Taylor Swift Writes Fan A Check For Student Debt

Superstar Taylor Swift sent an impressive post-Christmas gift to one of her fans, Rebekah Bortniker. Bortniker, who lives in Kansas, received a package from Swift that included wrapped gifts such as a necklace and a clutch purse–and inside the purse was a check for $1,989, to help Bortniker pay off her student debt. It came out that Bortniker had written to Swift and mentioned that she had a lot of stress due to her student loan debts. A note accompanying the check read “Now you are $1,989 closer to paying off your student loan.”

Bortniker has posted a video on YouTube about this titled “Opening my gifts from? Taylor” and it shows her unwrapping the gifts, while bursting into tears a few times. Off-screen a friend talks with Bortniker and tapes her going through the many gifts. Bortniker also posted a story about this experience on Tumblr.

The amount $1,989 is a reference to Swift’s latest hit album 1989, as well as to the year in which Swift was born.

While Taylor Swift is not the only top-name performer to make charitable contributions, this is an unusually personalized gift and touches upon certain issues and trends. Certainly it links to charitable giving, and performers such as Elton John, Angelina Jolie, Bono, Oprah Winfrey and others have been documented as far as their large donations of money and time.

This incident, via the YouTube video, is also reminiscent of “Unboxing” and “Unwrapping” videos, in which we see people removing various consumer goods from their packaging. However, those videos often feature only the hands of the person doing the unpackaging.

There is also the relationship of celebrity to fan that plays out here. Some celebrities are known to be friendly with their fan base and passers-by, while others do not interact or even act cold or rude to average folks. In this case, Swift shows herself to be rather kind because she singled out someone for gifting with specific things the person would desire.

Is Swift particularly adept at this kind of receptive behavior? Does she have time on her hands, or is it that she truly enjoys making a fan’s wishes come true?

Occasionally we learn about other celebrities who give something to fans that is particularly geared to their experience. Back in 2011 Tom Fenton, best known for portraying Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, had pizza pies delivered to fans at New York City’s Lincoln Center, during the American film premiere of the final film in the series.

Will other celebrities, especially those who are young, follow Swift’s example so that we will hear more stories of stars granting gifts? Will other stars realize value of being role models in this mode? Or is this savvy marketing on the part of Swift? After all, she must have assumed that this story would be made public, and the monetary amount is keyed into her latest album. I would like to think the best of this story, and think the best of Swift’s motives.

Here is a snippet of the video of Rebekah and her gift:


Ellen Levitt is the author of The Lost Synagogues of Brooklyn (2009), The Lost Synagogues of the Bronx and Queens (2011) and The Lost Synagogues of Manhattan (2013), all published by Avotaynu. She is a lifelong New Yorker, a veteran public school teacher, writer and photographer. Bird lover as well.