Niki Kelly: Swift’s life choices are fodder for role model attack. Don’t buy it.


I am not a Swiftie. I can’t name a single song by Taylor Swift besides “Shake It Off.” But a recent Newsweek column about her life choices has me infuriated.

John Mac Ghlionn opined that Swift is not a good role model. Why? Because she is 34, unmarried and childless.

“While Swift’s musical talent and business acumen are certainly admirable, even laudable, we must ask if her personal life choices are ones we want our sisters and daughters to emulate. This might sound like pearl-clutching preaching, but it’s a concern rooted in sound reasoning.”

Excuse me? I know this topic is off the beaten path for me, but that’s how much it stirred me.

This latest column is yet another example of how judgmental America has become. The world has changed since the Cleavers slept in separate beds. And I for one am glad that a woman can be a good role model whether she is a wife, a mother or neither.

My 25-year-old daughter is set to be married in just a few months and I am so incredibly happy for her. She was lucky enough to meet a wonderful, respectful man with common interests and humor.

But let’s be clear. If she hadn’t, I would still be proud of a young woman working hard and finding her own way in life. I don’t care if she is married or has kids one little bit.

Swift, a pop megastar and businesswoman, isn’t required to be a wife or mother to be a good role model. Everyone wants different things in life.

Let’s instead look at a person’s character when judging who is a role model.

Swift lost access to her first six albums when her contract expired, and she signed with a new recording studio. Most artists would have just moved on, but she re-recorded the songs that she wrote and owned. Her fans rallied around those versions.

Swift’s tour has been breaking records in every city. Her show literally is an economic boon to every city she visits.

But she also has donated to numerous important initiatives over the years, from food banks and libraries to paying off student loans and aiding tornado relief efforts. Just recently she gave around $5 million in bonuses to truck drivers on her tour.

Swift has also managed to avoid major scandals that beset other celebrities, such as drunk driving, drug use and harassment.

Over the years she has spoken up publicly about her struggle with an eating disorder and body image issues, advocating for mental health awareness.

So, she is generous, empathetic, works hard and speaks openly about struggles her fans might be facing on their own.

How is that not a role model?

Instead, the columnist focused on how many men she has dated. As long as people in relationships are open and upfront and treat each other with respect, good for them.

And if she finds the love we all hope to find, good for her. She deserves it. But that won’t make her more or less of a role model.

Niki Kelly is editor-in-chief of, where this commentary first appeared. She has covered Indiana politics and the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 for publications including the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.