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Mormon Taylor Swift look-alike draws national attention, talks self-worth, divine identity

Published: Thursday, Feb. 4 2016 6:00 a.m. MST

Keitra Jane Calaway is photographed recently outside the Salt Lake Temple.

Courtesy of Keitra Jane Calaway

“You are not here to imitate.”

Keitra Jane Calaway posted this quote from a book she found in a vintage store on Instagram last week. It may seem like an interesting choice of words for someone who was recently chosen to appear in an Alex Boye music video as a Taylor Swift look-alike, attracting the attention of entertainment sites such as Glamour and Us Weekly.

From her 6-foot height to the shape of her eyes, Calaway’s resemblance to the singer-songwriter is undeniable, but it isn’t something she has worked to achieve.

“There’s no talent in that,” Calaway said. “There’s not really anything praiseworthy about looking like someone else. But I feel like I’ve kind of been granted an opportunity.”

The opportunity Calaway speaks of isn’t one of monetary gain. In fact, she appeared in Boye’s video as a volunteer. Rather, hers is a chance to share her story: a story of self-acceptance and coming to understand her divine identity, something she was taught as an LDS young woman.

At the age of 10, Calaway, a native of Wahluke, Washington, began struggling with anorexia and bulimia. In middle school, she ran excessively and replaced meals with diet soda, all while trying to hide her eating disorder from those around her. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Calaway found that the more she hid from the people who loved her, the more she felt a separation from God and a lack of his spirit in her life.

“When you’re hiding from people, you can’t feel the Spirit because you’re being dishonest and trying to be something you’re not,” Calaway said. “And it’s hard for you to exude that light and be that example if you’re being dishonest in anything.”

She continued to experience ups and downs in her battle with her body image as she went away to college. Her mother had always encouraged her to dress modestly and reminded her where true beauty lies, but Calaway admits that she went through a rebellious stage after leaving home. Determined to wear what she wanted, she discovered that the attention she received weakened rather than strengthened her self-esteem.

“I started to realize that the attention you get when you project yourself like that really contributes to your self-worth, and it really just makes you feel worse about yourself over time,” Calaway said. “It makes you feel like you’re just an object.”

About a year ago, Calaway finally sat down with her parents and told them about her battle with eating disorders. This experience made her more honest in many aspects of her life, and she found that trials are a necessary part of growth and progression.

“We’re all kind of protagonists in our own little story, and we have to overcome, but we can’t overcome if we’re thinking about ourselves and thinking about only the happy ending,” Calaway said. “We have to also focus on the trials ahead and understand that through faith in Jesus Christ and through his Atonement and still looking forward toward him, we can overcome any trial.”

Calaway is now a 21-year-old student at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in psychology with a minor in nutrition. She plans to apply to nursing school and dreams of helping people who are facing eating disorders or suffering from low self-esteem.

“Knowledge is power,” Calaway said. “Knowledge is forever, and when you seek after knowledge that is good, whether it be in the gospel or in studying things like nutrition, I really feel like God gives you the power to understand better. For me, it’s not just a mission to help others, but it’s also a personal mission to help me understand myself and how I can continue to treat myself and overcome this disease.”

This is who Calaway is, and these are the dreams she has for her life. She just happens to also look like Taylor Swift.

She has found that there are pros and cons associated with looking like one of the biggest celebrities in the world. She estimates that about 95 percent of the comments she has received have been positive, but she has also been called names such as “a fatter Taylor Swift.”

“When it’s a positive comparison, it obviously makes you feel good about yourself,” Calaway said. “When you’re being compared to somebody that people think is beautiful in a positive way, obviously that’s going to make you feel good, … but I’ve started to realize it comes with its drawbacks and it comes with its difficulties.”

Calaway remembers occasionally being told that she looked like Taylor Swift as she grew up in Washington, but it was not until she moved to Utah in 2014 that she was constantly compared to the celebrity. The comparisons led Calaway to enter KSL’s “Hey, Hey, Tay-Tay! Look-Alike Contest” in September, and as the winner of the contest, Calaway appeared in Boye’s recent “African Hipster” music video.

In the video, which attracted the attention of Buzzfeed and Seventeen, Calaway does a convincing job of imitating Taylor Swift, but she insists that it was just for fun and that she is not a Taylor Swift impersonator.

This is me "trying to look like Taylor" on the set of the music video I portrayed her in; "African Hipster". I did my hair and makeup and outfits to resemble Swift. I don't dress like this daily. I don't do my makeup like this daily. I don't act like this daily. I rarely make this face. This isn't ME. However, many of my photos lately are of me. They're of me smiling the way I do when I don't feel like using teeth. They're of me wearing my hair the way I like. They're of me making statements that I believe are important to make. I'm not a spectacle. I'm not trying to be a Taylor "stunt double". I'm a student and a daughter, a nanny and a advocate, a musician and a sister. I'm many things. But I am NOT Taylor Swift. I am not trying to "be Taylor Swift". (Although she is incredible and beautiful in her own right!) If you're here because you think I look like her and believe in my message: great. If you're here because you don't think I look like her and you still believe in my message: even better! My worth and my words don't rely on looking like somebody else! Please don't diminish my words by picking apart my appearance. I'm Keitra Jane. #loveyourself #bemorethananimage #awareness #recovery #nedaawareness #neda *photo is also posted in @onegreek app. #keitrajane

A photo posted by Keitra Jane (@keitrajane) on

“I did my hair and makeup and outfits to resemble Swift,” Calaway posted on Instagram along with a picture from the shoot. “I don’t dress like this daily. I don’t act like this daily. I rarely make this face.”

Some of Calaway's 22,000 Instagram followers may have noticed that she often posts pictures of herself smiling without showing her teeth. This is the way she has preferred to smile since she was a young, and so, while many girls may dream of looking like the popular musician, Calaway, the woman who actually resembles Taylor Swift, prefers to be herself.

“Your self-worth comes from who you are as a person,” Calaway said. “All of us have a divine beauty inside of us that we are gifted from our Heavenly Father, and we’re also gifted a beautiful shell, and when we learn to combine the two and to exercise control over our shell by using the knowledge we have of our spirits, we start to really understand our divine potential. … It starts to show in your exterior.”

Email: mjones@deseretdigital.com

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