NEW YORK—Welcome to New York, Taylor Swift! The locals are kvetching about you already.
Swift’s new gig as New York City’s global welcome ambassador is getting a Bronx cheer (not that she knows what that is) from locals who questioned her street cred and mocked the videos she made for the city’s tourism agency, NYC & Company.
In the videos, she explains how to pronounce Houston Street (HOW-ston, not YOU-ston); defines “bodega” as a corner 24-hour store (though the bodega pictured looks spiffier than what most New Yorkers might think of as a bodega), and declares her love for the perfect latte.
“A latte is not like a slice of pizza, or a bagel,” declared a writer in the Village Voice. The Daily News called her appointment “absurd.” A Brooklyn city councilman, Jumaane D. Williams, asked in a tweet, “Of all the past/present talent and celebrities that are actually native NY’ers explain again why #TaylorSwift is our ambassador?” Others wondered why Jay Z, Jerry Seinfeld or J Lo weren’t tapped.
Even the unflappable anchor for the city’s 24-hour cable news station, NY1’s Pat Kiernan, expressed outrage, asking whether Swift knows who Dr. Zizmor is. (Zizmor is a dermatologist who’s advertised on the subway for years.)
But NYC & Company spokesman Chris Heywood defended Swift as the perfect choice for the city’s global ambassador.
“She is the No. 1 global pop star in the world right now,” he said in a phone interview Thursday. “She is a new New Yorker. She came to New York last spring. This is a new approach, all about the wonderment and excitement you have when you first come to New York City. To have this enthusiasm from a global superstar, who has given us her image and influence to promote New York City, is a gift. We are so grateful.”
Heywood noted that a previous NYC & Company campaign, “Just ask the locals,” used New Yorkers like Robert De Niro and Cynthia Nixon.
Swift was born and raised in Pennsylvania, moving to Nashville at age 14 to pursue country music. Last year she bought a $20 million apartment in Tribeca, a trendy downtown Manhattan neighbourhood. Her new album, “1989,” released Monday, is pure pop, marking a break with country.
Her appointment as global tourism ambassador coincided with the release of her single, “Welcome to New York,” which is on track to sell 1 million copies in a week. She plans to donate proceeds from the song to city public schools, and is not being paid for the ambassador stint.
Not everyone’s treating Swift the way the Red Sox are greeted by Yankee fans. The New York Post said in an editorial: “The Swift promotions are not aimed at New Yorkers. They’re aimed at people who live elsewhere. These are people who won’t sneer when Swift explains what a ‘stoop’ is or the right pronunciation of Houston Street.”
On “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon quipped, “How could we let a woman who’s not even from New York welcome people to the city?” adding in a French accent, “The Statue of Liberty said, ‘I know, it’s just crazy.”‘
Pauline Frommer, a born-and-raised New Yorker who wrote “Frommer’s EasyGuide to New York City,” acknowledged that immigrants make New York great, adding, “Taylor Swift is certainly one of our most talented new arrivals.” But she questioned how Swift could represent the city. “Would ‘carpetbagging’ be the right term here?”
Swift’s representative did not respond to a request for comment. But Swift told David Letterman she was chosen to promote the city because she couldn’t stop raving about New York as “the greatest place ever. I guess the city picked up on that, they’re like, ‘She’s the most enthusiastic, obnoxious person to ever love New York. She loves it with like 18 exclamation points.”‘