It’s been three years since Taylor Swift clashed with Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian West over the lyrics to the rapper’s song “Famous.” But despite moving on, she won’t forget the surrounding fallout anytime soon.
The singer-songwriter and star of the upcoming movie musical Cats graces the cover of Vogue‘s September issue, where she recalls the “isolating experience” it felt to be “quote-unquote canceled” after the incident, through “a mass public shaming, with millions of people.”
“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,” says Swift, 29. “When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being.”
“You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, Kill yourself,” she explains.
The backlash on social media and elsewhere led Swift to the realization that “I needed to restructure my life because it felt completely out of control,” she tells Vogue.
It has been no secret that the singer has had a rocky relationship with West, 42, since 2009 when he interrupted her MTV VMAs acceptance speech — seven years before their “Famous” feud.
Their different stories surrounding Swift’s approval of the rapper’s lyrics ignited a summer 2016 firestorm, which would lead the pop star to write a biting track for her album Reputation titled "This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things," where she slammed West for being two-faced.
“I knew immediately I needed to make music about it because I knew it was the only way I could survive it,” she says. “It was the only way I could preserve my mental health and also tell the story of what it’s like to go through something so humiliating.”
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Swift recalls feeling like she was going through “a grieving process” that involved “so many micro emotions in a day” — something she knows is normal “when you’re going through loss or embarrassment or shame.”
“One of the reasons why I didn’t do interviews for Reputation was that I couldn’t figure out how I felt hour to hour,” she says. “Sometimes I felt like: All these things taught me something that I never could have learned in a way that didn’t hurt as much.”
“Five minutes later, I’d feel like: ‘That was horrible. Why did that have to happen? What am I supposed to take from this other than mass amounts of humiliation?’ ” Swift continues. “And then five minutes later I’d think: ‘I think I might be happier than I’ve ever been.’ “
The “You Need to Calm Down” hitmaker, whose new album Lover drops on Aug. 23, tells the magazine that “trying to be self-aware” is a “strange” experience for her as someone who has “been cast as this always smiling, always happy ‘America’s sweetheart’ thing” during her career.
“And then having that taken away and realizing that it’s actually a great thing that it was taken away, because that’s extremely limiting,” Swift continues.
“We’re not going to go straight to gratitude with it. Ever. But we’re going to find positive aspects to it. We’re never going to write a thank you note.”
Vogue‘s September issue hits newsstands Tuesday in New York City and Los Angeles, and Aug. 20 across the country.