3 years ago today, I met my idol & all-time favorite celebrity, Taylor Alison Swift. 3 years ago today, I got to get up close and personal with the one woman whose music has consistently grown with me over the years. The interaction that occurred on this day 3 years ago is easily ranked up there in the top 5 best days of my 21 years in existence.
A vast majority of my high school career was dedicated to being a bit of a “fangirl”. Not in a borderline scary/stalker sense, but in the way of spending an excess of my life and funds to come face-to-face with some of my celebrity/musician faves. I started small, meeting lesser known artists at some local theaters/venues close to home. Then as a couple years passed, I’d entered an won meet and greet passes for Tim and I to Luke Bryan. Finally, the opportunity to see Taylor live again presented itself to me. I’d attended one of her concerts in 2010 when she came to Cincinnati during her Fearless tour. But at that time, I hadn’t had any experience with the meet and greet process or even knew it existed. As time went on, though, and my celebrity-meeting skills strengthened, I decided she was at the very top of my own list of must-meet people.
Something I’ve always admired about Taylor Swift is that she truly is a celebrity that cares a great deal about her fans. From her infamous 15 hour Bridgestone Arena meet & greet in 2013, to taking selfies on red carpets and inviting countless fans INTO HER HOME; from writing a song about a young boy who had died of brain cancer (and donating $100,000 of the proceeds to the V Foundation for cancer research) to sending them Christmas gifts and paying off their student loan debt (yes, she actually is a real life angel), Taylor has always made sure to let her fans know how much she appreciates them and their die hard loyalty. And one thing I’ve always admired about Taylor is the fact that she doesn’t charge her fans to meet her. Yes, you read that right – not a dime. The formal name of it has changed over the years and with each tour (T-Party, Club Red, and Loft 89 to name a few), but after a handful of her concerts, Taylor meets a group of her fans that have been hand-selected by her, her mother, and her team in a laid back yet intimate setting at the venue. For FREE; no dollar amount could even buy that if you tried. And that, my friends, is exactly how one of the best days of my life came to be.
I still remember it like it was yesterday.
We had seen Taylor only a week before in Lexington, but the tickets for the next show of the Red Tour in Louisville were just too good to pass up, so we jumped right on those, too. A good friend of mine and I had worked tirelessly on light-up signage to hold during Taylor’s performance, and designed t-shirts to wear for our group to coordinate – in fact, once we got there, Tim was stopped by someone who asked to take a picture of him in his homemade t-shirt because they loved it so much.😉 The day of the concert, Tim and I had attended school as usual, but were ready and eager as soon as we got out to make the trip to the Yum! Center for the show. We packed up all of our fangirl (and boy) essentials and were quickly on the road.
The trip there was smooth enough until just about the end. We were quite literally less than 15 minutes away from the arena according to the GPS when a very unsettling knocking could be heard coming from the car. Not even a minute or two later, smoke began billowing from under the hood. Tim pulled over as it steadily got worse and we all immediately got out. We called 9-1-1 as the situation didn’t seem to be improving and waited for help (with Tim bravely returning to retrieve my concert signs from the car despite being advised not to – my hero). After being completely disregarded by the first member of emergency personnel that provided nothing of particular value whatsoever, a police officer that came to our aid shortly after assisted Tim in explaining the next steps to take regarding the car, and even agreed to take us all to the venue for the show. Tim wasn’t at all comfortable with simply leaving the vehicle on the side of the highway unattended, so he told my friend and I to go on and he would have his parents – who were on their way at the time – bring him to us once they got there. I reluctantly accepted after much back and forth between us, and we were on our way.
The friend of mine we were going to the concert with had quite a personal history with Taylor and an equally passionate social media following of fellow fans, and before we knew it, our tweets from the side of the highway/the backseat of the cop car had spread like wildfire. People were retweeting our pictures, tweets, trying to get Taylor’s attention herself. It all happened so fast that I honestly didn’t expect anything major to come from them. Tim was dropped back off to us during the opening act (Florida Georgia Line), and I finally felt at ease enough to enjoy the show despite our evening of pure chaos. We were here, we were in one piece, and we celebrated by dancing along and waving our signs around to the intermission music. I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when I heard the beginning intro to her opening song. The arena went dark, and Tim and I hurriedly turned on each of the packs of battery-operated lights on the back of our signs. You could read ‘There’s no indie record better than yours!’ from a mile away once they were all lit. Taylor’s silhouette appeared on the tall red curtains on the stage. And once they were drawn up and she entered the room of screaming people, I felt a tap on my left shoulder.
Tim was motioning to his immediate left after getting my attention, to a dark-haired woman I’d never seen before (I was only somewhat familiar with Taylor’s team at the time). She scooted in closer to me from the aisle and asked, “How many people in your group?” It took me a moment to process the question as my heart was suddenly in my throat. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but I could only think of a handful of reasons why someone would want to know that. I told her there were 6 of us, and watched her count out six red plastic wristbands and a small sheet of paper that said ‘Club Red’ across the top. Tears welled in my eyes as she placed mine on my wrist and the rest of them in my hand. I was sure my knees were going to give out. I turned and faced the rest of our group down the row after she’d walked away, and the tears began flooding over along with the countless screaming that ensued as I passed them down. I don’t doubt the entire heard us celebrating that night. To this day, Tim makes fun of me for crying the way I did when we were selected. What can I say? I am a Taylor Swift ride or die, and what had just happened to us was the kind of thing I only thought happened to other people.
The concert was just as remarkable as the first time we’d seen it (if not somehow better, though I may be biased), and my excitement grew more and more the closer we got to the end. Once the show concluded, we met in the section of the arena we were instructed to as we awaited to be brought back to see Taylor. People asked if they could buy our wristbands from us for obscene amounts of money, and provided different reasoning as to why they were somehow more deserving of them than us. I could not wait to get out of there and away from that. Eventually the same woman who had selected us from the floor took the entire group of Club Red recipients and walked us through the arena to the tent-like fixture they’d set up for the occasion. There was pizza, candy, and different things to drink. There was a photo boot, pillars that were covered in collages of Taylor’s own personal pictures, and a big screen that played her music videos on a loop. And before long, there was Taylor, too.
She’s every bit as tall as she looks on TV; even in Keds sneakers, she was as tall as Tim. She wore a light colored blouse and a jean skirt. Her hair was as perfect as if she hadn’t just spent hours dancing around and performing on stage. And her smile truly lit up the room. Everyone lost it when she finally came in. The woman overseeing the event had explained that every group that had been selected was to receive a few minutes one-on-one with her, get one item signed each, and a group photo. But in an effort to get an individual picture with her, my group of 6 had broken into a group of 3, one couple, and one individual (no, we didn’t get away with it and we were forced into two groups of three). She began making her rounds at every group, and we had strategically placed ourselves at the very end. She spent a good amount of time with everyone before moving onto the next, which alone was much more personal than a handful of other meet and greet events I’d attended in my life. When she did finally approach us, she immediately gasped and told me how beautiful my hair was, then politely asked if she could touch it (which, of freaking course she could). Taylor then gave us each an individual hug and told us how grateful she was and thanked God that we had made it there safely. Yes, she knew all about our little fiasco on the way there (before we had even gotten there – the Internet and a group of Swifties could single handedly take over the world, I am thoroughly convinced), but listened intently as Tim explained in detail what had happened. She was so genuinely caring and interested in what we had to say. All bias aside, she was the first (and only to date) celebrity I’ve met so far that has acted like an average person despite being of superstar status. We talked about the show, her upcoming projects, and her chaotic schedule. She signed a picture for me and Tim’s ‘Kentucky men love T. Swift’ shirt for him. After about 10 minutes, her coordinator snapped our picture together, we got another hug, and she was off.
I’m often mocked for the extremity of my love for Taylor despite not knowing her as a person beyond our one interaction, but she and her music have done quite a bit for me over the years. Not to sound too overly cliche, but Taylor’s music is the one that’s somehow consistently been applicable to my life. It’s always been what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. I’ve gotten to watch her grow and come into her own as an artist as I did the same on an individual level. Her lyrics have always matched what I was going through at any given time, and as a person (in my opinion), she’s been a respectable role model for women of all ages. Our first “song” as a couple was one by Taylor, and we danced to another from her as our first dance as husband and wife.Taylor has played a pivotal role in my young life and whether she knows it or not, I owe her a lot for helping shape me into the woman I am today. Meeting her was simply icing on that cake.
“To the fans, who come to the shows and buy the albums, I just want you to know this one thing: You are the longest and best relationship I’ve ever had.”