Taylor Swift’s mum spent her childhood in Singapore


Andrea Swift is widely applauded as a brilliant "momager" who helped propel her daughter to superstardom. Photo: AFP

American superstar Taylor Swift’s mother Andrea spent her childhood in Singapore and was a student at the Singapore American School.

The international school told The Straits Times that Mrs Swift, now 66, studied at its King’s Road campus between 1968 and 1969.

A yearbook photograph seen by ST shows a 10-year-old Andrea Finlay (Mrs Swift’s maiden name) seated in the front row of her fourth grade class in 1968.

She is also seen in another picture of her fifth grade class in the 1969 yearbook.

Mrs Swift is widely applauded as a brilliant momager – a portmanteau of mother and manager – who played a big part in using her marketing smarts to help propel her daughter to superstardom.

There has been keen interest in Swift’s maternal lineage after the 34-year-old told fans during her March 2 concert here that her mother spent a lot of her childhood in Singapore with her parents and sister.

“A lot of the time when we came here on tour, my mum would take me and drive me past her old house and where she used to go to school; and so, I’ve been hearing about Singapore my whole life,” Swift said after performing Marjorie, an emotional track inspired by her maternal grandmother Marjorie Finlay, who died in 2003.

Swift had told ST in a 2010 interview that her maternal grandfather Robert Finlay moved his family here for a few years while working in an engineering company.

According to a 1968 ST report, her grandmother Marjorie, an opera singer, was chosen to play the part of a peasant girl in a production at the Victoria Theatre.

“Marjorie Finlay made a delightful Marenka”, said an ST review of the production.

Local writer Koh Buck Song said in a Facebook post that scenes in a music video for Marjorie, which is composed of old footage, appear to have been shot in Singapore in the 1960s.

In the short clip, Marjorie Finlay is seen in a yellow dress as she walks out of a British colonial bungalow towards a Ford car bearing with number plate SM 8860. A man and a little girl are seen in the background.

“The architecture of the bungalow in the scene is distinctive of colonial bungalows in Singapore which are present today in Tanglin, Sembawang or Ridout Road. The car porch and grass slopes are also unmistakably Singapore-like,” said the 60-year-old Mr Koh.

He said that Marjorie’s dressing, the bungalow and Ford car reflected the Finlay family’s wealth and fashionable lifestyle, adding that Robert Finlay’s job as an engineer was highly regarded in the 1960s.

Past newspaper records have also offered glimpses into Andrea Swift’s life in Singapore.

In 2010, Taylor Swift told ST: “My mother always told me amazing stories about (Singapore), so I always wanted to come. She will join me because she wants to return to see all the places she used to know. She said the place is fantastic.”

In a 2011 interview with The New Paper, Mrs Swift said her daughter has been following her around Singapore during the trip.

“We’re very happy to be here. We’ve been visiting the places I used to go to, like the Polo Club and the American School (where I studied),” she said.

Not much is known about Mrs Swift’s life in recent years besides her 2015 breast cancer diagnosis. The cancer returned in 2019.

In a 2019 essay for Elle magazine, Taylor Swift wrote: “I’ve had to learn how to handle serious illnesses in my family. Both of my parents have had cancer, and my mom is now fighting her battle with it again.”

A year later, Mrs Swift was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which was discovered while she underwent treatment for cancer.

Taylor Swift told Variety: “She’s really the guiding force. Almost every decision I make, I talk to her about it first.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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