updated 12/16/2009 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 12/16/2009 AT 11:45 AM ET
Ask Taylor Swift for one word to describe her life these days and the answer is easy: “Happy,” she says. “It feels like this ongoing dream.”
And why shouldn’t it? Swift – who graces the cover of PEOPLE’s 25 Most Intriguing People of 2009 – has lots to celebrate: In the past 12 months, she has seen her CD, Fearless, become the year’s best-selling album, sold out tour dates and racked up a slew of accolades including the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award and eight Grammy nominations.
“You can stay the same person, even if everything around you changes,” says the golden girl, 20, of the trappings of her fame. “I would like to think everybody out there isn’t just waiting for me to trip and fall and stumble out of a club drunk.”
“People know I’m not a party girl,” she says. “I’m not hiding some dying urge to be out clubbing right now.”
Swift shares PEOPLE’s year-end honors with the most unforgettable entertainers, scene-makers and headline-generators of 2009: Hollywood’s fabulous philanthropists Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Mo’Nique; Barack and Michelle Obama; Sandra Bullock; Neil Patrick Harris; governor gone rogue Sarah Palin; kidnap survivor Jaycee Dugard; Rihanna and more.
To read more about Swift and her fellow Intriguers – including Kate Gosselin photographed as quintessential 70s TV mom Carol Brady, the Housewives posing as battling beauty pageant queens, and the Kardashian sisters as Beyoncé’s Single Ladies – pick up PEOPLE’s 25 Most Intriguing People, on newsstands Friday