The pop star talked about the effects of the 2016 phone call about the song “Famous” in TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year cover story. Taylor Swift is thinking about how the fight between her and Kanye West and Kim Kardashian affected her mental health.
In 2016, the rapper, 46, put out the song “Famous” with a sexually explicit lyric about her, which she denied agreeing with. His then-wife, 43, released an edited recording of a phone call between them that made fans think otherwise. The 33-year-old pop star is TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year, and in the cover interview she talked openly about what happened.
The public’s response, she told the news source, felt like “a career death” and “took [her] down psychologically to a place [she’d] never been before.”
The “Cruel Summer” singer said, “Make no mistake: my career was taken away from me.”
“In a phone call that was illegally recorded, Kim Kardashian edited it and then put it out there to show everyone that I was lying,” she said.
The Grammy winner went on, “That took me down mentally to a place I’ve never been before.” “I moved to a different place. For a year, I didn’t leave a rental house. I was scared to answer the phone. Most of the people in my life I didn’t trust anymore, so I pushed them away. It was really, really hard to fall.
People started calling the “Karma” singer “overexposed” in the years after 1989 came out, so she felt like she was in a vulnerable spot in her career even before her fight with West and Kardashian. “I had all the hyenas climb on and take their shots,” she said.
She reacted to the viral video of people calling her “a snake” by releasing the revenge-themed album Reputation, but she was still having a hard time with how people were reacting to it. “I thought that moment of backlash was going to define me negatively for the rest of my life,” the singer-songwriter said of the negative reactions to his 2017 album.
She finally told TIME that she has learned to keep her mind on her art and keep going. She said, “I make sure to be thankful every second that I get to do this at this level because it’s been taken away from me before.” “I’ve learned that no matter what happens, I should keep making things. “Make art again.”
She also said, “But I’ve also learned that it doesn’t help to actively try to quote unquote defeat your enemies.” “Trash always takes itself out.”
Swift has talked about her fight with West before. At first, she said the hip-hop star never used the line “I made that bitch famous” by her. The reality star shared a recording of a phone call with West. In it, they talk about the line “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex.” But after the call came out, Swift wrote on Instagram that West had never told her he was going to call her “that bitch” in the song.
A spokesperson for the Midnights singer told PEOPLE in 2016 that Kanye did not call to ask for permission, but to ask Taylor to release his single “Famous” on her Twitter account. The spokesperson added that Taylor refused and warned Kanye about releasing a song with such a strong sexist message. Taylor was never told that the line in the song really said, “I made that bitch famous.”
In the 2019 Rolling Stone cover story, the singer-songwriter talked about how she felt about what happened and her past with West.
“Everyone didn’t get the background and events that led up to it,” Swift told the news source about the phone call. “Because things don’t just happen like that without a buildup,” Things happened that made me mad when West called me a “bitch.”
“That was more than just one event,” she said. “I got really tired of the way we were acting toward each other.” Not only because of what happened on the phone call and with that song, but also because of other things that happened as well.
“I felt like we were on the same page again, which was great for me because after what happened in 2009, all I ever wanted was for him to respect me,” Swift said. “When someone doesn’t respect you and says you don’t deserve to be here, it hurts so much. I wanted that respect from him so badly—I hate that about myself—that I told him, ‘This guy who’s making me mad, I just want his approval.'” I was there, though.”
See PEOPLE’s 2023 Most Intriguing People of the Year issue, which goes on sale Friday, for more on Taylor Swift and her great year.