Taylor Swift initially entered the nation’s consciousness as the kind of country music sweetheart at whom it seemed impossible to take offence. But ever since she crossed over into the mainstream pop world, she appears to have been making enemies left, right and center. And those foes include socialite Kim Kardashian.
The pair’s feud began in 2016 when Kardashian’s husband Kanye West called Swift “that b***h” in his song, “Famous.” Swift publicly denied she’d given permission for the rapper to refer to her in such terms. However, coming swiftly to the defense of her other half, Kardashian then stepped in.
Indeed, the reality TV star shared phone conversations between West and Swift that suggested that the pop superstar might not have been telling the whole truth. A backlash followed, and Swift and Kardashian subsequently became very public foes. And in a 2019 interview with Vogue magazine, Swift reflected upon how the feud impacted on her life in ways she’d never imagined. Here’s a look at the singer’s thoughts on the matter and how the drama all began.
The 2009 MTV Video Music Awards should have been one of the highlights of Taylor Swift’s career. The country star’s promo for “You Belong With Me” was given the honor of Best Female Video. However, it’s fair to say that Kanye West didn’t agree with the voters’ decision. And he made his dissatisfaction clear in the most public and inappropriate of ways.
Indeed, Swift was halfway through making her acceptance speech when she was suddenly interrupted on stage by a seething West. After snatching the mic from the bewildered Swift, West said, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!”
West was, of course, referring to Beyoncé’s iconic black-and-white promo for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” But the ex-Destiny’s Child star herself certainly wasn’t amused by West leaping to her defense. In fact, she looked downright embarrassed as the camera cut to her in the audience. And poor Swift appeared to be completely shell-shocked.
So, Swift didn’t get the chance to finish saying her thank-yous at the time. But in a touching act of solidarity, Beyoncé then invited Swift to resume the acceptance speech when “Single Ladies” won Video of the Year. Unsurprisingly, West subsequently received widespread criticism for ruining Swift’s moment.
Katy Perry, who would later become embroiled in her own very public feud with Swift, tweeted, “F**k you, Kanye. It’s like you stepped on a kitten.” Of course, the most notable takedown came from none other than then-President Barack Obama, who famously described the rapper as a “jackass” due to his petulant behavior.
As you’d expect, West’s on-stage gatecrashing was all many people could talk about over the following week. And the rapper himself showed some sense of remorse when he appeared on The Jay Leno Show just two days after the incident. “It was rude, period,” he told the host. “I don’t try to justify it, ’cause I was in the wrong.”
“Dealing with the fact that I hurt someone or took anything away, you know, from a talented artist – or from anyone – because I only wanted to help people,” West continued. “My entire life, I’ve only wanted to do and give something that I felt was right. And I immediately knew in this situation that it was wrong.”
On the same day, Swift appeared on daytime TV institution The View to express her thoughts on the scandal. She told the panel that she’d initially been more concerned about not tripping up on stage before spotting West in her line of vision. Swift said she’d wondered to herself, “’What are you doing there?’ And then, ‘Ouch.’ And then, ‘I guess I’m not gonna get to thank the fans.’”
To make matters worse, Swift revealed that she hadn’t heard from the man himself since they’d unexpectedly shared the stage at the VMAs. However, shortly after her appearance on The View, West contacted the singer to say sorry. According to Cosmopolitan, Swift later said, “He was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology.”
The whole drama appeared to have become water under the bridge until September 2010. Indeed, just a week after West told Swift on Twitter that he’d penned a track for her as another way of apologizing, the singer returned to the MTV VMA stage. And she proved that revenge is a dish best served in song.
In fact, a barefoot Swift debuted a track at the ceremony that appeared to condemn West for his behavior, albeit in a subtle manner. “Innocent” begins with the lines, “I guess you really did it this time/Left yourself in your war path/Lost your balance on a tightrope/Lost your mind trying to get it back.” “An extremely savvy insult masquerading as the high road,” was how The New York Times described the song.
And perhaps burned by this apparent public attack, West soon reverted to type. He seemed to retract his apology during various interviews, for example, continuing to insist that Beyoncé had deserved to win the Best Female Video award. He even criticized Swift for failing to defend him over the matter.
In fact, by 2013 West appeared to have lost any sense of the remorse that he’d initially exhibited over the incident. Speaking to The New York Times, he claimed that his apology had been the result of the criticism he’d received rather than any genuine contrition on his part. He told the newspaper, “I don’t have one regret.”
However, just two years later the pair appeared to have buried their hatchet once and for all. In fact, in a surprising turn of events, Swift and West once again shared the MTV VMA stage, only this time it was all planned. The former had agreed to give West the Video Vanguard Award.
Of course, this harmony didn’t last particularly long. In February 2016 West premiered a brand new song titled “Famous” featuring the lines, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that b***h famous.” These two lines sent the internet into meltdown but West alleged that he’d actually been given permission by Swift to refer to her in such a derogatory manner.
However, Swift has a different version of events. In an official statement, her representative said, “Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single “Famous” on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, ‘I made that b***h famous.’”
Swift herself refused to comment on the issue explicitly. But in her post-victory speech for winning the Album of the Year Grammy for 1989, she said, “I want to say to all the young women out there – there are going to be people along the way who are going to try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame.”
Then, in June 2016 West’s wife Kim Kardashian waded into the argument during an interview with GQ. And she made a startling claim. She told the magazine that Swift had in fact approved the provocative lyrics in “Famous.” Kardashian said, “She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn’t. I swear, my husband gets so much s**t for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved.”
Moreover, Kardashian also revealed that she had proof that this was the case. Indeed, she told GQ that the telephone call during which Swift had allegedly given her seal of approval to the lyrics had been recorded. Kardashian said, “And then they [Swift’s camp] sent an attorney’s letter like ‘Don’t you dare do anything with that footage,’ and asking us to destroy it.”
West then added more fuel to the fire just a week later when he debuted the controversial video for “Famous.” In one particularly memorable shot, the rapper can be seen posing shirtless in bed with a ton of naked celebrity lookalikes. And perhaps inevitably, the famous person to the right him of is a Taylor Swift doppelganger.
The drama continued a month on when Kardashian released the audio of that phone call between Swift and West. In it, the former appears to give her consent to her name being mentioned in the offending track. However, there’s no concrete evidence of her ever agreeing to being referred to as “that b***h.”
Kardashian also took to Twitter that very same day to make an apparent jibe at Swift that couldn’t exactly be described as subtle. The reality TV star posted, “Wait it’s legit National Snake Day?!?!? They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days!” followed by a series of snake emojis.
Understandably, Swift was angry about one of her private conversations being made public. In an Instagram post, she declared, “Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be a part of, since 2009.”
And apart from some vague lyrical ripostes on her Reputation album that were interpreted by some as being directed towards West and Kardashian, Swift largely stuck to her word. However, she reopened the can of worms in April 2019 during an interview with Elle magazine. She said, “In my experience, I’ve come to see that bullies want to be feared and taken seriously.”
“A few years ago, someone started an online hate campaign by calling me a snake on the internet,” Swift continued. “The fact that so many people jumped on board with it led me to feeling lower than I’ve ever felt in my life.” Swift then discussed how she’d decided to own the “snake” insult by having an inflatable 63-foot cobra called Karyn appear on stage during her Reputation tour.
“It’s the stadium-tour equivalent of responding to a troll’s hateful Instagram comment with ‘lol.’ It would be nice if we could get an apology from people who bully us,” Swift added. “But maybe all I’ll ever get is the satisfaction of knowing I could survive it and thrive in spite of it.”
Swift wasn’t done there, either. Indeed, in August 2019, a full ten years after the MTV VMA incident, she further reflected on her feud with Kardashian during a chat with Vogue. And in a display of vulnerability, she admitted that her life had been heavily impacted by all the drama.
“A mass public shaming, with millions of people saying you are quote-unquote cancelled, is a very isolating experience,” Swift told the magazine. “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. When you say someone is canceled, it’s not a TV show. It’s a human being.”
Swift added, “You’re sending mass amounts of messaging to this person to either shut up, disappear, or it could also be perceived as, ‘Kill yourself.’” Thankfully, Swift discovered her very own way of dealing with the onslaught of abuse. And perhaps unsurprisingly, it was through the medium of song.
“I realized I needed to restructure my life, because it felt completely out of control,” Swift told Vogue. “I knew immediately I needed to make music about it, because I knew it was the only way I could survive it. 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.”
Reputation, Swift’s sixth studio album, was how she told her story in the recording studio. And its lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” appeared to allude to the Kimye feud with lyrics such as “I don’t like your little games/Don’t like your tilted stage/The role you made me play/Of the fool/No, I don’t like you.”
Although Swift was proud of the music she made as a result of the furor, the singer didn’t feel that she was in a position to promote it. “When you’re going through loss or embarrassment or shame, it’s a grieving process with so many micro emotions in a day,” she told Vogue. “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.”
“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,” Swift continued. “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? And then five minutes later I’d think: I think I might be happier than I’ve ever been.”
“It’s so strange trying to be self-aware when you’ve been cast as this always smiling, always happy ‘America’s sweetheart’ thing,” Swift added. “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. 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.”
And two years after pouring her heart out on Reputation, Swift once again took to the studio to reflect upon all the Kimye drama. Her seventh LP, Lover, opened with a track titled “I Forgot You Existed.” And many fans appear to believe it’s directed towards a particular power couple.
And it’s relatively easy to see the connection thanks to lyrics such as those in its chorus, which read, “I forgot that you existed/And I thought that it would kill me, but it didn’t/And it was so nice/So peaceful and quiet/I forgot that you existed/It isn’t love, it isn’t hate, it’s just indifference.”
Swift may claim that she’s put all the drama behind her, but Kardashian still appears to be throwing the odd bit of shade on social media. Indeed, in the same week that Lover hit the shelves, the reality TV star uploaded a video of her daughter Chicago holding, what else, but a snake.