“That’s a pap,” she says as we leave the restaurant, pointing toward an anonymous gray car that looks like the floor model in an auto dealership specializing in anonymous gray cars. Her security detail suggests that it’s probably not a paparazzo because there’s no way a paparazzo could find us at such an unglamorous, unassuming establishment. But as with seemingly every other inference she has ever made, Taylor Swift is ultimately proven right. The guy in the gray car is taking her picture. This annoys her, but just barely.
It’s August in Southern California. We crawl into the back of a massive Toyota and start driving to Swift’s West Coast residence, located in a rural enclave of Beverly Hills. The gray car trails us through Franklin Canyon. Swift whips out her phone and starts showing me images from the video shoot for “Wildest Dreams,” including a clip of a giraffe licking her face. She has more photos on her phone than any person I’ve ever met. “I wanted this video to be about the making of a 1950s movie being filmed on location in Africa,” she explains. Swift came up with the concept after reading a book by Ava Gardner and Peter Evans, The Secret Conversations. Her premise for the video (co-starring Clint Eastwood’s son) is that—since social media did not exist in the ’50s—it would be impossible for actors not to fall in love if they were isolated together in Africa, since there would be no one else to talk to.