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Selena Gomez and Petra Collins: Secret World

We talk to the BFFs and creative duo about weird love, making art together and riding on exactly the same wavelength

In “Fetish”, the most hardcore pop video of the summer, Selena Gomez ties up her tongue, melts down in the kitchen, bites into glass, and holds a candlelit dinner for herself. When you’re watching, a sense of unease hits: Where is this all going? Is she going to be OK? Are we going to be OK? Did I just break and enter? Am I allowed to be watching this?

It’s obvious that it’s not a man behind the camera. It’s two young women in control, choosing to display what they see as beautiful – a female gaze. The video was directed by Gomez’s collaborator and BFF Petra Collins, whose photography explores the secret worlds that encompass being a girl. Between them, they show the private moments most of us would be scared to share.

The union between the two women – who are both around the same age, having been born in 1992 – started on the set of a photoshoot for Wonderland magazine, resulting in a friendship as well as a creative partnership. Their closeness is visible in the work they make together, as is their impulse to create something authentic. Being real is a huge part of Gomez’s appeal as a pop star, and has been since she put out a spoken-word intro in the video for “The Heart Wants What It Wants”; Collins, meanwhile, has been challenging the fashion world’s view of beauty over the past half-decade, offering a new filter for how women see themselves. Collins and Gomez belong in each other’s world.

The power of “Fetish” is not in the dream-world it paints – it is in the humanity, the strange reality of bad summer days and private breakdowns. Here, they discuss how they inspire each other, astrology and why Collins had to shoot “Fetish”.

Petra Collins: The story of how you decided to get me to work with you on this album makes me LOL.

Selena Gomez: I know, we’ve come a long way from that day on set for Wonderland. We were both kind of like awkward and timid in the beginning. People don’t know but my personal life ties into the work we do together because you know things about my life that nobody knows and I know a lot about your life that nobody knows. It comes out, somehow.

I remember the moment I wanted you to do the visuals for this record. I was on a plane to New York scrolling through your Instagram because I’ve followed you for so long and I always just love to look at your pictures when I’m bored. It inspires me so much. I had a coffee and I said to my manager, ‘Look, I literally want her to do the visuals for ALL MY MUSIC. I LOVE HER! She’s so amazing!’ As soon as I landed, I sent you ‘Bad Liar’ and ‘Fetish’ and you responded to ‘Fetish’ the most.

Petra Collins: (laughs) It was such a crazy, fast, intense union, and we ended up making such a passionate thing out of it… Babe! We made a baby.

Selena Gomez: (laughs) Awww! We did!

Petra Collins: Um, do you think people would be shocked to know that ‘Fetish’ came out of our discovery that we are both avid horror fans, which I didn’t know about you?

Selena Gomez: Until you came over in the middle of the day and found me in my living room sitting on a big teddy bear watching Chucky so casually and then you came and laid with me.

“You came over in the middle of the day and found me in my living room sitting on a big teddy bear watching Chucky” – Selena Gomez

Petra Collins: Oh my God! Literally we were lying on a teddy bear watching Chucky. At that point, it was clear we are on the same wavelength. It’s still so crazy to me how, when I first heard ‘Fetish’, I pictured it to the backdrop of horror. It’s one of my favourite genres to make a female look strong.

Selena Gomez: That’s so true. You were texting me all these photos and I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ You called me after and were like, ‘Um, I’m going to just send you a moodboard and then it’s gonna be kind of like a horror film – cool?’

I made it very clear to you that I didn’t see ‘Fetish’ how most people know the word at face value. When most people hear the word ‘Fetish’, they think of S&M and all that sexual shit, but you didn’t. You knew why I loved it. You told me, ‘I think this song is about love, something crazy and complicated.’ I wanted the video to be contextualised.

Petra Collins: I love the video because it shows the very dirty, gross and weird love you can have towards someone. This is how obsessive some people get and how they release. I’m obsessed with these weird ASMR videos. I think about how our bodies react to sounds and movement.

“I love the video because it shows the very dirty, gross and weird love you can have towards someone. This is how obsessive some people get” – Petra Collins

I love the kitchen scene in ‘Fetish’ so much. It’s so rare to see a woman lose control and also gain it back. Women are always told, ‘Oh, be in control of your feelings,’ and a woman is never allowed to express her anger without being demonised as being PMS-y. I love seeing a woman, or a girl, be so physical, (to) let go of all control of her body. It’s not going crazy, it’s going with it, it’s getting final!

I don’t view the video as dark. You can see this angry, sad, whatever person, but also be in control of it. Oh my God, do you remember the eggs and tomatoes on your face? Was that fun for you?

Selena Gomez: The kitchen scene was so liberating, to lose control of my body and lose sight of myself. I felt great and I felt like tomatoes, eggs and dirt and it was amazing, but seriously? I love that. It felt so good. I remember being a little nervous, and when shit hit the wall – I just lost it and left myself in that scene. It was so cool. You were behind the camera, screaming.

Petra Collins: I just found the video Michelle took of me jumping up and down like a child, screaming on the top of my lungs. ‘Go for it! Go For it!’ and you did!

Selena Gomez: Send me that! I want that. I loved that moment.

Petra Collins: The energy we were giving back and forth was insane, it was like me screaming while you are just giving the performance of a lifetime.

Selena Gomez: Um, I’m not saying I’ve ever done something similar to the kitchen scene in real life, but I can say right now, I do weird shit all the time when I’m alone in my house. It’s how I express myself! Honestly, what you do with women is so inspiring to me. Your pictures can be sexy, but you aren’t sexualizing women. You capture the raw part of it all.

If a guy shot ‘Fetish’, I bet it would look way more sexual. That’s what I love about how you captured my breakdown moments – it’s shown to the viewer as creepy and I honestly think that there are some guys out there who would make those moments more sexy than it was or should be.

“One of the reasons I put you in the suburbs is because I wanted to isolate you to the most insane degree” – Petra Collins

Petra Collins: I think one of the reasons I put you in the suburbs is because I wanted to isolate you to the most insane degree where I’ve felt the most isolated. I wanted the viewers to know you were fully alone. I mean isn’t it frustrating and nerve-wracking to watch someone fully alone? Where are the other people existing?

Selena Gomez: Look, I can tell you that neighbourhood in the video looks exactly like the one I grew up in. I always felt like where I lived looked at the surface very innocent but I knew exactly what was going on behind each of the houses and (understood) that feeling of being isolated. I get it. There’s a reason there is no-one else on the street in the video.

“Gucci is so cool. I’m obsessed with him, we worked on Spring Breakers together and I asked him to be on the song” – Selena Gomez

Petra Collins: I’m happy we shot all the weird ASMR looking clips in Super 8, but Gucci’s part kind of looks like a weird instructional video. I’m a big fangirl of his. The song is such a banger.

Selena Gomez: Gucci is so cool. I’m obsessed with him, we worked on Spring Breakers together and I asked him to be on the song. I hadn’t had seen him for a long time (but) when I asked he was like ‘Yeah fam! Let’s do it!’ He loves it.

Petra Collins: He’s the best. Oh. Selena, I just texted about you (Robert Altman’s 1977 film) 3 Women.

Selena Gomez: I have to watch it. I just want to say I feel more comfortable with you than most people.

Petra Collins: Awww!

Selena Gomez: With the way I grew up, I always felt like there was something inside of me that hadn’t been accessed. I hadn’t had the opportunity or confidence to find it. For so long I felt like I (wasn’t able) to do something like this, not because I don’t want to but because I lack that confidence. I have a lot of insecurities, but when I started working with you… We’re like sisters, but I think I’m a little bit older than you?


Selena Gomez: You know what I mean! You make me feel more confident about the choices I make, like a sister. You help me, you encourage me and validate how I feel in that moment. I wouldn’t have been able to grow into the artist I am right now without you. It’s like this fire-and-water, duality thing going on.

Petra Collins: We’ve never talked about astrology! I’m definitely a sagittarius. I’m such a fire sign.

Selena Gomez: I’m such a cancer, I’m sensitive as fuuuuuck. I feel everything so intensely, which is one of my favourite things about myself. Feeling is something I love.

Petra Collins: Do you like Fiona Apple? I remember seeing the ‘Criminal’ video – seeing someone displaying themselves so honestly and showing to us that she was sick, it scared me. She turned the ‘heroin chic’ thing on everyone by saying, ‘This is how I am, this is real.’

Selena Gomez: I love Fiona, and that video. My mom introduced me to her. I’ve been listening to her since my childhood. She was doing something very raw for her time. She is an icon, what she does creatively is on another level.

Petra Collins: What is your current obsession or ‘fetish’?

Selena Gomez: Right now, I have a fetish for Brian De Palma films. The way he shoots women is so sexy. I’m printing out pictures to hang up in my new house right now. Melanie Griffith in Body Double. So sexy.

Petra Collins: Oh my God. Brian De Palma. I love him. I’m with you on that one, that’s my fetish right now too.