From Zero to Hero – Taylor Swift’s Life in Photos

As Taylor Swift releases her Eras Tour movie, take a look back at her musical ‘eras’ through the years

Kelsie Gibson is the SEO Editor of PEOPLE Digital. Since joining the brand in 2021, she has contributed to a number of different verticals, writing and editing SEO content ranging from relationship timelines to TV and movie explainers. Prior to joining PEOPLE, Kelsie worked at POPSUGAR as the Celebrity and Entertainment editor, where she wrote and edited content and conducted various interviews for online and video at press junkets, red carpets, and events such as Tribeca Film Festival. She was also formerly at Bustle, Tiger Beat, and Her Campus and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Taylor Swift has cemented herself as one of the biggest names in music.

The singer first stepped onto the music scene with her debut single “Tim McGraw” in 2006, and has released 10 hit albums since. Additionally, she has released three re-recorded albums as she attempts to regain control of her masters (with her latest 1989 (Taylor’s Version) set to be released in October 2023).

In addition to gaining critical acclaim as an artist and performer, Swift has been recognized for her incredible songwriting, with countless awards under her belt, including 12 Grammy wins.

Recently, Swift put her entire music catalog on display with her successful Eras Tour, which was recently documented with a concert film.

From her debut album to now, take a look back at Swift’s life in photos ahead.
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Taylor Swift’s Childhood Years

Taylor Swift as a baby. TAYLOR SWIFT/INSTAGRAM
Taylor Swift was born on Dec. 13, 1989, in West Reading, Pennsylvania, to parents Scott and Andrea Swift. Along with her brother, Austin, who was born in March 1992, she spent her early childhood growing up on a Christmas tree farm, which she later penned a holiday song about, titled “Christmas Tree Farm.”

Swift developed an interest in music at a very young age, but it wasn’t until she was 12 that she developed an interest in songwriting. After learning how to play guitar from a local repairman, Swift wrote one of her first songs, “Lucky You.”

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Taylor Swift’s Early Career

By the time Swift was 13, she was making frequent trips to Nashville with her mother to get a record deal. Eventually, the Swift family relocated to Hendersonville, Tennessee, so that Swift could pursue her music career.

After working on her craft with fellow songwriters in Nashville, Swift got her big break when she performed at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe in 2005, catching the attention of Scott Borchetta, who later signed her to his independent record label, Big Machine Records.

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Taylor Swift’s First Single, “Tim McGraw”

Faith Hill, Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw. KEVIN WINTER/ACMA/GETTY
On June 19, 2006, Swift released her debut single, “Tim McGraw,” named after the country singer of the same name who was one of Swift’s favorite artists at the time.

Swift wrote the song in math class during her freshman year at Hendersonville High School about her senior boyfriend who she knew would be leaving for college soon.

The single peaked at No. 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 6 on Hot Country Songs and put Swift on the map as a country artist.

In May 2007, Swift sang the song in front of McGraw and Faith Hill at the Academy of Country Music Awards, ending the performance by shaking his hand and saying, “Hi, I’m Taylor,” before giving McGraw a hug.

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Taylor Swift’s Debut Era

Taylor Swift in 2007. ETHAN MILLER/GETTY
On the heels of her hit single, Swift kept the momentum going with her debut, self-titled album, Taylor Swift, which was released in the United States and Canada on Oct. 24, 2006, and internationally on March 18, 2008.

With the album, she released five singles, including “Our Song,” which she originally wrote for her high school talent show. As the song reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs, Swift (who was 17 at the time) became the youngest person to singlehandedly write and sing a No. 1 song on the chart.

In promotion of the album, she toured with some of the biggest names in country music, including opening for Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s joint tour.

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Taylor Swift’s Award Show Recognition

Swift’s debut album quickly brought her award show recognition, including a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2008 Grammys. Additionally, she won various country music awards, including the Country Music Association’s Horizon Award for best new artist.

While receiving the honor from Carrie Underwood on stage, Swift (who was a senior in high school at the time) thanked her fans for “changing her life” before jokingly adding, “This is definitely the highlight of my senior year.”
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Taylor Swift’s Fearless Era

Taylor Swift on the Fearless Tour. JASON KEMPIN/GETTY
In September 2008, Swift transitioned into her Fearless era as she released the album’s lead single “Love Story,” which she wrote on her bedroom floor in approximately 20 minutes.

The full album was released months later on Nov. 11, 2008. Like her debut album, Fearless was largely inspired by Swift’s high school experiences, including “Fifteen” and “You Belong with Me,” however, it did feature one song inspired by her current love life.

Just before Fearless was mastered and published, Swift added the last song on the album, “Forever & Always,” inspired by her short-lived romance with Jonas Brothers singer Joe Jonas.

That same year, Swift went on her first headlining concert tour, titled the Fearless Tour, in support of the album. The tour included more than 100 shows and featured Kellie Pickler, Gloriana and Justin Bieber as supporting acts.

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Taylor Swift’s First MTV VMA

Taylor Swift and Kanye West at the 2009 VMAs. PHOTO BY JEFF KRAVITZ / FILMMAGIC
With the release of her second album, Swift continued to gain popularity in country music as well as mainstream music. In addition to winning awards at the American Music Awards and being named Billboard’s artist of the year in 2009, Swift was awarded her very first MTV VMA, taking home best female video for “You Belong With Me.”

However, while giving her acceptance speech at the VMAs, Swift was infamously interrupted by Kanye West, who proclaimed, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you, I’ma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time!”

Swift later revealed to Variety that the moment was a real turning point for her and “burrowed into my psyche more than anyone knew.”

“As a teenager who had only been in country music, attending my very first pop awards show, somebody stood up and sent me the message: ‘You are not respected here. You shouldn’t be here on this stage,’ ” Swift told the magazine.

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Taylor Swift’s First Grammy Wins

Taylor Swift at the 2010 Grammys. DAN MACMEDAN/WIREIMAGE
Swift continued her award season streak as she won big at the 52nd Grammy Awards in 2010. In addition to winning her first Grammy for best female country vocal performance for “White Horse,” she also took home best country song for “White Horse,” best country album for Fearless and album of the year for Fearless. With the latter award, Swift became the youngest artist at the time to win album of the year.

“My dad and my little brother are losing their minds in the living room right now,” Swift said in her album of the year speech. “This is the story all of us, when we are 80 years old, and we are telling the same stories over and over again to our grandkids, and they’re so annoyed with us — this is the story we’re gonna be telling over and over again, in 2010, that we got to win album of the year at the GRAMMYs.”

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Taylor Swift’s Acting Debut

Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus. DISNEY/KOBAL/SHUTTERSTOCK
During her Fearless era, Swift also began to act in various films. In 2009, she made her acting debut in Hannah Montana: The Movie, for which she also wrote two songs. The following year, she appeared in the star-studded cast of Valentine’s Day, playing the love interest of Taylor Lautner, whom she would go on to date in real life.

Additionally, she made appearances on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Saturday Night Live, the latter of which she served as the musical guest and host for the first time in 2009.

At the time, she was the first SNL host ever to write their own opening monologue, penning a spoof song “Monologue Song” which poked fun at various headlines about her, including her breakup with Jonas, romance with Lautner and VMAs moment with West.

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Taylor Swift’s Speak Now Era

Taylor Swift on the Speak Now tour. LARRY BUSACCA/GETTY
In August 2010, Swift began her Speak Now era as she released the album’s lead single “Mine.” The song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 2. on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

Amid criticism about her songwriting abilities, Swift wrote every single song on the third album alone. A loose concept album about the times she wishes she had spoken up, Swift previously teased to Songwriter Universe magazine that each song is meant to serve as “a different confession to a different person.”

The album, released on Oct. 25, 2010, included many different songs about her life in the spotlight, including songs about her relationships with John Mayer, Lautner and Jonas as well as the infamous 2009 VMAs incident between her and West through the song “Innocent.”

The album received critical acclaim, including best country song and best country solo performance for “Mean” at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards in 2012.

Following the album’s release, Swift embarked on the Speak Now World Tour in 2011 and 2012, which received rave reviews for her visuals and performances.

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Taylor Swift’s Red Era

Taylor Swift on the Red tour. SCOTT BARBOUR/TAS/GETTY
In August 2012, Swift entered her Red era as she released the lead single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” The single debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 72 and before reaching No. 1 the following week.

Red was released on Oct. 22, 2012, and explored the “red” emotions Swift experienced while creating the album. Additionally, the album saw Swift experiment more with pop music as she collaborated with new producers, including Max Martin and Shellback.

Notably, Swift was praised for her songwriting on the album, including “All Too Well,” which has become a fan-favorite among fans despite never being a single. The album also received award recognition, including a nomination for album of the year at the 2014 Grammy Awards, though she lost out to Daft Punk for Random Access Memories.

A year after the album’s release, Swift embarked on The Red Tour, which included Ed Sheeran as the opening act, who collaborated with Swift on the Red song “Everything Has Changed.” The song and tour marked the beginning of Swift and Sheeran’s longtime friendship.

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Taylor Swift’s 1989 Era

Taylor Swift on the 1989 tour. JEFF VINNICK/GETTY
Swift’s fifth studio album, 1989, was a major transitional moment for the singer. Inspired by her move to New York City and her desire to expand her horizons as an artist, Swift decided to leave behind country music and make 1989 a fully-fledged pop album.

During a live stream via Yahoo! sponsored by ABC News in August 2014, Swift announced the details of 1989 and debuted the first single, “Shake It Off,” about the singer “shaking off” the naysayers of her career and personal life.

The album was released on Oct. 27, 2014, and notably included producers such as Max Martin, Shellback and Ryan Tedder. After working together on the song “Sweater Than Fiction,” 1989 also marked her first album with Jack Antonoff as a producer; the two would go on to collaborate on many other projects.

Though Swift’s record label at the time was skeptical about her releasing a full pop album, 1989 defied expectations, receiving high praise from critics and various awards. Notably, the album received album of the year (Swift’s second time winning the honor) and best pop vocal album at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

In 2015, Swift kicked off her 1989 World Tour, which included numerous celebrity guests, including Selena Gomez, Justin Timberlake, Nick Jonas and more.

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Taylor Swift’s Hiatus From the Spotlight

Taylor Swift at the 2016 Met Gala. MIKE COPPOLA/GETTY
During her 1989 era, Swift made peace with West, publicly presenting him with MTV’s Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards in August 2015. However, their mended friendship took a turn when West released his song “Famous” featuring a dig at Swift, saying, “I made that b—- famous.”

What ensued was a back-and-forth between Swift, West and his then-wife Kim Kardashian, with the latter later releasing edited clips of a phone call in which West and Swift discussed the song’s lyrics.

At the time, Swift’s rep told PEOPLE, “Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyrics, ‘I made that bitch famous.’ ” However, the Internet immediately seemed to side with the reality star, and #KimExposedTaylorParty started trending.

Amid the trying time in her life, which Swift later described as an apocalyptic summer, the singer took a hiatus from the spotlight.

“Nobody physically saw me for a year,” Swift said in her Miss Americana documentary. “That’s what I thought they wanted. I had to deconstruct an entire belief system, toss it out and reject it. It woke me up from constantly feeling I was fighting for people’s respect. It was happiness without anyone else’s input.”

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Taylor Swift’s Reputation Era

Taylor Swift on the Reputation tour. CHRISTOPHER POLK/TAS18/GETTY
After going completely silent for a year, Swift shocked fans when she wiped all of her social media profiles clean and posted a three-part video of a snake hissing, a reference to what people called her amid the West and Kardashian fallout.

On Aug. 23, 2017, she officially returned from her hiatus to announce “Look What You Made Me Do,” the lead single for her sixth album, Reputation. The song’s music video, which was riddled with clever Easter eggs throughout, was released shortly after at the MTV VMAs.

Reputation was released on Nov. 10, 2017, and had widespread success, becoming the best-selling album by a female artist of 2017. In addition to documenting tabloid scrutiny surrounding her career and life, it also documented Swift’s time away from the spotlight, including falling for English actor Joe Alwyn.

The following year, Swift embarked on her Reputation Stadium Tour, which broke countless records at the time, including becoming the third highest-grossing female concert tour of all time and the highest-grossing tour ever in the United States and North America.

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Taylor Swift’s Lover Era

Taylor Swift at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. KEVIN MAZUR/GETTY
After leaving Big Machine Records, Swift Swift signed a new deal with the Universal Music Group in November 2018, which included a provision for her to maintain ownership of her masters.

In April 2019, Swift kickstarted her Lover era with the release of her lead single “Me!” featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. The song’s music video, which also featured Urie, included many Easter eggs throughout such as clues about her upcoming singles and the album’s title.

On Aug. 23, 2019, Swift released Lover, which marked the first album she owned the masters to. Lover was a complete contrast to Reputation, as Swift opted for more light-hearted songs about her personal life. Additionally, the album saw Swift write about political issues for the first time such as LGBT rights and feminism in “You Need to Calm Down” and “The Man.”

During her Lover era, Swift also released a Netflix documentary titled Miss Americana, which chronicled the creation of the Lover album and documented her evolution as an artist.

In support of the album, Swift planned to embark on a worldwide festival titled Lover Fest in 2020, however, it was officially canceled in February 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Taylor Swift’s Artist of the Decade Honor

Taylor Swift at the 2019 American Music Awards. KEVIN MAZUR/AMA2019/GETTY
In 2019, Swift received the high honor of Artist of the Decade at the American Music Awards. Ahead of receiving the award, Swift put on a show-stopping performance where she performed a medley of her biggest hits.

“When I fell in love with music, it was right around the time I realized how marvelous it was that an artist could transcend so many phases and changes in people’s lives. You taught me that that’s a possibility,” Swift said during her speech.

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Taylor Swift’s Folklore and Evermore Era

Taylor Swift at the 63rd Grammy Awards. TAS RIGHTS MANAGEMENT 2021 VIA GETTY
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift released two surprise albums: Folklore on July 24, and Evermore on Dec. 11, 2020. The albums, which Swift has referred to as “sister albums,” saw Swift explore indie folk and alternative rock music. They also saw Swift experiment with her songwriting, as she wrote about characters and fictional narratives, instead of her usual autobiographical tone.

In addition to working with Antonoff on the album, Swift also collaborated with Aaron Dessner from The National and her then-boyfriend Alwyn, who co-wrote and co-produced select songs under the pseudonym William Bowery.

Both albums received widespread acclaim from critics, with Folklore winning album of the year at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards in 2021. The award was a historic moment for Swift as she became the first woman in Grammy history to win album of the year three times.

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Taylor Swift’s Fight for Her Masters

During her Lover era, Swift found herself in a public dispute with talent manager Scooter Braun and Big Machine Records over the purchase of the masters of her first six albums. In an attempt to regain control of her masters, Swift publicly announced in August 2019 that she planned to re-record her first six albums.

Swift kept good on her promise, releasing Fearless (Taylor’s Version) in April 2021, Red (Taylor’s Version) in November 2021 and Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) in July 2023. She is also set to release 1989 (Taylor’s Version) in October 2023. In addition to re-recorded versions of her original songs, each album also features vault tracks, a.k.a. previously unreleased songs from those musical eras.

Her re-recorded albums have received widespread acclaim. Notably, Red (Taylor’s Version) received critical praise as Swift released the 10-minute version of her hit song “All Too Well,” The song was also accompanied by a short film, which won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video.

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Taylor Swift’s Honorary Doctorate

In May 2022, Swift added yet another accolade to her lengthy resume: doctor. While delivering the New York University 2022 commencement address at Yankee Stadium, Swift received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the university.

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Taylor Swift’s Midnights Era

Taylor Swift at the 2022 VMAs. GOTHAM/WIREIMAGE
Amid her re-recordings, Swift made the surprise announcement that she would be releasing her 10th studio album, Midnights, at the 2022 MTV VMAs.

The album, which was released on Oct. 21, 2022, was inspired by various “sleepless nights” in Swift’s life, tackling topics such as anxiety, self-criticism and more. Following Folklore and Evermore, the album also saw Swift return to her autobiographical tone in her songwriting, documenting various eras of her career and personal life.

The lead single, “Anti-Hero,” was a smash success, eventually becoming her longest-running No. 1 hit. The album itself also broke records, earning the title of the most-streamed album in a single day in Spotify’s history.

In addition to the release of Midnights, Swift also released a deluxe version of the album titled Midnights (3am Edition) as well as Midnights – Til Dawn Edition, which included a “Karma” remix with Ice Spice and an alternate version of “Snow on the Beach” featuring Lana Del Rey.

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Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour

Having released four new albums in the past few years (as well as various re-recorded albums), Swift went for a brand-new concept as she embarked on her next tour. Paying tribute to her past 10 albums, Swift announced the Eras Tour in November 2022.

Swift officially embarked on the tour in March 2023, performing over three hours of music as she took fans through her past musical “eras.” The tour has received critical acclaim for its concept and production as well as Swift’s performance.

Amid her national tour, Swift released a concert film, titled Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, on Oct. 12, 2023. The film has already been met with widespread demand, breaking the record for the highest one-day ticket sales revenue for a single film at AMC before its release.

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