A Taylor-Made Star

December 19, 2014
Jack Dickey for TIME
MARTIN SCHOELLER FOR TIME

Taylor Swift is no stranger to triumphs. But even for her, 2014 has been a great year. Her new album, 1989, sold almost 1.3 million copies the first week it was out. Billboard named her its Woman of the Year. Her last tour made $150 million. How does someone who just turned 25 handle all this success?

Swift likes to tell a story about how she came to be named Taylor. Well, she likes to tell two stories. The first is that she was named for the singer James Taylor. And the other: "My mom named me Taylor because she thought that I would probably end up in business and she didn't want any [future] boss to see if I was a girl or a boy."

A Star Is Born

Swift was born in Reading, Pennsylvania. As a child, she wrote whenever she could. She won a poetry contest in fourth grade. But her true love was country songwriting. She went to Nashville, Tennessee, at age 11 to get noticed. She struck out. But she tried again at 13.

LARRY BUSACCA—GETTY IMAGES

In eighth grade, Swift talked her family into moving near Nashville. There, she got noticed by a music executive. Her first album came out the next year and was a hit. Swift is used to life in the spotlight. But it can still be hard on the small-town girl. She says her fans make it all worthwhile. Swift recalls a rainy concert in 2011. "In the middle of the show, a torrential downpour starts. In my head, the first thing I'm thinking is, Everyone's going to leave," she says. "But instead of leaving, they just danced."

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