Director Petra Collins on Cardi B Playing a Lush Goddess in “Bartier Cardi”

The director of the rapper's new video tells us how she helped Cardi channel Sharon Stone in “Casino” and Michelle Pfeiffer in “Scarface.”

by Rachel Tashjian
Apr 3 2018, 9:34pm

In less than a year, Cardi B has become an icon of modern femininity: she’s slick, she’s powerful, she’s funny, she’s just so now. But in the video for “Bartier Cardi,” the second single off her upcoming debut album, Invasion of Privacy, out on this Friday, Cardi worked with director Petra Collins, who brings a different kind of feminine aesthetic: it’s soft, it’s intimate, it has the dreamy haze of a romanticized past.

“It’s my aesthetic to be soft, but I never thought the video was soft, because she’s very commanding,” Collins said in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon. “This video is in this universe…[and] Cardi is like the boss of this universe.”

Women in peach, candy pink, and icy blue fish dollar bills and Fashionova tags out of the pool; they pile stacks on a table stocked with a fax machine and a bountiful offering of grapes and oranges; and they sip champagne in a zealous bubble bath. All of them are glued to TVs showing Cardi grooving in red Avent Provacateur lingerie and a vintage Dior fur shawl with emeralds in front of silver foil streamers—including 21 Savage, who’s tied up by two women in a room full of TVs. “I wanted this sexy bondage scene, but I also wanted 21 Savage to be forced to watch television,” Collins said. Oh, there’s also a room of men in silver hot pants, like Deborah Turbeville stumbled into a Chelsea bathhouse circa 1981. Hell yeah!

So it’s not exactly fairytale princess stuff. In fact, Cardi is obsessed with Scarface, Collins said, and while they initially toyed with the idea of creating a direct homage, they instead opted for a slate of ultra glam but totally villainous character references: Sharon Stone’s glitzy and domineering Vegas showgirl in Casino, Michelle Pfeiffer’s cool and pristine Elvira Hancock in Scarface, and Nicole Kidman in To Die For, in which Kidman plays a suburban woman so desperate to be a world-famous television journalist that she murders her husband. (Honestly, it makes perfect sense in the movie.)

Working with her stylist, Kollin Carter, Cardi works some dazzling looks in the video. Carter put Cardi in a white Mark Fast ensemble with fishnet and scale-like paillettes and fur, so she looks like a mythical creature around which a fervent cult has emerged. (Collins said that the first time she met Carter, at a Grammys concert, he was “just staring to make sure Cardi’s boot didn’t fall in a certain way,” and whenever she was between verses, he “would go over and fix her boot. I was like, this is literally the best thing ever.” C/Kollins 4ever.)

Katina Danabassis—a costume stylist who’s worked on Beyonce’s Lemonade, Lady Bird, and Harmony Korine’s upcoming tour de force The Beach Bum—styled the rest of the cast. “It’s cool working with not just a single stylist,” Collins said. “It really sort of makes it richer, where we really have stylists for characters.” 21 Savage, for example, appears in a Hawaiian shirt, a la Romeo + Juliet and, again, Pacino in Scarface; “I love a Hawaiian shirt on a guy!” Collins said. “I was like, please, please can we get him in that? It’s so hot!”

As if all that wasn’t enough: Cardi hangs out with fiancé Offset in the backseat of a car in a custom crystal set by Yeha Leung. “She even raps in Offset’s face, which is one of my favorite parts,” Collins said. They didn’t need a lot of direction. “When it’s a couple, it’s natural—it’s like, do what you want to do,” Collins said.

Cardi had one note for Collins when she saw the first cut of the video: “More me.” So Collins went back in and added more Cardi. (Thank God.) “It’s something that I really respect, too,” Collins said. “As a woman who has her image everywhere constantly, it’s her own music video, [she] should be able to do what she wants. You should also be able to tell you director that that’s what you want.”

Rap videos, of course, have a storied iconography and dense history, but Collins was less concerned with fitting into that canon than “wanting every single woman in every scene to be like, a goddess.” Between the Greek and Roman statues, the sprawling banquets with diamond watches underneath, Collins said, “I just wanted it to be beautiful, and lush, and over the top, and crazy. That’s what you do with music videos. You can create this world that only exists for three minutes.” And that’s why God invented the replay button on YouTube!

Cardi B
Petra Collins
music videos