WEST ORANGE, NJ - Janine Duarte is a bubbly 19 year old from West Orange who plans to be a Special Ed teacher. She’s also a long-time fan of music artist Taylor Swift--her room decorated with the star's posters and her IPod loaded with every Taylor Swift song. (Her favorite song is “Tim McGraw.”) In mid-October, Janine and her roommate Kaitlyn Canova learned of a contest on Nash FM, a local country music station. The winner would receive two roundtrip tickets, hotel, and front row seats for the last leg of Taylor Swift’s “Red Tour” in Melbourne, Australia. The girls feverishly began submitting online entries (at least 2,000), and on Halloween, the girls received the biggest news of their lives when they found out they were winners.
Their dream-of-a-lifetime journey began on December 11, when they flew into Los Angeles to meet Christine Drexel from Big Machine Records, the contest sponsor. With Visas in hand, the girls took the 15-hour flight into Melbourne, Australia. They spent some time sightseeing by visiting the Aquarium, zoo, and Phillip Island, where they petted kangaroos and saw the indigenous ‘little penguins,’ that take shelter at the island each night. The highlight of their whirlwind trip, of course, was attending the Taylor Swift Concert at Etihad Stadium as VIP guests.
Donning their prettiest dresses, the girls arrived at the stadium, where they were greeted by Christine and brought into the special 'Meet and Greet' area that was beautifully decorated with candy displays reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. It was here that Janine and Kaitlyn met and spent time with Taylor Swift, herself.
“Taylor Swift was absolutely stunning in person,” noted Janine. “Even more beautiful in person than her photos or on TV. She was perfect. I was jealous,” Janine said with a smile.
Swift wore a white dress with low heels. The girls spent about five minutes chatting with her and said, “She was so genuine. She hugged us and said she couldn’t believe we came all the way from New Jersey to see her. She wasn’t bored talking to us and when she told us how glad she was that we were there, you just knew she was being honest.”
After posing for photos with Taylor Swift, the girls took their front row seats for the show along with eight other contest winners from Texas, California, North Carolina and Australia. Janine said that at every concert, Taylor’s mom, Andrea, selects five fans from the crowd to seat in the front row. The young girls selected for this concert were dressed in ‘fan’ attire.
Neon Trees, a pop indie group, and Australian Idol Guy Sebastian opened for Swift. When asked to describe her experience of sitting front and center at the concert after actually meeting Taylor Swift, Janine said, “It was awesome…the craziest thing ever.”
Still on cloud nine after her return from Australia, Janine enjoys showing people her photos with Taylor Swift.
When asked to sum up her thoughts on her incredible experience, she was pensive for a moment and then replied, “I always said that one day I would meet Taylor Swift. If I could say anything, it’s that you should never give up on your dreams because they can come true.”