By Alexandra Mondalek
In the age of social media ubiquity, celebrity fan clubs look more like popular Twitter and Instagram pages that utilize by-the-second updates on a celebrity’s life to rack up followers in the thousands, and sometimes even millions.
Typically, celebrity fan accounts focus on the star whose lives they idolize, not the account owner’s personal life or political inclinations. Breaking that mold is @LegitTayUpdates, the Twitter account with a 15,000-person-and-counting following run by an Israeli woman identified as “N” in effort to protect her identity. The Taylor Swift fan account purports to be a parody of similar, more sincere fan accounts which seek to update Swifties on the singer’s every move. The account is not actually connected to Taylor herself in any way, but it recently exploded on Twitter for a surprising reason: N says her account hadn’t been active in recent months because she’d been serving a prison sentence for refusing to enlist in Israel’s army — the Israeli Defense Force — which is legally required for all Israelis.
“As most of you know, I haven't been very active in the past couple of months because I was in prison :/ I'm back now though :) more Taylor Swift updates coming soon!” N tweeted on April 2, breaking what appears to be a bout of inactivity on Twitter beginning in late February of this year.
Soon after N posted the tweet, a venerable force of Twitter users engaged with the update, racking up thousands of retweets and countless screenshot reactions.
Prior to the post, N’s feed included commentary such as updates regarding Swift’s upcoming performances, and the singer’s much-discussed public friendships with other celebrities. While most of the tweets on the page @LegitTayUpdates oscillated between gushing and informative, none appeared to veer into political commentary, especially not those of N herself.
N told Teen Vogue that she’d started the account in the first place as a parody (which is perhaps why some Twitter users suspected the declaration of imprisonment was a hoax), but eventually decided to stick with it, in part because “coming up with updates makes me have to stretch my creative muscles.”
“Sometimes [my tweets] are not well-received, which is fine (I do mess up sometimes, I'm a big enough person to admit that), but often they're just little jokes or harmless pranks,” she added, referring to jokes on her page that to the hardcore Swift fan are obvious, but to less informed followers may appear to be sincere. (One tweet, in which N suggests Karlie Kloss and Taylor Swift are no longer best friends, could be seen as misinformation instead of sarcasm, for those who aren’t aware of the fact that both Kloss and Swift have defended their friendship publicly.)
“I've tried to make sure [the account is] not malicious or makes people feel stupid, but I sometimes miss the mark,” N added to Teen Vogue. “But if I have this platform already I'd like apologize for times I posted something that wasn't okay. I'm still learning!”
N, who says she is 19 years old and served a two-month prison sentence, told the Jerusalem Post, “Once a screenshot of my tweet went viral, everything just sort of exploded. People have reached out for more info, (former) friends of mine have blocked me and berated me for using my time as a ‘tool for attention,’ people have offered my jobs, money, drinks, tours in their country, marriage…”
Although some Israelis may be eligible for exemption from serving in the IDF, she did not seek to receive such an exemption herself, preferring to refuse enlistment instead. “I didn’t get a moral waver [sic] because they proved I wasn’t a true pacifist (I told them I’d punch a Nazi),” N explained in a tweet that has since gone viral. “And you can’t choose to do National Service for no reason, you have to get a waver [sic]. I wasn’t gonna get married or turn Orthodox to get a waver [sic], so I did the time. As is the (f*cked up) law.” The Jerusalem Post notes that it could not independently verify her story. MTV News has also reached out to N for comment.
Though N says she served her two-month sentence, the consequences of her original decision to refuse to enlist did not end once she re-entered civilian life, she explained to Teen Vogue. “What I'm really worried about are the implications of my prison time. I'll have a hard time finding work in Israel because I didn't enlist, and my decision did put a strain on my relationships with family and friends, particularly those in the IDF.”
With her newly popular platform, N tweeted (on her other Twitter account, @iknowplacesmp6) that she’d rather those who enjoy her political candor to instead direct their support towards the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, a non-governmental organization with volunteer medical professionals in the Middle East.
“I’ve just been trying to make sure the focus is on Palestine and helping them, as well as spreading info while still protecting my own identity,” she stressed to the Jerusalem Post.
In other words: “Being politically complacent is trash behavior let's always learn new shit it's not that hard.”