Taylor Swift shakes it off with local teens

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The West Orange County girls who won the national Taylor Swift “Shake it Off” contest will be talking about their trip to New York City for quite some time.

The five dancers — Ashley Benson, Lexi Flanigan, Shay Henderson, Janel Hernandez and Sydney Mays — submitted a choreographed video to “Good Morning America” three weeks ago for the contest and learned live on the show Oct. 27 that they were the winners and were being flown to New York City later that week to meet the singer-songwriter and sit as VIPs at her on-air concert.

Lexi’s father, Billy Flanigan, shared their trip.

The girls arrived in New York City on Wednesday, Oct. 29, and as they exited the plane, they received a message from the producers: “The girls are dancing in front of 2,000 Taylor Swift fans; make sure they are polished and ready to go.” 

So the five mothers who were there found a place for the teens to rehearse, and they created a dance they would perform on Thursday. They enjoyed some sightseeing and then went to bed early because of a 3 a.m. wake-up call to get ready for the 4:30 call time. 

Once they arrived at the studio, they did last-minute makeup adjustments and were off to film some segment shots. 

The girls walked a red carpet with screaming fans on either side and then were set up in front of a backdrop for a photo session. They were then sent to the stage that Swift would perform on to rehearse their dance. After that rehearsal, they were taken to a “fan room,” where there were snacks and drinks waiting for them. 

Without warning, Flanigan said, “Swift walked in the room, and the screams of joy began.” 

Each girl was given a Taylor Swift fan package that included bags, calendars, hair ties, sunglasses, cups and posters. Then they had pictures taken with the superstar. 

“Taylor actually took each girl’s phone and did a selfie with each girl,” Flanigan said. 

After that meet-and-greet with Taylor, the girls were taken back on the street, where they performed for the fans and then were escorted to a special VIP viewing area for the GMA Times Square concert. 

After the show was over, they departed for the airport and were surprised to get a personal tweet from Taylor saying, “I love you guys, it was great meeting you.” 

Sydney and Shay live in Winter Garden, Lexi is from Ocoee, Janel is a Windermere resident, and Ashley lives in Clermont.


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