Taylor Swift was not born in New York City, was not raised here and has not lived here for more than a year. But, somehow her decision to buy a $20 million apartment in Tribeca qualifies her to be the official New York City Welcome Ambassador.
Many New Yorkers are angry that a person with no apparent ties to New York was chosen for such a high profile position.
The official New York website published the awkward and forced explanatory videos in which Swift informs viewers on what a bodega is and tells us how to pronouce Houston Street. Yes, I am sure millionaire Taylor Swift frequents her corner bodega all the time.
She also tells people that it is easy to get around New York and that super-friendly people will help you get where you need to be. I am sure New York is very accessible when you can afford cabs all the time because you are Taylor Swift.
I have nothing against Taylor Swift. In fact, the problem is not with Swift herself, but rather the appointment of her new position.
It is clear that Taylor Swift really loves living in the city she now calls home. But, she doesn’t really know New York because she has only just arrived. Choosing someone who is still learning about the city to teach other newcomers about living here makes for hordes of uninformed visitors and transplants.
Her lack of experience here is already apparent. On the social media platforms she uses to show off her new life in the Big Apple, she uploads pictures that have nothing to do with NYC, like cookies and lattes and hashtags them #WelcomeToNewYork — which is also the title of one of her new songs.
She is not very New York-specific in the song, either. She is selling a fairytale version of New York instead of a city that has a very distinct culture — a culture that is not well represented by the aspects she is choosing to highlight.
It seems as though Swift is perpetuating a glamorized version of the city. The heart and soul of New York is lost in the generic imagery Swift puts out; instead, all we see are pretty things and ideas that can be gained in any other city.
New York is a great city. There is no need to romanticize it.
If the purpose of her job is showing off the real New York, then why is she pushing an overdone stereotype of the city? All signs point to the fact that she has not been here long enough to understand what makes New York special. Swift is advertising life in a big city, not life in this big city.
Defenders of Swift’s new role claim that New York is a city of immigrants, so she fits the bill perfectly. However, a typical New York newcomer does not just show up and buy a $20 million apartment.
A typical immigrant to the city lives a completely different lifestyle than Swift, one that includes taking the bus and subway and living in a tiny apartment, one that definitely does not include being able to afford upscale bakeries. Swift is not a regular newcomer. She has access to every privilege and opportunity she could ever want. Swift can lay no claim to being able to represent the millions of hard-working New Yorkers and the city they all live in because she’s never seen the realities that so many of us face.
Her song is not an authentic reflection of the city so many people call home. Instead, it is a generic tune that in no way captures the personality of New York, and despite the fact that visitors search for that personality, the song is being touted as the new NYC theme song.
In her song, “Welcome to New York,” Swift sings that New York’s “been waiting for you.”
Sorry Taylor, but New York waits for no one.