Throwback: When Kanye West bullied 19-year-old Taylor Swift at MTV VMAs
Taylor Swift's feud with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian was a pop culture phenomenon back in 2019. Here's a throwback to the moment that changed the next decade for these two super singers.
American pop star Taylor Swift was recently named Time Magazine's Person of the Year. The singer, 33, revisited the 2019 moment in an interview with cover story writer, journalist Sam Lansky.
“I had all the hyenas climb on and take their shots,” she said about her headspace at the time.
“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 added. “That took me down psychologically to a place I’ve never been before. 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.”
Well, let's go back to when, where and how it all began:
The moment: Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift at MTV VMAs 2009
This is where it all began. A 19-year-old Taylor Swift won the award for the Best Female Video for ‘You Belong With Me.' The win was big for the singer who was competing against fellow icons Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Pink and Kelly Clarkson.
Just as she took the stage in a sparkling silver gown, accepting the prize and sharing what an honour it was to win a pop-music VMA as a country singer, a sunglasses-clad Kanye West snatched the microphone and said: “I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”
Later that night, Beyonce won the Video of the Year award, and invited Taylor to the stage to give her acceptance speech. “I'd like for Taylor to come out and have her moment.”
Katy Perry, took to Twitter to write: “F*** y** Kanye West. It's like you stepped on a kitten,” where as Pink tweeted, “Kanye West is the biggest piece of s*** n earth. Quote Me.”
Two days after the VMAs, Taylor appeared on ABC Radio to say the rapper apologized to her. “Kanye did call me and he was very sincere in his apology, and I accepted that apology,” she shared.
Taylor performs ‘Innocent’ at the VMAs 2010
A year later, Taylor took the same stage to perform a song, ‘Innocent’ that would be on her album ‘Speak Now’ coming in October.
The lyrics, which fans believe Taylor addressed to Kanye were: “It’s OK, and life is a tough crowd / 32 and still growing up now / Who you are is not what you did / You’re still an innocent.”
The come-back: Taylor presents Lifetime-Achievement Award to Kanye at MTV VMAs 2015
Everything finally came full circle at the 2015 VMAs, as the singer presented Kanye with a lifetime achievement award.
“I’m really happy for you, and I’mma let you finish,” she joked. “But Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time!”
Kanye West releases ‘Famous’ with a classless comment on Taylor Swift in 2016
Kanye’s album “The Life of Pablo” came in early 2016. The record included a song called “Famous,” with a lyric referencing Taylor Swift: “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex, why? / I made that b— famous.”
When, '1989' won the Album of the Year at Grammys, Taylor addressed: “I want to say to all the young women out there, there are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” she said. “If you just focus on the work, and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there, and that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”
A tangled trio: Kim Kardashian says Taylor approved the ‘Famous’ lyric
In the summer of 2016, Kim Kardashian was married to Kanye West and in a GQ interview, she told a reporter that Taylor had “totally approved” of the controversial lyrics.
“She totally knew that that was coming out. She wanted to all of a sudden act like she didn’t. I swear, my husband gets so much shit for things [when] he really was doing proper protocol and even called to get it approved,” she said.
In response, a spokesperson for Swift issued a lengthy statement to GQ:
“Taylor does not hold anything against Kim Kardashian as she recognizes the pressure Kim must be under and that she is only repeating what she has been told by Kanye West. However, that does not change the fact that much of what Kim is saying is incorrect. Kanye West and Taylor only spoke once on the phone while she was on vacation with her family in January of 2016 and they have never spoken since. Taylor has never denied that conversation took place. It was on that phone call that Kanye West also asked her to release the song on her Twitter account, which she declined to do. Kanye West never told Taylor he was going to use the term ‘that bitch’ in referencing her. A song cannot be approved if it was never heard. Kanye West never played the song for Taylor Swift. Taylor heard it for the first time when everyone else did and was humiliated. Kim Kardashian’s claim that Taylor and her team were aware of being recorded is not true, and Taylor cannot understand why Kanye West, and now Kim Kardashian, will not just leave her alone.”
The infamous leak: Kim Kardashian leaks video footage of Kanye West's phone call with Taylor Swift
To defend her then-husband, Kim uploaded a video to her Snapchat, where the rapper was on speaker phone with the ‘Clean’ singer.
“As a friend, I want things that make you feel good,” Kanye says in the video.
“If people ask me about it, look, I think it would be great for me to be like, ‘He called me and told me before it came out … Joke’s on you, guys. We’re fine,’” Taylor also says.
The video quickly went viral on social media, with many siding with Kardashian and tweeting the hashtag "#KimExposedTaylorParty."
Kim also tweeted: “Wait, it's legit national snake day?!? They have holidays for everybody, I mean everything these days!!”
In response, the singer had said in a now-deleted Instagram post: “I wanted to believe Kanye when he told me that I would love the song. I wanted us to have a friendly relationship. He promised to play the song for me, but he never did. While I wanted to be supportive of Kanye on the phone call, you cannot ‘approve’ a song you haven’t heard. Being falsely painted as a liar when I was never given the full story or played any part of the song is character assassination. I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative, one that I have never asked to be part of, since 2009.”
Reputation and the arrival of a stronger Taylor
When “Reputation” dropped in November 2017, a track called “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” appeared to address Kanye West and the leaked phone call.
The lyrics included the lines: “There I was giving you a second chance / If only you weren’t so shady / But you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand / And therein lies the issue / Friends don’t try to trick you / Get you on the phone and mind-twist you.”
The nail in the Kim-Kanye coffin: Full video of the phone call leaks
An unedited, 25-minute version of Taylor Swift and Kanye West’s phone call that Kim Kardashian posted years before was leaked online in early 2020.
In the video, West shares a planned lyric along the lines of “I made her famous,” but neglects the “b—” reference that ended up in the final song. In fact, in unedited phone call, Swift even appears to be happy that West doesn’t use such language: “I thought it was going to be like, ‘That stupid, dumb bitch.’ But it’s not,” she is heard saying.
She does tell West that she’s glad the reference isn’t “mean” but would like to mull on it before giving her approval: “I need to think about it, because you know, when you hear something for the first time, you just need to think about it. Because it is absolutely crazy. I’m glad it’s not mean, though.”