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30th Jan 2023

Taylor Swift casts transgender man as her love interest in latest music video

Steve Hopkins

‘At a time when trans rights are increasingly under attack, this representation is major’

Taylor Swift is being lauded for featuring a transgender man as her love interest in a new music video that’s been dubbed “pop perfection”.

The ‘Lavender Haze’ video, written and directed by Swift, dropped Friday and features transgender male model Laith Ashley as her love interest. It has clocked up over 10 million views in three days.

The 26-year-old Dominican-American model kicked off his career with a Barney’s campaign – before taking to the catwalk for Gypsy Sport at New York Fashion Week – and made headlines as one of the first transgender male models to appear in a national campaign, Vogue noted.

In an early scene in the music video, Swift and Ashley are seen lying in bed together before she reveals a starry sky on his bare back.

Ashley is later seen cuddling with the 11-time Grammy-winning star at a party.

In a post debuting the video, Swift said she “absolutely adored working” with Ashley and in a later post said she hoped to convey a “sultry sleepless 70’s fever dream” with the video – the third from her ‘Midnights’ album.

Ashley also thanked Swift for casting him in the role, calling it “an experience I will never forget.”

He wrote on Instagram: “Thank you [Taylor Swift] for allowing me to play a small part in your story.

“You are brilliant and this is an experience I will never forget. It was truly magical.”

“Thank you for being an ally,” he added.

“Representation matters. And love will always win.”

Culture writer Ashley Spencer said the trans representation in the project is “major.”

“The love interest in Taylor Swift’s new Lavender Haze music video is trans model and artist Laith Ashley. At a time when trans rights are increasingly under attack, this representation is major.”

Mississippi Free Press editor Ashton Pittman wrote: “Taylor Swift hired a trans man of colour, Laith Ashley, to star alongside her as her love interest in her new music video for Lavender Haze. This comes at a time when powerful anti-trans forces worldwide are crusading against the very existence of trans people.”

Buzzfeed’s celebrity reporter Stephanie Soteriou said the move further challenges Swift’s reputation as a “poster girl for white, bigoted, republicans.”

“Taylor Swift has made a lot of political missteps in her career but casting a Dominican trans man as her love interest is commendable,” Soteriou wrote.

“Her country roots used to make her the poster girl for white, bigoted, republicans & you can’t underestimate the power of representation.”

Swift previously directed the music video for her song “You Need to Calm Down,” where she calls out critics of the LGBTQ community and references the Equality Act, a bill centred around banning LGBTQ discrimination.

Late last year Swift was forced to tweak the music video for her first single, ‘Anti-Hero’ after a backlash over the word ‘fat’ which some fans branded fatphobic.

The self-directed clip, released October 22, showed Swift being judged by an evil version of herself and included a scene where she is weighing herself.

The video cuts to a close-up of the scale, which reads ‘FAT’, before we see the twin shaking her head.

Swift said the video explored her “nightmare scenarios and intrusive thoughts”, but some fans said it went too far and was fatphobic.

While Swift didn’t comment on the controversy, the video was later altered on Apple Music. The close-up shot of Swift stepping onto the scale later became one continuous shot.

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