Issaquah native Jon Kok, a junior at Wheaton College near Chicago, has a not-so-secret obsession.
The 20-year-old music major is not only passionate about his own music; he has been known by his friends as a “Swiftie” since his freshman year of high school at Bear Creek School in Redmond.
For those who may need a pop culture definition, a “Swiftie” is a die-hard fan of singer/songwriter Taylor Swift.
“It became a thing that people associated Taylor Swift with me,” Kok said with a laugh, noting that he had always requested Swift’s songs at high school dances.
But with the help of media skills learned in his college classes, Kok set out to take his love for Swift’s music to a new level. With the help of his friends, Kok created a video on Jan. 26 asking Swift to accompany him to Wheaton’s annual President’s Day Ball and posted it on social media.
The video, which was shot at a zoo, was set to a song that Kok wrote himself, and included character references from Kok’s friends and professors assuring Swift that Kok was a good choice for a date.
Kok, who minors in media, decided to take what he had learned in class and put it to the test to see if he could make the video go viral.
“We were thinking it would get 30 to 40 likes,” Kok said.
His estimate was a bit off. The first weekend it was posted, the video received over 10,000 views. After one week, this number had risen to 20,000 — quite an unexpected result for a project Kok and his friends had originally taken on to liven up the dull days of winter.
“It became this really big project to test the power of networking,” Kok said. “How far can I get through mutual connections?”
Kok said that his media studies professor gave him several tips for making the video go viral:
• Tell 10 closest friends about the video, who in turn each tell 10 of their friends.
• Alert anyone who works for Apple, Amazon, Facebook or Google about the video.
• Submit the video to CNN iReport.
• Email the video link to Stoked PR, Swift’s PR company.
• Post the video on multiple social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and share it more and more every day.
At press time, the video had been viewed nearly 29,000 times on Facebook and nearly 500 times on YouTube.
“I’m holding on as tight as I can that she’ll see it,” Kok said. “This would be a fun thing to do, to kick back, relax and dance.”
“He’s such a sweetie and a really active Issaquah resident too … He’s very well-liked in the community,” family friend Tanya Button said. “He’s got that kind of personality. He’s so deserving of at least a response from Taylor Swift.”
Kok doesn’t consider himself just any “mainstream” Swift fan. The music major said he digs deeper than just the hits that make the top 40, finding the lesser-known songs that really speak to him so that he can “pick apart her art of storytelling and analyze how her lyrics apply to [his] life.”
Swift’s music has been there for Kok at difficult times in his life. When Kok was mourning the death of a dear friend, he found solace in Swift’s song “Ronan,” which the singer composed about a young boy who died of cancer.
“I remember turning on that song — the power of Taylor Swift’s song and her poetry really resonated with that moment, more than everyday pop songs about falling in love and breaking up,” he said.
Swift, 27, and Kok both have in common a passion for music. Kok sings and plays a variety of instruments, including piano, guitar, ukulele and violin to name a few. In high school, Kok performed in the Sammamish Symphony Orchestra and at the Fall City Bistro in Fall City every Friday.
For Kok, the video was a chance to manifest his personal philosophy of living each day to the fullest and grabbing every opportunity.
“I really take into account that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” Kok said.
“He has this love for life,” Button affirmed. “He goes for everything 100 percent.”
At press time, Kok had not heard from Swift, but said that there was a chance she could show up unannounced on the evening of the event. Swift has done this in the past as a way to give her fans the surprise of a lifetime and avoid being tailed by the press. The only problem, Kok said, is that waiting for a possible Swift appearance on the evening of the ball is preventing him from asking another girl in the meantime.
As for the big question — who pays for dinner on a date between a college student and the highest-earning musician in the world? — Kok said there is no question about it.
“I pay for dinner,” said Kok, always the gentleman. “She’s worth it.”
To watch Kok’s video, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPz_Xji0M3I.