What happened: Selena Gomez was accused by Sarah Bahbah of plagiarizing her artwork, the truth of the story is in the comments

Artist Sarah Bahbah has publicly accused Selena Gomez of plagiarizing her work in her latest music video.
If you missed it, Selena released the Parisian-themed music video for her song “Love On” on Feb. 22, and it has since racked up over 8 million views.

Selena Gomez wearing a sequined strapless dress and statement necklace at an event

But this weekend, Sarah took to TikTok and Instagram to accuse Selena of ripping off her style within the video.

For some context, the independent photographer and artist has worked with the likes of Gucci, Condé Nast, Sony Music, and GQ, and her art has been displayed in numerous galleries worldwide. She has also collaborated with and shot music videos for several high-profile influencers and artists, including Kygo, whom Selena released a song with back in 2017.

Selena Gomez in a music video scene, wearing a bathrobe and sunglasses, sitting by a window with a view and talking on a landline phone

Selena was previously accused of copying Sarah’s work back in 2018, when fans pointed out how her “Back to You” music video seemed to emulate Sarah’s style. In particular, when Selena shared a series of visuals from the video with her lyrics written subtitles-style, several users argued that the aesthetic was strikingly similar to that of Sarah’s work, which was — and still is — often circulated across social media.

Sarah ended up addressing the controversy herself in a lengthy statement shared with Cosmopolitan. She said, “For years I have been very vocal about the inspiration behind adding subtitles on series. […] I don’t claim to own the use of subtitles on images either, but it’s definitely a signature of my work that has further established me in this industry.”

A close-up of Sarah Bahbah, whose hair is styled in a half-updo and is wearing pendant necklace, standing before a "Year of Emotion" backdrop

“My recognizable style of work has allowed me to collaborate with music labels, media publications, fashion brands (such as Gucci), and celebrities. All of which were interested in working with me because of my photography style, use of subtitles & raw story telling. It’s become somewhat of an industry standard that I am the ‘go-to’ for this type of style,” she continued.

Sarah went on to express her desire to collaborate with Selena someday. “I’m flattered that so many have referenced me in Selena’s latest work, and would love to collaborate with Gomez on a special project in the future,” she wrote.

Fast-forward to today, and Sarah has publicly accused Selena of plagiarizing her style within the “Love On” video. Taking to social media, Sarah shared a detailed video featuring a side-by-side analysis of all the parallels between her artwork and Selena’s new music video.

Selena Gomez in a music video scene, leaning against a car window with a vintage aesthetic and a lyric in a band along the bottom

In the video, Sarah recalls waking up to messages from her friends who’d seen the video telling her that Selena was “ripping [her] off again.” Sarah later notes that she was encouraged to speak out on the subject, stating, “What I’m about to share happens so often to women of color in this industry, and in this instance, I am an independent artist, but I am also a Palestinian woman.”

Sarah says that she was “taken aback” when she first watched the “Love On” music video. “Not only is it shot in a style that heavily resembles a lot of my art, but it’s also shot in the same location that I’ve shot two of my short films in,” she says, pointing out that the personal works she references have between 1 million and 50 million views.

Going on to analyze a bunch of “side-by-side comparisons,” Sarah notes similarities between her and Selena’s aesthetic, location, film style, cover art, opening sound effects, and more.

Since Sarah’s video was shared, internet users have remained divided. While some people have argued that Selena was inspired by the 1963 French film Contempt, which stars Brigitte Bardot, others suggested that the similarities between Selena’s video and Sarah’s style were too prominent not to address.

As she had anticipated, Sarah received floods of negative comments from people defending Selena, and as a result, she wound up turning off her Instagram comments.

Sarah with long hair in a video captioned "because what I'm about to share happens so often"

She wrote, “Turning off comments because Selena’s fans are posting a lot of hateful things that have nothing to do with the video and I don’t really feel like being abused on this lovely Sunday. I really appreciate the love, the intellectual responses, the discourse, the conversations on Inspiration vs IP infringement. I believe these conversations need to continue being had across the entertainment industry. Independent artist must be protected at all costs. I got the insight I needed this weekend.”

Sarah on a video screen with text overlay referring to women of color and smaller artists

However, Sarah was quietly supported by a bunch of celebrities who liked her Instagram post, including Noah Centineo, musician JP Saxe, and actor Ramy Youssef. Just a few months ago, it was reported that Selena had attended Ramy’s fundraising event for Gaza alongside her close friend Taylor Swift.

Sarah’s Instagram account since appears to have been shadow-banned, with several users noticing that she doesn’t immediately pop up when her name is typed in — despite the fact that the account is verified and has a million followers.

BuzzFeed has reached out to Selena’s representative for comment.

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