Ella Sinclair, a 12-year-old from the Sunshine Coast living with cystic fibrosis, has met her hero Taylor Swift with the help of Cystic Fibrosis Queensland.
At Swift’s personal request, Ella and her mother Rosalie flew down to Adelaide on Monday afternoon to meet privately with Taylor before her show at the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
It was the culmination of a concerted campaign to help Ella meet her hero — a campaign that’s indicative of the backstage maneuvering that goes into seemingly effortless photo opportunities.
“There are thousands of people trying to meet Taylor, each with their own story,” says Richard Smith, marketing manager at Cystic Fibrosis Queensland. “On paper, Ella is another cute kid with an almost impossible dream. We had good social media support but it still felt like pie-in-the-sky.”
Like the majority of those living with cystic fibrosis, Ella endures a daily routine of intense physiotherapy to keep her lungs clear, takes upwards of 40 tablets to help digest her food and fight potential infection, and eats a highly specific, regulated diet to assist her body to retain the nutrients it needs.
As Swift’s Brisbane concert date loomed near, the campaign for Ella started in earnest with an article in the Sunshine Coast Daily. Radio station 4BC then picked up the potential feel-good story and ran with it, with no guarantee that it would have a happy ending.
The Daily Mail, Network 7 News and Channel 9 soon joined the campaign.
“At this point, we knew we had enough media coverage to get the attention of Taylor’s people,” 4BC producer Lizzie Wilson explains.
“We sent them a package of information with all the press and public interest in Ella we had generated with details on how they could get in contact with us.”
Of course, it wasn’t that easy.
“Despite the fact that we were getting more and more interest from the media every day, we’d still heard nothing from Taylor’s people themselves,” Richard says.
The team redoubled their efforts, with Richard appearing on Ben Davis’ 4BC radio show to promote the campaign one more time.
“It was worth a shot,” says Ben. “We knew she’d landed in Brisbane and we’d heard a rumour she was visiting the coast, right near where Ella lives. Maybe someone in her camp or close to her would hear it.”
Following the interview, Richard received a text from Ella (via her mum).
“Please don’t worry about me getting upset if I don’t meet Taylor,” it read. “I’m still seeing my idol in concert tomorrow. I’m so happy.”
Richard showed Lizzie the text, which just made her more determined to reach out to Swift’s camp again.
“I just knew that I couldn’t give up on this little girl,” she says.
Saturday evening arrived, and Ella (and her mother, Rosalie) travelled down to Brisbane to see Swift perform.
“She had a wonderful time,” says Rosalie. “She was just so excited to see Taylor’s concert. It had been an amazing week for Ella, this was just the icing on the cake. She wasn’t disappointed not meeting Taylor.”
At least one person was disappointed — Richard, who was hoping to deliver a positive result for Ella (and positive publicity for Cystic Fibrosis Queensland).
“We’d put so much hard work in,” he says, “and we knew it was a long shot, but we still hoped something might happen. I sent Lizzie a text message late Saturday night thanking her and her team for all they had done.”
Lizzie texted back: “It isn’t over.”
Early Sunday morning, hours after the concert in Brisbane, a telephone call came from Taylor Swift’s team in America.
The good news? Swift would love to meet Ella. The bad news? She’d have to get to Adelaide, the next stop on Swift’s itinerary.
“There’d been a complication and they’d missed getting Ella to Taylor for the concert on Saturday night in Brisbane,” Lizzie explains.
Swift’s management team were concerned about asking Ella to fly to Adelaide.
“I said we will get her there,” Lizzie says. “It took one extra day and one extra city, but Ella was going to meet Taylor.”
Ella, despite living with cystic fibrosis — a life-shortening genetic condition which typically affects the lungs, pancreas and small intestines — screamed with joy when she heard the news.
“This was my absolute dream come true,” Ella says. “Singing Taylor Swift songs every day has helped strengthen my lungs, which has kept me healthy. I love her so much, she’s such an inspiration.
“She was so awesome and kind when I met her and seemed like such a lovely person. She thanked me for coming to see her and then told me I was an inspiration.
“I told her, you are an inspiration to me.”
Cath Parker, CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Queensland, says Ella’s successful campaign has made more people aware of the disease.
“We couldn’t be happier that Ella has had this amazing experience,” Cath says, “and we are so grateful for all the hard work everyone has put in. It’s been a phenomenal team effort.
“Ella is such a wonderful kid, and her determination and the determination of those around her has helped to raise so much awareness about cystic fibrosis.
“Ella is an absolute star, a delight to be around and immensely talented We recognised this, and we’re pleased to say so has Taylor Swift.”
Cystic Fibrosis Queensland is currently running an awareness and fundraising campaign. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.cfqhero.com.