Oct. 21st was no average Thursday night for Manuela (born Manuela Torres-Orejuela). The 27-year-old Colombian singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed Swiftie stayed up later than usual just to listen to Taylor Swift’s new album Midnights. Manuela’s excitement quickly took a turn when she watched Swift’s music video for “Anti-Hero” and noticed similarities to her own visual album, Glimmer, released in April. Manuela spoke exclusively with Remezcla after a TikTok she made comparing the visuals gained virality.
Swift’s video for “Anti-Hero” depicts the singer interacting with her alter ego in different scenarios, a likely metaphor for wrestling with other facets of the singer’s persona. Upon the first watch, Manuela said she had to process many different emotions all at once, when she identified a resemblance between her creation and Swift’s. “My heart sank,” she tells Remezcla. “I wanted to send it to some friends and family. But I knew a lot of people’s response to my reaction would be like, ‘You’re crazy, you’re delusional.’ I was already gaslighting myself about it.”
After receiving enough support and validation from her loved ones, Manuela decided to speak out on the matter and put together the now-infamous TikTok video. “I was like, ‘I know this is gonna be a risk and scary, but I should go for it because I am a small artist and an independent artist,’” she explains.
“I’m literally a Swiftie,” Manuela prefaces in the intro of her Tiktok. “So it pains me and it’s literally such an honor to even beg this question. I’m just curious: am I on a mood board somewhere?” The rest of the TikTok shows scenes from both projects stitched together side-by-side. The video quickly sparked conversations across multiple social media platforms.
Glimmer, says Manuela, was first developed with two trusty collaborators during the beginning of the pandemic. The visual album, which she likens to a diary, was informed by a painful breakup, feelings of stage fright, horror films, and a recent autism diagnosis. “Glimmer is about struggling to feel human in relationships and trying so hard to get people to love you for yourself, but also being too scared to be who you are,” she explains. The very personal nature of Manuela’s visual album made “Anti-Hero” so hurtful to watch for her.
“I believe in parallel thoughts as well, and creative coincidence. It happens,” Manuela says of creative processes. “But putting together the [Tiktok] and realizing there’s so many [similarities] just made me want to ask the question more.” Since watching “Anti-Hero,” Manuela shares that she’s been wrestling between different possibilities about how this could’ve happened. “If I question that it’s someone on her team, that implies that she didn’t write it or direct it herself, right? It’s a fine line. I don’t wanna discredit her work. I just want to acknowledge that this happens a lot: small artists of color being easy targets for mood boards,” she says, likening independent artists being copied to a “rite of passage.”
“Maybe she processes her stuff exactly like me emotionally,” Manuela says. “But even that is a scary thing to question because she’s one of my favorite artists and she’s huge. To find myself creatively aligned with her is an honor, and if the case is imitation, it’s also painful.”
One particular detail on Swift’s social media felt almost like a wink to Manuela. “For example, on Instagram, I pointed out in one of her promotional posts she had the word ‘glimmer,’” she says. “When I saw that, I was like, ‘It’s either intentional and that’s really mean, or it’s super subconscious.’”
But Manuela claims she’s not making any accusations or pointing fingers. “I don’t need people to comment on it,” she proclaims. “Just sharing it and showing the side-by-side. It lets people decide for themselves. That’s really the conversation I want to be happening.” That very conversation has been propelled, with artists like Kehlani sharing the clip to her Instagram Stories.
With the comments section being a toss-up of different reactions, Manuela doesn’t believe that her video was misinterpreted. “I think that the Swifties that are essentially using gaslighting language are deflecting,” she explains. “A lot of the comments bring up that they don’t even see the similarities. They’re just saying ‘flop, ugly, attention-seeking.’ They’re using basic bullying-like terms.”
The artist credits therapy for being able to handle the vitriol she’s received, but also says she’s used to microaggressions due to the intersections of her different identities. “As a Brown woman, oftentimes when I try to stand up for myself, it’s really easy to be talked down to and told to ‘shut up’ or ‘you’re crazy, you’re delusional,’” she says. “I’m 5’2. I’m a small Brown woman in a lot of artistic spaces. I’ve worked with other artists and in entertainment fields, understanding that I’m never gonna be taken as seriously as other people in power.”
“Anyone that questions Taylor’s character, in her fanbase, gets really irked about it,” she continues. “But she’s a white woman with wealth and a huge platform. The disparity in our platforms and our backgrounds, it just needs to be acknowledged.”
Manuela also claims that a small number of members of Taylor Swift’s creative team have interacted with her post after tagging them. One of them alleged they had never seen Manuela’s project prior to working on “Anti-Hero.”
As Manuela continues to process her emotions over the ordeal, there doesn’t seem to be any immediate bad blood. While she waits for acknowledgment or accountability, Manuela says she still loves Swift’s work and says Midnights is a “really good album.” “She’s still gonna be my go-to karaoke [artist]. I’m still gonna listen to her music,” she says.
In a perfect world, Manuela thinks it would be nice to have independent artists retroactively acknowledged for the times they stood up for their stolen art to no avail. “Whatever justice looks like for me is just something that I think will come with time. I’ll understand better what I need from this.”