Ayesha Khurram has been a Taylor Swift fan for nearly half her life. The 20-year-old Toronto resident started her first Swift fan page when she was 11. So it goes without saying that she was pretty excited on Monday night when her idol stepped in to help with her with university expenses.
“I’m still trying to process it,” Khurram told HuffPost Canada. “It’s insane.”
Khurram is studying accounting and financial management at the University of Waterloo, about two hours west of Toronto. Last semester her tuition was fully covered by Ontario’s student loan program, but this year she realized she was about $2,000 short of the money she needed for school. She also had to cover rent in Waterloo.
“I realized in total, just for the semester, I would be around $5,000 short,” she said.
Her parents were looking at taking out loans. But it wouldn’t be easy, Khurram explained, as they both work minimum wage jobs and her mother has a chronic kidney condition.
So she did what many people do when something is bothering them. “You know how you vent online sometimes?” she said. “I just posted about not having enough funds.” Her outlet of choice was her Taylor Swift fan account on Tumblr. Khurram spends a lot of time on that account, she said, and she’s made a lot of online friends there.
One of her friends asked for her PayPal information, which she provided. “I’m honestly at that point where I can’t really refuse it,” she wrote.
Khurram left her computer to bake cookies. “I had no idea, but [Swift] was lurking my blog,” she said. She was in the middle of eating a cookie when she checked her email. “I was like, ‘Aww, someone was nice enough to send me money.’ And then I opened my email and it’s not someone, it’s Taylor Nation.”
Swift had sent her over $6,000, more than the money she needed. She added a personal message: “Ayesha, get your learn on girl. I love you!”
Khurram still can barely believe it happened, she said. “At first I was like, ‘What?’ And I’m still like, ‘What?’ It’s just a series of ‘What.’”
It actually wasn’t her first encounter with the singer, who Khurram says is “really involved” with the online fan community. Last year Swift’s team reached out — again via Tumblr — to invite her backstage at the Toronto stop of her tour.
Khurram couldn’t stop freaking out, she said, adding that Swift was really kind, telling her that she liked her page and thought she was really funny.
“When I was talking to her, I didn’t feel like I was talking to Taylor Swift, who could buy all of my body organs, I felt like I was talking to Taylor Swift, my best friend. That’s the kind of connection she builds with her fans.”
Swift has a history of being generous with her multimillion dollar net worth. (Last month Forbes called her “the world’s highest-paid celebrity,” with a pre-tax income of over $240 million in 2019.) This isn’t the first time she’s helped a fan with tuition fees, and she’s helped others with medical bills.
She’s also had her fair share of both good and bad press on her current publicity tour for her new album “Lover,” which comes out at the end of August.
She landed the coveted cover of the September issue of Vogue, but her new music has received mixed reviews. She patched up her long-standing feud with Katy Perry, but started a new one with Scooter Braun, whose defenders include Justin Bieber, Sia and Demi Lovato. Her last album, “Reputation,” was a self-conscious look at image and publicity.
With Khurram, who’s already been a fan for most of her life, it’s clear Swift has engendered the kind of loyalty — and social media savvy — that will last. When asked what her favourite Swift song is, Khurram points to one that hasn’t actually been released yet.
″‘Lover,’ her new single, comes out this Friday, and I can’t wait to stream it. It might just be my new favourite song,” she said. “Everyone should stream it.”