SO last week I met this 24-year-old girl whose gigs over the past year have brought in something like US$140mil (RM451mil). Not too shabby for someone who was once told her singing career would be dead overnight after a few bum notes at the Grammys.

Her name is Taylor Alison Swift, and I have to be honest – I am not her biggest fan.

I have unwittingly bought into all the anti-mainstream but yet oh-so-typical criticisms of Swift – her songs are all pop fluff, she’s just a manufactured one-girl marketing machine that gobbles up the teen market, and her very questionable dating history (two words: John Mayer) makes her squeaky clean, princesses-and-ponies image a complete sham.

But yet, this is also the girl who is pretty much the sole reason The Red Tour was able to rake in over RM450mil in just over a year – and that’s not even including album, merchandise and fragrance sales. Believe me, there were so many girls at those concerts wearing Wonderstruck, you’d think they fumigated the arena with it.

She’s also the reason why an entire crew of some of the best dancers, musicians, technicians and stagehands in the world are employed. Make no mistake: Taylor Swift is an industry of its own.

So when I got an invitation to meet Ms Swift before her show at Stadium Putra, Kuala Lumpur last week, I was more than intrigued. Plus, I’ve always thought the holy trinity of pop music today was Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift. I’ve already interviewed the other two, and this would make it three out of three (#HumbleBrag).

The lucky one: Ian having his photo taken with the impossibly tall and gorgeous Taylor Swift.

The lucky one: Ian having his photo taken with the impossibly tall and gorgeous Taylor Swift.

Now I’ve been to my share of celebrity meet-and-greets. They’re often horribly impersonal. Some artistes make you pose in groups like you do in those secondary school class photos, then they come in, stand right in the middle for one quick snap, and you’re out. The next group comes in, and it’s rinse-wash-repeat.

With Taylor however, you get the sense that her people know how to do things right. Or perhaps more accurately, Taylor herself does it right.

Club Red
It started with an envelope given to us by the organisers which contained a blue letter, as opposed to the red letter that all the Swifties (that’s what Taylor’s fans call themselves) dream of getting. Around 10-20 fans handpicked by Taylor’s “momager” Andrea get red letters at the end of each concert inviting them to Club Red, where they would get to hang out with Taylor.

We were told to guard our blue letters with our lives, because without it, there was no way we would get in.

After waiting for about an hour or so, we were ushered to a backstage area where we were greeted by a very friendly Frank Bell, a senior member of Taylor’s management company, 13 Management. There was some very curt security staff to check our credentials at the door, but Frank immediately put everyone at ease, which set a really nice tone for the meet-and-greet.

Once we walked through the door, we were in Club Red, and it was, erm, very red. Again, Frank kept things cordial and simple with his briefing – we could take as many photos as we wanted of the room, but the minute Taylor steps in, we had to put down all our cameras and handphones.

“Don’t worry, our photographer will take a photo of Taylor with each of you, and she’ll sign a poster for you as well. At the end of the night, we’ll send the photos to all of you,” said Frank reassuringly.

I was in the room with a few other members of the media, and some young girls who were clearly huge fans. As usual, I was frantically updating on our official R.AGE social media channels.

And that’s when Taylor Swift decided to just waltz in the room, looking impossibly tall and gorgeous.

She spoke candidly to everyone in the room, one-by-one, ending each conversation by asking very politely: “Would you like to take a picture together?”

Now being the kiasu journalist I am, I made a pact with the other journalists that we would each ask her a question or two, because if we put all the quotes together, it would be as good as a proper group interview.

Of course, Taylor’s charm completely ruined that plan. She had strolled in so unassumingly (and suddenly) that the first two people she spoke to, both journalists, just blanked out and forgot to ask the questions we had planned out.


Swift put on a killer show at Stadium Putra last week, where R.AGE was lucky enough to get an invite to hang out with Swift for a bit.

Swift put on a killer show at Stadium Putra last week, where R.AGE was lucky enough to get an invite to hang out with Swift for a bit.

Luckily for me, I was the third in line, so I had time to get over how strikingly beautiful she was in person.

“Oh my god, we have the same hair!” she said as she shook my hand. “I just got this haircut so mine’s shorter now.”

Aww Taylor, I love you too!

“But yours is cooler, cos it has this nice curl at the end.”

And now I love you even more.

That’s when I snapped myself out of it, and asked her my pre-planned question: “How do you feel now that your Red tour is finally ending?”

“I’m actually very excited that it’s ending!” she said, a bit to my surprise. “I can go back to the studio now and finish my next album, which is actually already done. We just have to put some finishing touches to it.

“Plus I’ve actually done this tour in four continents, so it’s kinda like we’ve ‘finished’ the tour four different times now. We’ve experienced that feeling four times, so that’s why I’m just excited to get back to the album.”

I was tempted to follow it up with another question, and she did seem in the mood to chat, but I felt bad because there were a few huge fans of hers waiting in the room as well. I didn’t want to take up their time, so I just thanked her for coming to Malaysia, we took our photo together and she moved on to the next person, who incidentally was Jin Lim from JinnyBoyTV.

After about 10 minutes in the room, Taylor gave a little speech thanking us for “making all this possible”, said her goodbyes to everyone, and left.

Barely a couple hours later, she was out on stage in front of a packed Stadium Putra looking every inch the superstar. The charming, unassuming girl had transformed into this whirlwind of energy, commanding the stage in a performance that was incredibly lavish and extravagant. We’re talking top notch dancers, costumes, lighting, choreography… The whole package.

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