Earlier this month, NYC & Company announced that Taylor Swift would be the New York City Global Welcome Ambassador for 2014-2015. People are pissed, and I'm not so sure why.
I'm not exactly certain what the job description or criteria for a "global welcome ambassador" is (nor certain if there was ever one before TSwift), but apparently there are a lot of folks who don't think that Taylor Swift fits the bill for a number of reasons - the most obvious one being that she is not originally from New York. But then again, how many people these days are pure born and bred New Yorkers?
Having lived in New York City for the last four years, I've found it a rarity to meet people who are originally from here. When meeting new people, one question that is almost guaranteed to come up in conversation is "Where are you from?" (insert my constant internal dilemma of how to answer this question -- you mean, where my parents are from? where I grew up? where I live now? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!) New York City is filled with so many people who aren't necessarily from here, but who are making it here.
Not all of us have moved into a $20M Tribeca apartment like Taylor Swift, but who cares -- my five-story walk-up tells the same story. It's a story of someone who has always been fascinated by the lights and sounds of New York City and always believed (even before stepping foot in this country) that it's a place where dreams come true (blame it on movies and TV shows). It's the same story as all the others who moved from home to chase a dollar and a dream: the actress, the dancer, the hustler, the chef, the artist, the entrepreneur, the singer, the lost, the bored. They're all here and they're all a part of what makes New York City exactly what it is - a melting pot of diversity and dreams.
In saying someone isn't fit to represent New York City, it sends a message that New York City is unwelcoming, selective, limiting. I love this place for the way it has enabled and embraced me; I love it even more when I see it doing the same for others around me who aren't originally from here. Taylor Swift's big song as part of this whole campaign is called "Welcome to New York." The song even says, "It's been waiting for you." But between you and me, I think the lyric should be changed to "You've been waiting for it."
Taylor Swift has been waiting for it, and now that she's here -- she's taking ownership of it. She's putting her budding romance with New York City on display, publicizing their incompatibility while celebrating their differences and thus adding to the cultural fabric of this city. Who are we to fault her for that?
It's interesting to juxtapose this with the situation of many Pilipino first-settlers who come to the US, who (when finally here) celebrate their arrivals quietly - never wanting to attract attention to themselves, keeping their cultural practices and traditions behind closed doors, and sticking to their own little Pilipino communities - a true detriment, in my opinion. How else would the Pilipino identity and presence be seen and heard here if we all failed to assert ourselves in a land that's not ours among people who aren't like us? Okay -- that kinda got deep, but moral of the story is: Taylor Swift's not a New Yorker, but she's adding to the Big Apple's flavor, and it's time we took a bite and moved on.
New York City is just as much Taylor Swift's as anyone else's to claim. And if you don't agree, then please tell me why the Statue of Liberty gets to be the symbol of American independence and freedom when she wasn't even made in America?
Photo credit: taylorswift.com