In the past 14 months, Taylor Swift has notched her biggest album debut, scored three No. 1 singles, headlined an enormous world tour, became a key player in the music industry's streaming debate and cemented her status as a pop superstar with little competition. She has, seemingly, done it all. But her biggest cultural impact has come from the ones she's brought alongside her this time.
One of the inescapable catchphrases of 2015 was "squad goals," and the squad that was clearly the most goal-worthy was Swift's band of gal pals. This crew has neither a name (more on why that's important later) nor a set lineup (also important), but everyone knows that, if Taylor co-signs you, then you were in her club, and worth watching.
A quick survey of Taylor's besties include Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss, Lorde, Serayah McNeill, Hailee Steinfeld, Zendaya, Lena Dunham, Cara Delevigne, Lily Aldridge, Jaime King, Gigi Hadid and Camila Cabello. That group includes Latinas, blacks, whites, singers, actresses and models. These women are of all different races, backgrounds, professions, ages, body types and levels of fame. It's the type of diversity all people should strive for in their personal lives, and, crucially, the collective front doesn't seem forced.
These women promote friendship over cattiness, togetherness over winner-takes-all, birthday parties over wasted club nights, and look to publicly uplift one another instead of squabbling like a Mean Girls gang.
“Other women who are killing it should motivate you”
Taylor put it best when she explained the mindset of her squad goals to Time magazine. "I surround myself with smart, beautiful, passionate, driven, ambitious women," she said. "Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you."
This inspiration-over-threat idea was further demonstrated when Taylor recruited a troupe of badasses to co-star in her "Bad Blood" video. Swift could have easily been the superstar of the video and had a bunch of extras surround her on set, but instead she shared the spotlight with her fellow females, from young models (Delevigne, Hadid) to seasoned actresses (Mariska Hargitay, Ellen Pompeo). They posed together on the red carpet at the 2015 MTV VMAs, and the squad was all seen on their feet cheering for Swift when she accepted the award for Video of the Year. Despite the fact that some of them could have been potential contenders against the pop superstar (namely Gomez, who was nominated against her BFF in the Song of the Summer category), there was nothing but support in the room.
This gang doesn't have a name (no "Plastics" here), any type of musicians-only requirement, nor are they pushing their group in the faces of others or giving off any type of exclusivity. In fact, judging from the guest list of Taylor's 1989 Tour, basically everyone from any type of clique is invited. From Mick Jagger to Fifth Harmony to Chris Rock to Uzo Aduba to the U.S. Women's Soccer Team, the message is that everyone is worthy of getting up onstage and singing a song during the biggest tour of the year. It was anyone—as long as they brought some positivity with them.
And most importantly, the guys are treated as simply honorary members, because Taylor ensured that her girls were front and center the entire time. In a media world where women are constantly pitted against one another, whether or not they have any actual bad blood (say, Britney vs Christina in the '90s—two friends who grew up on the same TV show—to Selena vs Demi today), women coming together to emphasize friendship and togetherness is beating the media to its own game. It's much harder for a tabloid to make up fake drama about celebrities if they all just walked down a red carpet hand-in-hand. For some reason, tabloid media has so much more fun pretending girls hate each other instead of celebrating friendship, but this squad spent 2015 aiming to challenge that.
Cynics may dismiss the squad as a calculated PR move—as if Taylor Swift needs more publicity during a stadium tour. Celebrities exist for us to idolize, but we are all equal, and Taylor's squad is a good reminder of that. It's not just the type of message that young girls should take to heart, but all people should look to embrace in their own life: A crew diverse enough to bring new experiences and perspectives, and one that works in a way that lifts their fellow man and woman up.
Taylor & co. know that there's enough negativity thrown their way (thanks, Twitter), so why would they look for that in their own friend circle? While the regular person likely does not encounter the same amount of scrutiny as these A-listers, we should look to surround ourselves with the people that, in Swift's words, motivate, challenge and inspire us. If your friends aren't doing that, then what makes them your friends?
Last year, Swift told her fans to shake off the haters; in 2015, she built a coalition of women that overpowered any and all haters. Imagine what she (or they) will do next.