Taylor Swift has gone from a cutesy, little-known, country singer to a global powerhouse in just a matter of years. Born in small-town Pennsylvania, she has pursued a career in music since the age of fourteen, and has now become one of the most bestselling artists with five platinum albums under her glittering belt. In 2014, she became the youngest woman to appear on the Forbes most powerful woman list at just 25-years-old.
Taylor can count Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Jaime King, Cara Delevingne, Lorde, Hailee Steinfeld, Kendall Jenner, Martha Hunt, Lily Aldridge and many more as her closest friends. However, it wasn't until this month's MTV Video Music Awards that people started to notice that Taylors "Squad" was actually a bit - weird. Photographed together as a group of ten, all in complimenting outfits showing off their slender physiques, it all came across quite staged. Twitter began to compare Taylor's Squad to a "cult".
These observations were not helped when indie rock band Grizzly Bear's singer, Ed Droste, shared on Twitter the "dark rules" of Swift's squad. He claimed that a mutual friend had informed him Taylor's squad members are advised how to behave, what to wear and how never to upstage her. He also referred to her as a monster and when her fan base, labelled Swifties, started firing back, he simply tweeted: "Don't feed the monster!"
Here we look at the potential reasons why Taylor Swift has been considered a "cult leader" and it's not too pretty.
15 There Are Penalties For Those Who Go Against Her
For Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, it use to be mad love but now it's just bad blood - according to the revenge track Taylor wrote (apparently) all about their fall out. The once-friendly pair would tweet each other cat pictures but then it all went sour - and fast. Taylor gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine about a "friend in showbiz" she no longer spoke to. She said, "She did something so horrible, I was like, 'Oh, we're just straight-up enemies.' And it wasn't even about a guy!"
What had happened, according to pop culture detectives, was Perry had stolen three dancers from Taylor's world tour. One of the dancers, Australian Lockhart Brownlie also known as Locky, was discovered updating his Instagram after jumping ship onto Katy's Prismatic Tour. This backs up Taylor's other comments in the interview which continued that it, "had to do with business” and that “she basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me.”
Now Katy has felt the wrath of not only being alienated by Taylor's girl gang but also having an international hit written all about her. In a response to the rumours Katy tweeted: ""Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing..." This is war.
14 She Boosts The Career Of Anyone In Her Group
It, literally, pays to know Taylor Swift. Hailee Steinfeld is another squad member who has received worldwide attention since officially becoming a squad member. She landed a role in the music video Bad Blood, took on a part in Pitch Perfect 2 and released her first album. When she was asked in an interview with Pop Justice this year if knowing Taylor had boosted her career, the 18-year-old replied, "You know, it’s done nothing but help me. In my music career and in my acting career she’s such an incredible human being."
It wasn't just Steinfeld who was rewarded for her loyalty. Gigi Hadid was handed a role in the How Deep Is Your Love music video for Taylor's boyfriend, Calvin Harris. Even her second-in-command, Karlie Kloss, who was posted on Instagram baking with Taylor now has - you guessed it, her own baking program. Are Taylor's friends worried that she can destroy their career just as quick as she built it, and this is what keeps them close by?
13 She Allows Her Group To Date The Same People
Dating an ex is enough to send anybody crazy. Taylor however is not only relaxed about this but also encourages it within her girl group. Why? Because she confirms that the rules of her "sisterhood" is to always place friendship above guys. She told Vanity Fair magazine, "We even have girls in our group who have dated the same people. The sisterhood has such a higher place on the list of priorities for us. It’s so much more important than some guy that it didn’t work out with.”
Taylor once dated Joe Jonas and apparently her song Love Story is about their relationship. Jonas then went on to date Karlie Kloss in 2008, Gigi Hadid last year and currently Selena Gomez. All three girls are very close friends, so close in fact it has even been rumoured that they all go on double dates together. Is it that the way into the cult is you have to date Joe Jonas for at least a week?
12 They Have To Agree To Work For Free
Only the all-powerful Taylor could recruit an A-List cast for her music video - entirely for free. Despite her rants against Apple (quote: "Nobody should be forced to work for free.") and her net worth sitting comfortably at $200 million, she didn't spend a dime on her friends.
An insider close to the Mirror newspaper claimed, "They are all friends and had such a great time shooting the video. It wasn't about the money and it was a really good opportunity for them." That's quite a leader to have the girls dedicate themselves fully and not expect payment in return.
11 She Commands Complete Control
Taylor Swift rules with an iron fist. Many would never dream of going up against the world's second-largest technology company but Taylor took on Apple and won. Apple were launching a new streaming service which would compete with market leader, Spotify. They announced the first three months would be free for all uses and as a result of this - artists would not be paid royalties for this period.
Taylor, who already had her music completely removed from Spotify, wrote an open letter to Apple on her Tumblr. It read: "I find it shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company. Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it’s unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation."
Apple withdrew the free usage policy and apologised to Taylor. The world began to take notice that at just 25-years-old, Taylor Swift was a revolutionary and could take control of anything.
10 To Be Allowed In Her Gang You Have To Idolize Her
During her 1989 world tour, Taylor told fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey what the secret was behind being her friend. She announced to the audience with a huge grin on her face, "There are two requirements. You have to like me, at least a little. And you have to want to spend time with me..." Taylor has an ability to appear like everyone's BFF and the girl-next-door yet she has her entire gang crawling after her.
Every member of her gang has fallen over themselves to speak out about what an incredible person their leader is. Karlie Kloss told Cosmopolitan magazine, "She is the coolest girl. She’s so sweet. She’s a normal girl . . . she’s a really nice girl.” Model Martha Hunt also said in an interview with People, "She has such an infectious personality. Everyone just wants to be around her at all times. She really brings out the best in everybody.”
9 Everyone In Her Squad Looks Alike
Well, Taylor certainly has friends that she can share a wardrobe with. It was the above photo from the MTV Video Music Awards this year that started to creep everyone out just how much the group looked alike. Taylor took centre stage once more trying out her best power stance.
Later on in the evening, Taylor won four awards - which was no surprise to anyone. After Taylor's name was announced for Video of the Year, her entire girl group jumped to their feet in perfect synchronisation and followed their fearless leader up to the stage. There they stood obediently beaming at her throughout the acceptance speech. She thanked fans for voting for her and called it "a bonding experience" for her girl group. No wonder they were compared on Twitter that night with The Stepford Wives.
8 She Has Complete Control Over The Whole Squad
Despite her butter-wouldn't-melt appearance, the Daily Mail newspaper reported that insiders claim she is painfully neurotic and controlling in person. Both her parents come from financial backgrounds and bought their daughter up to always get ahead in life. They even gave her an androgynous first name so she could climb the corporate ladder without the inevitable female glass ceiling.
Taylor's alleged demands from her group is that they all stick to her strict gluten-free diet, decide their outfits weeks in advance so the squad can be co-ordinated, and not keep secrets when it comes to dating. There's organization and then there's just outright ruling with an iron fist.
Actress and squad member, Serayah McNeill, noted in an interview that they all wait for when Taylor messages their group to make plans for them. She defended this in an interview with Pret-a-Reporter by saying, "It’s totally personal. She’ll text us and be like, ‘Let’s do this.’ Group message — it’s not a manager thing, it’s just a text. It’s never managers, it’s never business, it’s always fun." So, Taylor holds the loop and the other girls jump through it?
7 Nobody In The Group Has A Grip On Reality
A typical cult-like trait is when members slowly begin to lose their grasp of reality. Miley Cyrus accused Taylor's squad of just this in an interview with New York Times. Miley said she had no interest in trying to "gather musicians, actresses, models" as friends. She continued, "I’m not trying to be in the squad. None of my friends are famous and not because of any reason other than I just like real people who are living real lives, because I’m inspired by them."
Anyone who follows the squads luxury lifestyle via Instagram can see the point Miley's rant is trying to make. Preaching these "squad goals" onto normal girls growing up is beginning to irritate those who don't live in a bathing suit. Sure they look great but are any of these ladies capable of holding an actual stimulating, intellectual conversation?
6 They Won't Allow Anyone To Criticize Them
The main attitude of Taylor's squad comes across like: you're either with us or against us. They have moved from Team Taylor & Karlie to now taking in new members by the dozens in just a matter of years. Fifteen of the squad members appeared in the video for Bad Blood, considering this was a complete diss-track aimed at Katy Perry they really had her.
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey also felt the wrath of taking swipes at Taylor Swift. At the 2013 Golden Globes, they joked about how many men the Shake It Off singer has dated on the showbiz circuit. Taylor's reply was a cold and threatening, "There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women." Fey later retaliated saying, "I did not see that one coming. It was a joke, and it was a lighthearted joke. And it's a shame that she didn't take it in the crazy-aunt spirit in which it was intended."
5 Celebrities Have Had Enough Of Her Cult-Like Hypocrisy
It really kicked off last month, when Nicki Minaj tweeted her disappointment in MTV for overlooking Anaconda for Video of the Year. Nicki tweeted, "If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year." Taylor hit back with, "I've done nothing but love and support you. It's unlike you to pit women against each other".
This obviously made Katy Perry, who was attacked by Swift so publicly, spit her milkshake as she joined in with a tweet which read, "Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman." It appears everyone is getting sick of her always playing the innocent party card.
4 And So Have The Public...
Remember that Taylor demands all artists be paid unless you're close friends with her and she needs you to be in her latest music video. Well, photographer Jason Sheldon, believes that this makes Taylor less hero and more of a hypocrite. He published a contract he was handed when working on the 1989 World Tour and one of the terms was: "FEI shall have the perpetual, worldwide right to use (and to otherwise others to use) any or all of the Photographs for any non-commercial purpose (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion." Basically, Taylor owns all his photographs of her.
He made his point clearer by writing, "How are you any different to Apple? If you don’t like being exploited, that’s great.. make a huge statement about it, and you’ll have my support. But how about making sure you’re not guilty of the very same tactic before you have a pop at someone else?"
3 They Even Take Control Over Fan Pictures Of Them
One Swiftie, John Johnson, was not impressed when his photo was stolen from him by non-other than his own idol. When he attended the 1989 Tour in Louisville he uploaded this photo from his phone onto Instagram to mark the memorable occasion.
A day later, Taylor uploaded the exact same photo onto her Twitter page, with just a thank you to fans and no mention or credit to the fan. Johnson then tweeted sarcastically that he was happy she had received one million retweets on a picture that belonged him. Still, it's nice to be acknowledged.
2 They Have Matching Nightgowns For Secret Sleepovers
Much like a weird, close-knit sorority, the squad all have matching Victorian nightgowns that Taylor bought them for sleepovers. These are not the group of girls you will find falling out of clubs at 3am, instead they prefer sleepovers at secret locations to avoid media attention.
The girls are so, creepily, close that she even admits that they all had approval of her latest boyfriend, DJ Calvin Harris, before she made things official with him. She told Vanity Fair magazine, "Oh, it’s so important. In every friendship, you’ve got one or two girls where you hear people say, ‘Oh she’s so different around her boyfriend!’ I never want to be that girl."
1 They Have An Army Of Die-Hard Fans At Their Disposal
"Swiftie" is the name given to Taylor's die hard fans. Those who try and rise against Taylor will be taken down via social media with a storm of insults and, sometimes, even death threats. Most recently Ed Droste, the main singer of indie rock band Grizzly Bear, revealed that Taylor was running her friendship group like a cult. He then had to shut down his own Twitter account due to the backlash.
Earlier this year, DJ and music producer, Diplo, called the Swifties, "An army that's worse than North Korea." He knows first hand what to expect when you go up against the super fans, after he started a petition on his Twitter to get Taylor a "booty". He told GQ Style magazine, "All I know is don't ever get into a feud with Taylor Swift. She has like 50 million people that will die for her. You can't step into that arena. That was something I was never prepared for. One of the biggest mistakes of my career was definitely f***ing with her."
Quite scary really.