The not-so-clandestine love affair between Taylor Swift and Britain runs deep.
Swift visited a Hampstead Pizza Express in disguise; has gone on the record with an arguably misplaced adoration of Camden Market; and the bonus track from Folklore, the biggest album in the world right now, is all about holidaying in the Lake District.
“They say home is where the heart is,” Swift sings on the topographically challenging but impossibly joyful ‘London Boy’ from Lover. “But that's not where mine lives.”
Her heart — the same muscle that has burst with some of the best pop songs of the last decade — belongs, perhaps legally now, to London.
So it’s no short wonder that when Swift stumbled upon the story of Vitoria Mario, a Black 18-year-old student in London who was struggling to pull together the cash to study mathematics at the University of Warwick, she felt a longing to intervene.
Amid an A-Level results scandal that, in the absence of exams cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saw UK students from disadvantaged backgrounds systematically marked down by an algorithm programmed for classist meanness, Mario achieved two A*’s and an A in her maths, further maths, and physics classes, respectively.
But although Mario had met the conditional offer from the University of Warwick, she couldn’t afford to attend. Mario had moved to Tottenham in London from Portugal just four years ago to live with her family, and so didn’t have the required status to be eligible for the maintenance loans or grants to pay for her accommodation, living expenses, and equipment.
When she moved to the UK in 2016, Mario did not know a single word of English. Despite that, she received A*’s and A’s across all her GCSE exams just two years later. Since then, her father has passed away, and her family do not have the income to support her to attend university.
“Though my story is not unique, my dream of becoming a mathematician is not only a chance at social mobility for my family and I,” Mario wrote on her GoFundMe page. “But to inspire people who have been in similar positions to aspire to be the best version of themselves and strive for their dreams despite gender [and] racial inequality, immigration issues, and financial barriers.”
What do we call Taylor Swift fans? Swooshes? Tayhova Swiftnesses? Whatever they’re called I might have to join them. https://t.co/1VmBeu3Y6E— machine gun Kele (@kelechnekoff) August 21, 2020
So Mario started sharing her story: first, emailing 442 top corporate firms for sponsorship, without success. Then posting flyers through letterboxes in Kensington, one of London’s most affluent boroughs. Finally, she set up a GoFundMe page in one final attempt to get to university.
Mario was about half way to her £40,000 target when Swift decided to donate the remainder and make her wildest dreams come true.
"Vitoria, I came across your story online and am so inspired by your drive and dedication to turning your dreams into reality,” Swift wrote on her GoFundMe page. "I want to gift you the rest of your goal amount. Good luck with everything you do! Love, Taylor."
"I call it a blessing"— BBC Breakfast (@BBCBreakfast) August 21, 2020
Student Vitoria Mario tells #BBCBreakfast how she reacted when she saw that singer Taylor Swift had donated £23,000 so she could take up a maths course at the University of Warwick.https://t.co/YShoME5IcVpic.twitter.com/Nws4fTH3EL
It’s not the first time Swift has made impromptu donations to send fans to school.
When she heard that a fan in Canada with kidney disease couldn’t afford her tuition fees for the next term, Swift sent £4,000 to help. Then during the COVID-19 pandemic, Swift sent $3,000 to a fan who was experiencing stress and financial uncertainty, the same for another who was struggling to pay her bills; and then to another who lost both her jobs. After hearing about two collecting hygiene products for a local church supporting families of colour, Swift added another $1,300.
And on April 18, Swift joined the lineup for One World: Together At Home, playing “Soon You’ll Get Better” — a deeply personal song about her mother’s cancer diagnosis — for the first ever time. It helped Global Citizen’s campaign that raised almost $128 million in support of health care workers in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Swift — we know you love the UK. Just know we adore you, too.