Taylor Swift Says Feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian Felt Like ‘Career Death’: ‘I Went Down Really, Really Hard’

The pop superstar opened up about the fallout from the 2016 phone call surrounding the track “Famous” in TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year cover story

Taylor Swift is reflecting on how the feud between her and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian affected her mentally.

The pop superstar, 33, is TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year and in the cover interview she spoke candidly about the 2016 incident in which the rapper, 46, dropped the song “Famous” featuring a vulgar lyric about her, which she denied approving, and his then-wife, 43, released an edited, recorded phone call between them that led fans to believe otherwise.

TIME Person of the Year: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift for TIME.PHOTOGRAPHS BY INEZ AND VINOODH FOR TIME

She explained to the outlet that the moment and the public’s reaction felt like “a career death” and “took [her] down psychologically to a place [she’d] never been before.”

“Make no mistake — my career was taken away from me,” the “Cruel Summer” singer said.

“You have a fully manufactured frame job, in an illegally recorded phone call, which Kim Kardashian edited and then put out to say to everyone that I was a liar,” she recalled.

“That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before,” the Grammy winner continued. “I moved to a foreign country. I didn’t leave a rental house for a year. I was afraid to get on phone calls. I pushed away most people in my life because I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I went down really, really hard.”

Even before the feud with West and Kardashian, the “Karma” musician described feeling like she was in a vulnerable place in her career after some began describing her as overexposed in the years following the release of 1989. She said, “I had all the hyenas climb on and take their shots.”

Taylor Swift Time Person of the Year

Taylor Swift for TIME.

INEZ AND VINOODH FOR TIME

After she responded to the viral moment in which many called her “a snake” by releasing the revenge-themed Reputation, she continued to struggle with the reaction she received. “I thought that moment of backlash was going to define me negatively for the rest of my life,” the hitmaker said of the critical response to the 2017 project.

Ultimately, she told TIME that she has learned to focus on her work and persevere as an artist. “I’m very careful to be grateful every second that I get to be doing this at this level, because I’ve had it taken away from me before,” she shared. “There is one thing I’ve learned: My response to anything that happens, good or bad, is to keep making things. Keep making art.”

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in New York City in October 2019.DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTY

“But I’ve also learned there’s no point in actively trying to quote unquote defeat your enemies,” she revealed. “Trash takes itself out every single time.”

Swift has opened up about her feud with West in the past. Originally, she said that the hip-hop star never ran the lyric “I made that bitch famous” by her. In the recorded phone call that the reality star posted online, the pair can be heard discussing the lyric “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex,” but after it was released, Swift wrote on Instagram that West never told her he was going to call her “that bitch” in the song.

TIME Person of the Year: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift for TIME.

PHOTOGRAPHS BY INEZ AND VINOODH FOR TIME

In 2016, a spokesperson for the Midnights artist told PEOPLE that “Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single ‘Famous’ on her Twitter account,” adding, “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 bitch famous.’”

The singer-songwriter also opened up about her reaction to the incident and her history with West in a 2019 Rolling Stone cover story.

TIME Person of the Year: Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift for TIME. PHOTO: 

PHOTOGRAPHS BY INEZ AND VINOODH FOR TIME

“The world didn’t understand the context and the events that led up to it,” Swift told the outlet of the phone call. “Because nothing ever just happens like that without some lead-up. Some events took place to cause me to be pissed off when [West] called me a bitch.”

“That was not just a singular event,” she continued. “Basically, I got really sick of the dynamic between he and I. And that wasn’t just based on what happened on that phone call and with that song — it was kind of a chain reaction of things.”

“I started to feel like we reconnected, which felt great for me — because all I ever wanted my whole career after that thing happened in 2009 was for him to respect me,” Swift shared. “When someone doesn’t respect you so loudly and says you literally don’t deserve to be here — I just so badly wanted that respect from him, and I hate that about myself, that I was like, ‘This guy who’s antagonizing me, I just want his approval.’ But that’s where I was.”

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