A TikToker who makes videos largely around the fact that she looks like Taylor Swift went shopping in Los Angeles dressed like Swift in what she described as a social experiment—but some Swifties have viewed it as a mean prank.
On Saturday, Ashley Leechin (who went viral earlier this year after she said she was invited to the Grammys but had her invitation rescinded) went to the Grove. She was dressed in a white shirt, jeans, sunglasses, and a red cap, a look meant to invoke the cover of Swift’s album Red. Surrounded by several men dressed in black who looked like security guards, she walked around and was swarmed by people who thought she was Swift before being escorted out of the mall.
@exploringlosangeles Just out shopping when i see ✨Taylor Swift ✨ LA things! #onlyinla #taylorswift #losangeles #celebrity #paparazzi #taylornation #swifties #funthingsinla ♬ you belong with me sped up – r & m <33
In another video, Leechin wore a black long-sleeved shirt and a beret as she walked around Downtown Disney. She’s surrounded by the guards in black and local security trying to keep people from crowding in on her.
@monica_crandall guys is this taylor swift?!?!! whoo is it???? #disneyland #downtowndisney ♬ I wish you would – Taylor搬运工
The real Swift wasn’t even in Los Angeles to walk around the Grove or Downtown Disney if she had wanted to. She was actually in New Jersey to watch her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff marry actor Margaret Qualley. But even if fans weren’t aware of where Swift was over the weekend—and her presence in New Jersey for the Antonoff/Qualley wedding weekend caused a traffic jam and made headlines—it didn’t take much to differentiate Leechin from Swift.
Many Swifties are calling out Leechin for impersonating Swift over the weekend. It’s not necessarily because Leechin tricked them into thinking she was Swift but because they feel that Leechin’s stunt was mocking what Swift—one of the most famous people in the world—has to deal with daily.
“Taylor can’t even go out and have a private life,” @paolaamarcella wrote in a since-deleted TikTok that’s been re-uploaded. “Can’t even go to a wedding without being mobbed and Ashley Leechin thinks she can hire people to dress in all black and act as security around her to make it seem like she is Taylor. SHE IS DISGUSTING.”
On Sunday, Leechin posted a response to the backlash to clarify some things about her appearances in Los Angeles. She says she didn’t hire people to play security guards; rather, it was what she described as a “social experiment” and a collaboration with YouTube VicInTheGame. She also pointed out that celebrities hiring decoys to operate in public places to distract fans so they can go about their lives is normal.
@noitisashley13 Sorry late post. ‘A day in the life of a celebrity’ – only because it was Taylor everyone is blowing this out of proportion. If it were anyone else, it would have had a completely different outcome. This is why celebrities would hire decoys so they can enjoy their private event or quiey evening. Thank you to everyone who was so kind & sweet yesterday. Not going squash any other rumors because that is pointless. Just a friendly reminder, please do not bully any of my friends. You can bully me because it seems to be an okay thing to do in the ‘swiftie’ fandom but please do not bully my friends because they were incredible to work with. #itsjustashley #vicinthegame #taylorswift ♬ original sound – Ashley
“There are tons of celebrities out there that have hired decoys,” she said. “Just put a wig on, sunglasses, and you’re done. You think the closer fans are to the decoy, the further away people are from the celebrity.”
She described the in-person experience as positive—they worked alongside the real security of those venues. But she admits the timing could’ve been better; she was unaware that fans did, in fact, try to swarm Swift on the other side of the country until much later.
Despite Leechin calling the outings a “social experiment,” a preview video from VicInTheGame (with the full version to come out at a later date) described his collaboration with Leechin as a “prank.”
@vicinthegame Fake Taylor Swift prank..😂 #fyp #taylorswift #swiftie #vicinthegame #erastour ♬ bad idea right? – Olivia Rodrigo
“We did a prank to see what it’s like to be Taylor Swift for one day, and this is how our day went,” he said.