Who is Betty? An Official Taylor Swift Folklore Investigation

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images.

Taylor Swift's folklore is a reminder that when it comes to Swift, "stripped-down" doesn't at all mean "simplistic." 

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In her eighth studio album, the singer trades saturated pop anthems for a moody, alternative aesthetic that she herself describes as sad, beautiful, and tragic. And rather than a deeply personal snapshot of her own life and relationships, Swift has said that the album mixes fantasy and reality, and is rather based on the personal or fictionalised experiences of other people, from lovestruck teenagers to Swift's own grandfather.

"In isolation my imagination has run wild and this album is the result, a collection of songs and stories that flowed like a stream of consciousness," Swift wrote of folklore on Instagram. "Picking up a pen was my way of escaping into fantasy, history, and memory."

"I found myself not only writing my own stories, but also writing about or from the perspective of people I've never met, people I've known or those I wish I hadn't," Swift continues.

This has led fans to speculate who the inspiration for certain events or characters were taken from, namely one character in particular: Betty.

While answering questions live on YouTube during the premiere of "Cardigan", Swift said that she refers to three of the songs on folklore as the "Teenage Love Triangle" because depict a love affair from three different perspectives and from different times in their lives. Fans deduced that those three songs are "Cardigan," "Betty," and "August." And from those songs, Swiftie sleuths theorise "Cardigan" is from the perspective of Betty, who details her relationship with someone named James (it's also notable that James is likely a teenage girl, but more on that later). "Betty" is James' apology to Betty for cheating on her, and "August" is from the point of view of the person James cheated on Betty with one summer.

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Out of all the parties involved, Betty seems to be the mysterious figure intriguing fans the most — leading them to speculate that it's everyone from Swift herself, to the name of her newest cat, to Joe Alwyn's mum — and a few main theories have emerged.

"Betty" is Karlie Kloss

The highly publicised best friendship between supermodel Karlie Kloss and Swift burned bright for a long time, but seemed to fall off by 2019 for a number of reasons. Some speculated that the two women were even more than just friends — Kloss famously "snuck" into Swift's apartment and many think that Swift's song "Cornelia Street" is about Kloss as well. Fans of the "couple" theory were quick to point out that Kloss' middle name is Elizabeth (which "Betty" is short for). Furthermore, Swift was even named after James Taylor, so she could be "James" in this scenario. A big win for Kaylor shippers, if true.

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"Betty" is Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively's fourth child

Swifties realised that James and Inez, who are both named in "Betty," are the real-life names of the daughters of Swift's actor friends Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. They just had a third child, whose name hasn't been revealed yet — until maybe now.

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"Betty" is Rebekah Harkness

Another folklore track, "the last great american dynasty," is reported to be about the late composer Rebekah Harkness. Taylor Swift bought Harkness’ former Rhode Island home, called Holiday House, in 2013. “Fifty years is a long time/Holiday House sat quietly on that beach,” Swift sings. “Free of women with madness, their men and bad habits/And then it was bought by me.” Harkness apparently went by the nickname "Betty."

As to the real identity of Betty? That might be a secret Taylor Swift will never tell.

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