A Taylor Swift look-alike is asking followers to sign a petition to stop people harassing her online. The petition intended to shut down Leechin’s haters, who have long accused her of being a “pathological liar” obsessed with Swift. Instead, as is often the case on the internet, it had the opposite effect. The desire for a petition has thus been met with further hate. “Her name is Ashley Leechin because she’s LEECHIN’ off Taylor’s career!,” wrote one Swiftie on Twitter in response to the petition. Another wrote: “Has anybody called her the Swiftie George Santos yet?”
In the petition, Leechin, who has 1.1 million followers on TikTok, addressed a laundry list of allegations that people have levelled against her on the platform such as that she voted for Trump (she is a registered Democrat), or that she got plastic surgery to look more like Taylor (though she did acknowledge she has gotten Botox and filler). The lengthy petition also denied claims she “stole” Taylor Swift’s favourite number, 13 (her birthday is on the 13th, though not in December, as Swift’s is); or that she adopted cats that look “exactly the same as Taylor’s cats”; or that she holds her pen the same particular way Taylor Swift does on purpose. “I hold my pen in such a manner that brings comfort, which releases direct pressure off the median nerve,” she wrote.
Leechin’s appearance has enraged Swift fans, especially seeing that she isn’t only Swift’s doppelganger but clearly mimics the singer’s style without admitting so. “I don’t look in the mirror and think ‘Holy cow, I look like Taylor.’ It’s just Ashley,’” she says. Yet Swifties still refused to believe her, with many calling her version of events a “crap story” and some even calling for her to be removed from TikTok entirely. A bit extreme, perhaps?
A handful of Swifties’ have even gone so far to compare Leechin to the infamous Yolanda Saldívar, the obsessed fan who murdered Mexican-American pop star Selena in 1995. This very extreme and unkind comparison is what spurred Leechin to create a petition. Her defence makes sense; “A lot of the Swifties I have encountered don’t stand by what Taylor Swift stands by,” Leechin tells Rolling Stone. “Randomly bullying [someone] — I feel like Taylor Swift wouldn’t condone that type of behavior.”
Taylor herself has even reacted with the creator’s content. In fact, the day after Swift commented on one of Leechin’s videos, saying that her mom had commented on their resemblance to each other, Leechin made a video in which she, with visible emotion, thanked Swift’s mother for being “like a mother that I never had.” (Swifties later cited this video as evidence of her supposed obsession with Swift.)
Leechin has been compared to Swift by passers-by and those in her circle since she was 13. Furthermore, when she became a registered nurse in 2019, she says that people would regularly confuse her for Swift. “I’d wear a mask and goggles and regular PPE,” she says. “And I’d still get it. They’d be like, is Taylor my nurse? Am I being punked?”
Her TikTok journey began, like many, during the height of the pandemic, Leechin downloaded TikTok as a fun distraction. At first, Swifties seemed enchanted by Leechin’s posts, particularly after Swift herself commented on one of Leechin’s videos, saying that her mother had remarked on her lookalike status. But then the backlash surrounding Leechin started to build. Not only would Leechin regularly wear her hair like Swift or put on dark red lipstick, she’d also make videos alluding to having interests similar to Swift’s, such as a love of cats and Grey’s Anatomy. Is this where the line between comical TikTok content and identity theft begins?
So why are Swift fans so annoyed? It isn’t so much that Leechin looks like Swift but that she strongly denies actively trying to look like Swift, even though she does her hair and makeup in a manner reminiscent of the pop star. By all reasonable measures, Leechin’s brand is being a Taylor Swift impersonator, though she denies being able to effectively monetize this, saying she regularly turns down potentially lucrative lookalike gigs. “I can’t really say you make money off TikTok,” she says. “You really don’t. You make enough to buy a coffee.” When she has done Cameos or accepted impersonation gigs in the past, it has led to “personality issues,” she says. “If I wanted to be a full time Taylor Swift impersonator I could actually make a career out of it. But I have chosen not to. I just feel like it’s not me,” she says.
Despite the haters, Leechin says she doesn’t intend to stop making content. She says she is increasingly realising that due to her large following, she can monetize her own social media presence — being “just Ashley” — more than she can monetize being a Taylor Swift lookalike. She is trying to get work as a background actor, though she says it requires a lot of work sending in self-tapes. “I am not obsessed with Taylor at all,” she says. “I get confused when people call me a stalker or obsessed. I like her music, I love her style. I’m not gonna wear her or go out and get a singing career or buy a guitar. That’s not me.”