The INSIDER Summary:
• Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have been feuding for years.
• Right now, it’s simmered down, but bad blood is still there.
• Here’s how the whole feud is playing out.
Taylor Swift and Katy Perry have bad blood.
Once, they were close friends. Now, they’re sworn enemies, playing chess against each other on a celebrity battlefield, each one trying to win over each other’s fans.
Here’s how it happened.
The two were first photographed together at the 2008 VMAs.
They were hanging out with Miley Cyrus and, by all accounts, it was pleasant. Shortly afterwards, they had their first exchange on Twitter.
Then, in 2013, Swift directed one final tweet to Perry. Perry never responded.
No one really noticed that the two had stopped publicly corresponding. And strangely, the last still-existing tweet from Perry to Swift was way back in 2011.
But in September 2014, Swift opened up to Rolling Stone about a feud that had driven a wedge between them in 2013.
Swift was on a media blitz to support her then-new album, “1989.” Rolling Stone’s Josh Eells commented that “Bad Blood,” a track from “1989,” was angrier than the other songs.
Swift then divulged that “Bad Blood” is about another female artist. She didn’t say who, but she did deliver some identifying details.
From Rolling Stone:
“For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not,” she says. “She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?'” Then last year, the other star crossed a line. “She did something so horrible,” Swift says. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’ And it wasn’t even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational — you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It’s awkward, and I don’t like it.”
The magazine got Swift to admit there was a “personal element to the conflict.” Swift added, “But I don’t think there would be any personal problem if she weren’t competitive.”
Many thought the culprit in Swift’s story was Miley Cyrus. But then, Gawker reports, later in the day after the profile was published, Katy Perry sent out a particularly ominous tweet:
Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing…
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) September 9, 2014
The ‘incident’ Swift talked about may have been a staffing switcheroo.
The staffing switch may have been the basis for their feud. In a profile for Australia’s Examiner in 2013, Lockhart Brownlie said that he and three other dancers had left Swift mid-tour to work with Perry. This was before the feud had even gone public.
Brownlie told the Examiner that he’d worked on Swift’s Red tour for the first six months. Then, he and two other dancers who’d worked with Perry before heard from her. She wanted to hire them again.
“Obviously, we were with Katy for two and a half years, she’s like family to us, so we were like, ‘Absolutely,'” Brownlie told the Examiner. “We weren’t really dancing in Taylor’s tour anyway so I had got a little bored and I really wanted to do a promo tour.”
At least one of the stolen dancers was still working with Perry when she performed at the Super Bowl Halftime Show — he was the much lauded “left shark,” Celebuzz reports.
Then, Swift released her video for “Bad Blood.”
We already knew the song was most likely about Perry. The music video alluded further to their feud.
In it, Swift and a brown-haired sidekick (played by Selena Gomez) fight off a bunch of bad guys together. Then, after they have beaten all of the men, the brunette counterpart turns on Swift. After that, Swift rounds up a girl group consisting of her real-life besties in hopes of exacting revenge.
The video mapped out Swift’s strategy. She’d amass an army of celebrity allies, turning her image into one of uniting and powerful feminism. Anyone who stepped in her way would be destroyed by her and her alliances.
Nicki Minaj got dragged into the mess.
Perry noticed that she was the symbolic loser of the video.
So did Nicki Minaj.
If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year ????????????????????????????????????????????????????
— NICKI MINAJ (@NICKIMINAJ) July 21, 2015
Swift noticed, and interpreted Minaj’s tweets as a personal slight.
Minaj brushed it off, playing it like she wasn’t talking about Swift, but trying to make a point about the music industry as a whole.
Perry, though, followed up with her own tweet, suggesting she recognised herself as the antagonist of “Bad Blood” — and the fact that Swift’s character in the video has an entire posse of famous friends, just waiting to exact their revenge.
Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalises on the take down of a woman…
— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) July 22, 2015
The video clearly has a girl-against-girl plotline. But Swift accused Minaj of “pitting women against each other” during their disagreement.
That’s what Perry found so ironic.
Was there peace in sight?
The first half of 2016 seemed like a thawing of Perry’s and Swift’s relationship with each other. Perry gave Swift an A-list spot on a pre-Grammys party.
And both showed up at the 2016 Met Gala, which Swift co-chaired, even if it doesn’t look like they interacted during the event.
For 2017, Perry will be the Met Gala co-chair, indicating a peaceful transition of power.
Then Swift got in another feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, but Perry stayed out of it.
A good indicator of Perry’s goodwill toward Swift came later in 2016 when Swift began feuding with another major star: Kanye West.
But unlike Swift’s fight with Minaj, Perry didn’t take sides when Kanye and Taylor began their very public fight over the lyrics in his song “Famous” — she just let things play out.
If Perry wanted to, she could have easily gotten involved and expressed her support for Kanye and Kim’s side. Instead, she stayed away, which made her seem above the fray and like the bigger person.
When it comes to likability, Perry’s final chess move was supporting Hillary Clinton during election season.
Throughout the 2016 presidential election, Katy Perry has been a consistent, strong supporting of Clinton’s candidacy for the presidency. It was a smart move. For Clinton, because Perry is one of the most-followed people on social media on the planet (she has the most Twitter followers; Swift comes in third). And for Perry, because Clinton’s campaign became a symbol of feminist hope and positive messaging that synchronised with her brand.
She performed at the Democratic National Convention and appeared alongside Clinton at rallies all year long.
And while dozens of celebrities lined up to denounce Donald Trump, Swift sat it out. Despite calls for her to make a statement against Trump as more and more women accused him of sexual assault, she didn’t make any public statements about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or anything else during the election.
It might have been a business move — she couldn’t have wanted to alienate Trump supporters (or Clinton supporters, for that matter) — but she let the biggest feminist movement of the century pass right by her.
On election day, Swift might have released a cryptic clue that she voted for Hillary Clinton, but she never made her position explicit. Perry, on the other hand, tied her brand to the campaign of the first female nominee of a major political party.
So who’s winning? It’s hard to tell.
Right now, Perry’s support of Clinton makes her a symbol of progress and explicit feminism. She’s strengthened her role as a public figure, and her refusal to explicitly engage with Swift makes her seem above it all. It’s like she’s taken a break from the celebrity gossip game, and looks better for it.
Swift, on the other hand, was in a series of tabloid stories this year — like her feud with Kim and Kanye, and her short-lived romance with Tom Hiddleston — but seems to have come out best in the end.
It’s worth noting that Swift is the highest-paid celebrity in the world, according to Forbes, earning $170 million this year. Perry is at #63, with $41 million.
So maybe Swift is winning for now, but Perry is in a strong position to become a new kind of superstar.
Molly Mulshine contributed reporting on a previous version of this article.