Q&A: Why did Time magazine choose Taylor Swift as person of the year?

Time's Senior Executive Editor Kelly Conniff on WTOP

Taylor Swift’s reputation precedes her. The popstar’s popular tour, film and album drops enchanted people across the globe in 2023. That star-power earned her the title of Time magazine’s person of the year Wednesday.

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift performs onstage on the first night of her "Eras Tour" at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 31, 2023. (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO / AFP) (Photo by SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP via Getty Images)(AFP via Getty Images/SUZANNE CORDEIRO)

Other finalists for the title that Swift beat out include Barbie, King Charles III and OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman.

Why was 2023 the year of Taylor Swift? Time’s Senior Executive Editor Kelly Conniff joined WTOP anchors Shawn Anderson and Anne Kramer to explain.

Kelly Conniff: Thank you so much for having me.

Shawn Anderson: Without sounding obvious here with all her accomplishments, is there one key factor, though, for you that put Taylor at the top of the list in the winner of the big prize?

Kelly Conniff: It’s a really good question. And I think the main thing for Taylor is that she’s a master storyteller, right? She’s deploying her art and her ability to shape narratives to share herself with the world. And she’s also one of the rare people who’s both the writer and the hero of her own story. So when you’re listening to her music, when you’re seeing how she puts herself out there in the media, everything from how she’s on social media, to maybe her at a football game, she’s really kind of giving you this whole picture of who you are, and giving us a version of herself, that is so relatable, and at the same time, helping people kind of see themselves within her music and how she stitches this all together.

Anne Kramer: And Kelly, isn’t it also that it’s just kind of cool that it’s so positive?

Kelly Conniff: Absolutely. And I think you know, this was a really dark year. And every year, we look at some lighter choices. We look at some people who are bringing some of that light in. And we haven’t gone that direction before. And there’s often a good reason. But this year, it really just made so much sense. It was like everything came together at once. And I think Taylor Swift is something that people agreed on this year, which is so so rare in our kind of stratified culture. She made people feel good. Even if you’re not a super fan, even if you’re not a Swiftie, you probably engaged with her in some way, shape or form. And I think that says something.

Shawn Anderson: Well, Taylor was among nine finalists that you had, including the leaders of Russia and China, Britain’s King Charles and Barbie. So what was compelling about that diverse group to make the final cut?

Kelly Conniff: Well, we do this every year, we have a meeting kind of in usually in September, October where everybody on staff sends in ideas ahead of time and then we all discussed together in a room. As the person running the franchise this year, and I got all of the email pitches and I have to tell you my inbox just read Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift, Taylor Swift. There are a few other names in there and we definitely discussed them. Some of them were on the shortlist that we shared publicly. But it was almost an overwhelming majority. That doesn’t happen every year. You know, I’ve worked at Time for almost 11 years. And some years, there’s really just a consensus, some years there’s a lot of disagreement. This year really felt like much more of a consensus year. And it was a different choice for us. We haven’t done anyone in the arts before. But I think that’s what made it so exciting, and in a way made it feel so right.

Anne Kramer: Kelly we have about 30 seconds left, what dirt did Taylor spill on she and Travis (Kelce)?

Kelly Conniff: She did not spill any dirt, but she did really talk about their relationship. And she said, “Look, you know, we’re together. We’ve been together for a while.” She gave us some details on how they got together. She talks about how she heard him on his podcast and then that they started talking after that. And she said, “Look, like I’m not trying to hide; he’s not trying to hide; we want to support each other. I’m gonna go to his games. He’s going to come to my shows.” And we all thought that was just a really lovely statement and kind of, you know, inspirational. And also, it gives us all something to look forward to when we see them at each other’s gigs.

Shawn Anderson: Kelly, good piece in Time. Thanks for joining us to share it


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