York City apartment, where the police found him napping in her bed. After a stint in jail, Alvarado returned to the same residence and broke in again. Even after his second arrest, the stalker showed no sign of remorse. During a jailhouse interview with Page Six, he said he'd likely break in again when released.

The actions of Alvarado and others have created a tremendous amount of fear in Swift's life. The singer admitted to Elle that she carries army-grade bandage dressing, the kind for gunshot or stab wounds, where she goes. "Websites and tabloids have taken it upon themselves to post every home address I've ever had online," she said. "You get enough stalkers trying to break into your house and you kind of start prepping for bad things."

If you need help with an eating disorder, or know someone who does, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).