Billboard’s Woman of the Year

From Billboard: T Swift made a rather large statement about her status in the music business during 2011 by simply placing a request. Entranced by Nicki Minaj’s hit single “Super Bass,” she invited Minaj to come out to the Staples Center in Los Angeles and perform the song in a surprise appearance during Swift’s concert in August. In the aftermath, Justin Bieber asked if he could do a guest spot with Swift. In short order, the singer/songwriter was lining up musicians in many of the major markets to add a little local flavor to the night: Jason Mraz in Los Angeles; Usher and T.I. in Atlanta; Shawn Colvin in Austin; Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World in Phoenix; Ronnie Dunn, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney and Paramore’s Hayley Williams in Nashville; and Selena Gomez and James Taylor at Madison Square Garden in New York, as her 2011 tour concluded.

“I’m just as shocked by it as all the fans are in the audience,” Swift says of her guest stars, “the fact that they would spend their evening coming out and playing for free for my fans.”

That gesture, made by artists across a variety of genres in numerous cities, speaks volumes about Swift’s influence on pop culture in the five years since she arrived with her self-titled debut album on Big Machine Records at the age of 16.

Today, Swift accepted Billboard’s Woman of the Year award during Billboard’s Women in Music event at Capitale in New York. At 21, Swift is the youngest artist ever to receive the honor.

The annual award celebrates the achievements of a trailblazing female recording artist during the past 12 months and acknowledges her overall success and leadership in the music business.

For Swift, the honor comes at the close of a year in which she earned the entertainer of the year award from both the Academy of Country Music in April and the Country Music Assn. (CMA) in November. In May, Swift also won Billboard Music Awards for top country album, top Billboard 200 artist and top country artist.

For most of the past year, Swift has been on a worldwide tour supporting her 2010 album “Speak Now,” with dates in Asia, Europe and the United States. The trek has been captured on the newly released Speak Now World Tour Live album and DVD, the former selling 28,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her 2010 album Speak Now arrived with debut-week sales of 1 million units and has sold more than 3.7 million.

Worldwide, Swift has achieved album sales of more than 20 million and digital track sales of more than 40 million, according to Big Machine Records.

And Swift has donated more than $1 million to charity in the past year. Her efforts have raised money and awareness for causes including clean water, literacy and disaster relief.

The guest artists on Swift’s tour stops testify to both her business and personal achievements. On a business level, they recognize the size of her audience and the media splash a guest artist will enjoy by sharing the stage with her. But those moments are also a testament to Swift on a personal level. While undeniably a superstar, she is likable, inviting, savvy and talented. And she has managed to grow up in public while remaining both sweet and classy.

Aww congrats T-Swift! And don’t you love her new hair?!