Everything You Need to Know About Taylor Swift's 'You Need to Calm Down' Video, Easter Eggs & Pride Theme
By Leena Tailor
Taylor Swift / YouTube
Taylor Swift wasn’t kidding when she said there’s “a lot going on” in her latest music video, for new single “You Need to Calm Down.” But fear not -- ET is breaking down all the must-know details from the colorful, pride-celebrating, celebrity-soaked video! From the Easter eggs to the celebrity links, here’s everything Swifties need to know.
From Hollywood hunk Ryan Reynolds to drag queen RuPaul, ET has learned that Swift personally reached out to each celebrity to ask them whether they would join the project. Here are all the stars to watch out for, in order of appearance:
Mayfield is a plus-size model and dancer who did his first fashion show in 2015 and has since became a viral hit. He opened up about being a plus-size man in the modeling industry during a 2017 interview with Mic. “Plus [-size] women have had that platform, and a few of my plus sisters in drag have been able to get that platform, but no one with a male aesthetic has had that opportunity,” he said.
Hart is a comedian, author, actress and internet personality who is best known for My Drunk Kitchen, a weekly series on YouTube -- in which she cooks while drunk!
Known for her role as Sophia Burset on Netflix’s Orange is The New Black, Cox is a proud LGBTQ advocate and was the first transgender individual to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Fun fact: Cox presented Swift with the award for Top Billboard 200 Album (for 1989) at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.
Lockhart is a singer and actor who has worked closely with Swift’s pal and co-director, Todrick Hall, on over 300 projects, including Hall's MTV reality series, Todrick, and VH1’s Rupaul's Drag Race.
Todrick Hall Hall is an American performer, singer-songwriter, YouTuber, actor, director and choreographer who gained attention after his YouTube covers and mash-ups went viral. He also made it into the semifinals of season nine of American Idol and is preparing to head on tour this fall. Fun fact: Swift first reached out to Hall after watching his YouTube mashup of her songs. The pair became close pals, with Hall appearing in her “Look What You Made Me Do” video. He co-directed “You Need to Calm Down” with the songstress.
Dubbed the "Lesbian Jesus" by her fans, Kiyoko is an American singer-songwriter and actress, who has appeared in Scooby-Doo! The Mystery Begins, founded a musical group called The Stunners and has dedicated many of her songs to highlighting issues affecting LGBTQ individuals. Fun fact: Kiyoko received backlash for a comment she made in 2018 about artists like Swift predominantly singing about men. Swift defended Kiyoko and the pair become friends, with Swift bringing Kiyoko on stage to help her sing “Curious” during her Reputation Stadium Tour.
A musician, model and dancer, Ciara’s latest single is the upbeat “Set,” and she also frequently makes the headlines with her high-profile marriage to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, with whom she welcomed a daughter, Sienna, in 2017. She also has a son, Future, from a previous relationship with rapper Future. In the video, Ciara officiates a same-sex wedding between Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his real-life husband, Justin Mikita. Fun fact: Ciara and Swift have long supported each other’s music careers, with Swift bringing Ciara and Wilson onstage during her 1989 tour. Swift also encouraged Swifties to check out Ciara’s latest album, Beauty Marks, while Ciara jumped to the “You Need to Calm Down” video’s defense shortly after it went live. After one hater declared on Instagram that Ciara was committing a “greater sin” by officiating a gay wedding in the video, she replied, “Firstly, Christians don't judge. Secondly, #YouNeedToCalmDown. And that, ladies and gents, is the very essence of what this song is about.”
Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Justin Mikita
Ferguson is a 43-year-old Emmy-nominated actor who plays Mitchell on Modern Family. He is a strong advocate for LGBQT rights, having founded the Tie the Knot bow tie company to raise awareness of LGBQT equality in 2012; married Mikita in 2013; and flown to New Zealand to attend one of the nation’s first, legal same-sex weddings on-board an Air New Zealand flight in 2017. Fun fact: Swift recently pulled off a surprise performance of Ferguson’s favorite karaoke song, her hit “Shake It Off” at The Stonewall Inn -- an iconic New York gay bar where Ferguson was headlining.
Rippon is a 29-year-old Olympic figure skater who also appeared on Dancing With the Stars: Athletes, winning the Mirrorball Trophy with dance partner Jenna Johnson in 2018.
Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness
The fab five are part of Netflix’s reboot of the popular Queer Eye show, which features the style experts dishing out makeovers. Fun fact: Porowski is a super Swiftie! He gushed about Swift’s 1989 record during a 2018 interview with NME, saying, “There was something very fun and poppy about it!”
Lambert was the season eight runner up on American Idol and has gone on to become both an LGBQT icon and a force in the music industry, having collaborated with Queen since 2011. He’s also pals with Swift.
Talk show queen DeGeneres teased her cameo in the video during her latest interview with Swift on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. “I think you said you wanted me in [your music video],” DeGeneres said, to which Swift responded, “Yeah, I mean, that would be a dream. Would you… wanna do that?” DeGeneres replied, “I don’t know… but I’ll think about it for sure… yeah… OK.” Fun fact: DeGeneres hilariously parodied Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” video in 2017.
Porter is a Broadway performer, singer, writer and actor who is best known for his leading role as Pray Tell on the FX dramedy Pose.
Drag Queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race
The contestants feature in the Emmy-winning series that sees drag queens competing for the title of America's Next Drag Superstar.
RuPaul Andre Charles
Known simply as RuPaul, the American drag queen, actor, model, singer, songwriter and television personality has produced and hosted RuPaul’s Drag Race since 2009.
The 34-year-old chart-topper dons the same burger suit she wore to the 2019 Met Gala in the video, accompanied by Swift dressing up as fries. The two have made many feuding headlines over the years, but now appear to have made amends.
Ryan Reynolds The Green Lantern star and his actress wife, Blake Lively, are friends and fans of Swift, having attended the Reputation Stadium Tour, where Lively danced the night away and excitedly filmed “Gorgeous,” a track that features the voice of the couple’s daughter James. Fun fact: Swift is a huge fan of Reynold’s film alterego, Deadpool, having borrowed his film costume to dress up as the character for Halloween. She even scored her cats a cameo in Deadpool 2.
THE EASTER EGGS
Swift loves Easter eggs, and the songstress didn’t disappoint with all of these possible nods and clues:
DeGeneres is seen getting the words “Cruel Summer” tattooed onto her arm by Lambert. Cruel Summer is the title of a compilation album released by Kanye West’s record label, G.O.O.D. Music, in 2012. Swift and West have a long history of well-publicized drama, leading fans to question whether the scene is a dig at West. Some fans are also suspecting that “Cruel Summer” might be the title of a song on Swift’s upcoming album. It’s also the name of a track by British girl group Bananarama.
Swift makes an apparent nod to music legend Cher with a painting reading, “Mom, I am a rich man.” The line is from a 1996 interview with Jane Pauley, in which Cher recounted her mom telling her, “You know, sweetheart, one day you should settle down and marry a rich man,” to which she replied, “Mom, I am a rich man.”
In the video, Swift’s watch has the number 1 replaced by 13. When fans started discussing the time on social media, Swift responded, "BC QUEENS CAN DO THIBGS LIKE CHANGE THE WORLD CLOCK A APPARENTLY!!” Swift also salutes her well-known loves for felines with the watch, which has a picture of a cat.
Rippon appears to pay tribute to his career on the ice rink by selling ice-filled Sno-Cones in the video.
Swift’s phone case says “Lover,” which is the name of her upcoming new album scheduled to be released on Aug. 23.
Swift is shown with a large back tattoo of a snake evolving into a bunch of butterflies. Fans are speculating that this could be a reference to Kim Kardashian previously appearing to refer to Swift as a “snake” and that the butterflies possibly represent Swift experiencing a metamorphosis. A similar image was featured in her "ME!" video and could also represent her transition from the snake-themed Reputation era to a perhaps lighter and happier Lover era.
The fabulous flamingos on Cox’s lawn may be an old Christmas gift! Swift previously posted about “interesting Christmas presents” she has received from her dad on social media, along with a photo of outdoor flamingo decorations.
Kiyoko is seen hitting the number five bullseye, sparking talk that she could be featured on the album’s fifth track.
THE PRIDE REFERENCES
Swift’s video is perfectly timed to coincide with Pride Month, and features numerous nods to LGBQT equality, including:
A rainbow theme, including flags, rooftops, outfits and hair.
Same-sex marriage is highlighted with Ferguson and Mikita reenacting their nuptials.
Drag queens channel famous musicians in a pageant line up on the stage, with Trinity the Tuck as Lady Gaga, Delta Work as Adele, A'keria Davenport as Nicki Minaj, Adore Delano as Katy Perry, Tatianna as Ariana Grande, Trinity K. Bonet as Cardi B and Jade Jolie as Swift.
The video concludes with a call to action, encouraging viewers to sign a petition supporting equality. The screen reads: “Let's show our pride demanding that, on a national level, our laws truly treat all of our citizens equally. Please sign my petition for Senate support of the Equality Act on change.org."