As a group, we were very calm about the whole situation. Something had happened to the six of us that we could not explain and we could not comprehend and we could not properly come to terms with. So what did we do? We sat. We sat in the holding room of a television studio in Culver City for three hours and just talked and talked and talked. We sat there with absolutely way to prepare for the coming hours. We sat there and learned about each other’s lives and realized how much we all had in common. By some crazy stroke of luck, the six of us had been picked to film with Taylor Swift for VEVO’s show ‘Certified’.
Forty-eight hours previous to that moment, I was sitting on my creaky wooden chair in my room, mindlessly scrolling through the depths of the Internet. All of a sudden, a “ding, ding” filled the room as a notification popped up on my iPhone’s lock screen. It was a text from my friend Katie.
“There’s this contest. YOU HAVE TO ENTER.”
“You get to meet Taylor Swift.”
Anybody who knows me knows that Taylor Swift is my favorite person in the entire world. I absolutely adore her. All I had to read was that I would get to meet Taylor, and that was enough for me to drop whatever I was doing and make the required video submission to upload to YouTube. The deadline was that same day, and I entered under the assumption that they wouldn’t even see my application because I sent it in at approximately 11 pm, six hours past the end of typical work hours.
When I woke up the next morning, there was an email in my inbox titled ‘TAYLOR SWIFT CASTING.’ It took me ages to open it because I was so nervous and even more time to comprehend what it said.
“If you are receiving this e-mail, you are one of the finalists for the Taylor Swift casting call for VEVO’s Certified. We have reviewed thousands of videos and yours stood out! If you’re on this list its because you’re someone’s favorite over here with the team of 5 people that are reviewing applications.”
The email said that they would contact us later that day if we were one of the final six winners. Commence panic mode and inability to accomplish anything because all I found the competence to do was refresh my email browser over and over and over again.
Five hours later, after forcing myself to leave the house to run errands, there was a new email in my inbox titled ‘Winners — Taylor Swift Casting!’ I had won. The next thing I knew, I was on the phone with the casting director who was telling me the location of the shoot and reminding me to bring something for Taylor to sign.
As the six of us walked down the long hallway to get to the filming area, we had no idea what to expect. We entered into a set that was completely dark except for a single oval area that had six X’s on the floor, marked in blue painter tape. As the beginning of a long series of shoots, the crew wanted to film our reactions to meeting Taylor. Standing on those blue X’s, the producers fixed our hair and reminded us to smile.
After about twenty minutes of waiting, the director, who had a strange resemblance to actor Zachary Levi, announced, “Get ready. She’s coming.”
I wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by “get ready.” I was not aware that there was a proper way to prepare for the moment that I had been anticipating for years. I exchanged a glance with Tyler, who was standing next to me, and we didn’t even need words to express what we trying to say. We were about to meet the girl who was such a huge part of our lives and we didn’t know at what point the ‘on switch’ was pressed that transported us into this alternate universe where things like this happened.
“Hi, I’m Taylor!” she said as she ran toward us, as if we didn’t already know that. But what we didn’t know was that she knew our names before we even stood on that stage. She knew our names because she was the one who picked the six of us as winners out of the thirty finalists.
Over the next forty-five minutes, we had an overly excited conversation with her about anything and everything. When our banter came to a close, Taylor began to film promo segments about her VEVO awards, given to her for reaching 100 million views on YouTube, and about the contest that we were winners of. All of a sudden, in the middle of her promo about the contest, she turned and spoke directly to us.
“And for you guys, who are with me today.. I know you probably have loved ones that you would have wanted to bring with you, so I want to invite you and a loved one out to the opening night of my tour.” I unconsciously broke down into tears and I’m not even sure that anybody knew what was happening because we were all in a state of shock. Taylor could tell we were overwhelmed because she implemented a much-needed group hug.
We later found out from the casting director that this tour invite was not part of the contract that she had with VEVO. It was not something that she was obligated to do, just like she was not obligated to have a first hand role in picking us. She plucked us out of reality and gave us starring roles in her crazy, chaotic, magical life.
When I go to tell the story of that August 22nd, sometimes people get caught up in it all. It’s not about the fact that the video that VEVO released of us has over three million views on YouTube. It’s not about the fact that at least ten people texted me that day asking me to be my “plus one” for opening night. It’s about the six fans in that room whose worlds were filled to the brim with sheer happiness. It’s about the look in Taylor’s eyes when she first met us. It’s about the tears that were shed and the emotions that I still cannot find words to explain.
I never expected that a video, which I filmed in front of my webcam on a humid summer night, would change my life as much as it did. I never expected that Taylor Swift would watch it and decide to give me the opportunity of a lifetime. I never expected to get recognized by people on the streets because they “saw me on YouTube.” I never expected any of it but it has altered my view of the world and what is possible. Because of that video, I found myself halfway across the country in Omaha as Taylor’s guest at the opening night of her tour. From that front row seat, I came to the overwhelming realization that you have to dream big, because our dreams have this mysterious way of coming true.