How to be influential: A Study in Taylor Swift

Cecelia Armstrong

TIME Magazine recently released their greatly anticipated list of ‘100 Most Influential People’ of 2015, eliciting varying reactions from the public and critics. From the presence of people who one might expect to appear on this prestigious list (Hillary Clinton, The Koch brothers, even Alexander Wang), to people who’s presence you might want to subtly (or not so subtly) roll your eyes at (from Kanye West – “Kanye West would be the first person to tell you he belongs on this list” ugh -, to Kim Kardashian, maybe even to Reese Witherspoon), I think it is far more interesting to look at what, in this day and age, deems people worthy of the title “influential”.

For me, this ‘quality’ as I shall call it, can be most easily recognized in the world leaders that are among this list. Although this may be my Politics student bias rearing its head, I feel that its easier to recognize the influence (whether it be good or bad) that they have had on the world. In order to enlighten myself (something that is much needed more often that not) upon what has brought people outside of the ‘Leaders’ section onto this list, I have focused on Taylor Swift who, it might interest you to know, was classified under the ‘Icons’ section, not the ‘Artists’ section.

Described by TIME’s Mariska Hargitay as a “megawatt talent, an extraordinary spirit, an impossibly charming blend of impishness, poise and radiance to spare”, Swift has steadfastly been a role model to many, a voice on feminism (although following from Lucy’s opinion piece, we could perhaps be presented here with another case of white feminism) as well as an internationally acclaimed artist. I won’t pretend to deny that hearing her say that “powerful women do not have to act masculine or cold in order to get things done. Powerful women can be huggers who name their dog Lamby and make flower crowns in their free time” doesn’t give me strength. Yes, she is influential on a world-wide scale due to her music (her latest album, that I’m sure the majority of you have heard of, “1989”, has sold an massive total of 1.287 million copies – an album that many adored, and will forever remind me of the trip from Iowa back to Minnesota for Thanksgiving break last year, but I am swiftly- pardon the pun- digressing), but perhaps what makes her most influential, and what in my mind solidifies her place on this list, is the influence she has on a personal level.

A quick Google search will clue you into the amount of time, love and respect Swift has for her fans. Not only did she carry out a series of ‘1989 Secret Sessions’ at her many homes across America in order to interact with her fans, but perhaps examples of her heartfelt personal influence upon those who love her can be better found on none other than her Tumblr page. Replying personally to videos of fans performing incredibly enthusiastic dance routines to her music, or to videos expressing thanks for the inspiration her music has given, or laughing at memes of her beloved cats, this contact she has is perhaps more influential than her global super-stardom ever will be.

So perhaps that’s it. Perhaps nowadays being a celebrity or a leader that has a personal as well as a world wide impact is what is starting to make you more influential. If this is in any way leading to a lesser gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’, I can only see this as a beneficial thing for society.

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