Welcome to Emily Ratajkowski Daily, your 24/7 online and leading source dedicated to Emily Ratajkowski since 2017. Known for her modeling work but also Gone Girl, Entourage and We Are Your Friends movies, she will be star in Bright Futures shortly. Here you will find all you need to know about our idol including the largest picture gallery on the net, the latest news, videos and much more. Don't forget you can also find ERD on Twitter. Make sure to follow us for all the new updates. I hope you enjoy your stay and come back soon!
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Emily Ratajkowski has already received her best gifts this year

Emily Ratajkowski loves to go all out on holiday decor—ribbon on the banister, tinsel everywhere, you name it. “If I could, I would have a tree all year”, she jokes.

This year, she and her husband, the producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, are having a New York City Christmas, their first with their son, Sylvester (affectionately referred to by his nickname, Sly). “I’ve had a few Christmases in New York”, she says, “but this one is obviously going to be very special, because it’s our first one with a little person”.

For baby Sly, Ratajkowski is planning to invest in “some winter looks, because he’s a New York City man”. That means he’ll be fitted in a North Face jacket, as well as some sets from Bobo Choses, Mini Rodini, and the Animals Observatory. She’s also planning on acquiring a humongous stuffed animal from a French brand called BigStuffed. “I have this fantasy of a giant stuffed octopus underneath the tree for him”, she says with glee.

For Sebastian, she’ll stick to their usual formula. “We traditionally give each other jewelry, because he actually will wear chains, and he has an ear pierced”, Ratajkowski says. And for her friends, there are handmade Piera Bochner candles, molded in the shape of gourds and squash (“They look really, really funky—almost like organic fungi, but they’re brightly colored and beautiful”), Clio Peppiatt custom beaded dresses, and blue crushed velvet bikinis from her swimwear line, Inamorata.

Also on the to-give list: a copy of My Body, the collection of essays Ratajkowski published this year. She says the process of putting it out into the world was a difficult one, but, in a way, it was also a present to herself. “When New York magazine published an excerpt, I saw a couple of things where people were like, ‘Did she have a ghostwriter?’ And it pissed me off, because I worked so hard on this. But one of the subjects that I deal with in the book is how, if you have objectified your own body, then it’s like you’re not capable of having thoughts”, she says. “Writing and being so honest with myself about those power structures and the ways I was complicit has been such an incredible gift”.

And, of course, she didn’t forget about Colombo, her husky-malamute mix. “He’s such a good boy”, Ratajkowski says. But this year, “he’ll probably get a bad-boy present: a big bone”.

Source : wmagazine.com

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Of Money and Men: Emily Ratajkowski in Conversation With Amia Srinivasan

“I have so much anxiety about this”, says Emily Ratajkowski from the floor of her Manhattan apartment. “Even my body has responded to the desire to know how this book will be received”. Ratajkowski has long since come to terms with relinquishing control over her image, but for the 30-year-old San Diego native, the project of removing her body from the conversation has been a challenging one. After more than a decade spent embodying what many—Ratajkowski included—would say is an impossible beauty standard, the model and businesswoman has endeavored in recent years to shine light on the toxic aspects of an industry that long held her up as the epitome of female sexuality. Last fall, she published an essay about her experiences with on-the-job assault and exploitation, naming a prominent photographer in the process. The essay sparked seismic reactions—both positive and negative—in the fashion and art worlds. But instead of dwelling on the public’s reaction, Ratajkowski, a new mother, has done her best to focus on the process of creation.

My Body, Ratajkowski’s recently released book of essays, is the latest step in this process. Over 12 essays—concerned less with her body itself than with its status as an object of fetishization—Ratajkowski confronts with unflinching frankness topics like shame, solidarity, and the search for male validation in a culture that often confuses exploitation with empowerment. The result is a book that, in the opinion of the philosopher Amia Srinivasan, opens itself up to just about anyone—teenage boys and feminist scholars alike. “I’ve always been drawn to sparse, unpretentious writing”, Ratajkowski says. “The purpose of an essay is to get to the root of something, to investigate it”. To mark the release of My Body, Ratajkowski joined Srinivasan over Zoom for a discussion about money, the myth of being a muse, and what it means to raise a son in today’s world. – MARA VEITCH

EMILY RATAJKOWSKI: It’s so nice to meet you!

AMIA SRINIVASAN: It’s really nice to meet you too, congratulations on the book!

RATAJKOWSKI: Thank you. I’m such a huge fan. I love The Right to Sex.

SRINIVASAN: I read your book in one sitting and it reminded me of something Marilyn Monroe said in her final interview. She said, “Like any creative human being, I would like a bit more control”. It seems to me that this theme of power and control is maybe the central theme of the book? It runs through all 12 essays. When you choose to take off your clothes or post an Instagram photo of your ass, is this an act of control? Is being able, so successfully, to make men want you, to understand what men want and play on that desire, a form of power? Or are all of these things just simulacra of power and control? My sense is that you give a pretty ambivalent answer to these questions. On one hand, you rightly condemn those who criticize you and other women for capitalizing on their beauty. And you acknowledge that the way you look has given you a certain form of power. But in the book, you tell these stories again and again of realizing that the real power lies with men. The men who direct, film, and manage you, who own the companies and production houses, and who so often treat you as fungible and stupid, simply a body to be sold, consumed, and unfortunately occasionally assaulted. Again and again, you express contempt for the control that these men exercise, and a longing for more creative power. Someone, as you say, who might make a movie one day, rather than get naked in one. Do you think that this is a fair assessment, and to what extent was power and control at the forefront of your mind as you set out to write the book?

RATAJKOWSKI: I didn’t know that Marilyn Monroe quote but it’s interesting that she was talking about control, because even when I believed in choice feminism in my early twenties, and believed in the power that I had as somebody who had worked the system, I definitely didn’t feel in control very often. Instagram was one of the places where I first experienced feeling some kind of control, because I was the one who was able to choose the images and put them out. I could go into a whole thing about my relationship to the internet and women and control. I think it’s something that is at the forefront of our cultural conversation right now, around Only Fans and revenge porn and maybe even related to crypto and NFTs and the free internet, but that’s a separate conversation. When I was writing the book, I knew that power and control were huge topics for me, but it wasn’t, “This is a story about power and control”. It was more like, “This is a story where I have a lot of shame, and a lot of complicated feelings about how I acted.” But, maybe there’s something there that is related to these ideas. I experienced what the double-edged sword was like—wearing something tight to school and then realizing that the popular girls weren’t paying attention to me because the boys were paying attention to me, while also feeling my vice principal snapping my bra strap. So much of what women experience is this feeling of, “I’m the one seducing, I’m the one who’s getting this attention, so I have the power”. But it wasn’t until I got older that I was able to look at these experiences that have stuck with me and think about control, and through thinking about control, think about power.

SRINIVASAN: What was so fascinating about the second essay, which is about “Blurred Lines”, was the way you focus on the means of production of it. It was a production run by a woman, mostly staffed by women, and you were with two other women models. You felt playful and in control; that no one was asking you to do things you didn’t want to do. And you were working, and as a work experience, it felt pretty positive. What I like about that so much is that you make a move here that a lot of women who work in sex work make, which is actually a fundamentally Marxist move. It’s to say, “Don’t just fixate on the representation, the thing that comes out and that you see, and ask about the gendered meaning of that. Also think about what goes into the production of it and the making of it”. But then of course there’s a shift, and you talk about this really awful moment when a mediocre pop star feels entitled to put his hands on you, and everyone freezes and no one can really say anything. It’s one of these moments of puncturing, where it turns out that he’s fundamentally in control.

RATAJKOWSKI: Absolutely, especially in relation to sex work, I relate to it a little bit in the way that all of these women are using their bodies and compromising and also finding power, potentially. That essay in particular is really about industry, capitalism, and commodification, because I had approached modeling as a job. I was only interested in the money that I could make. I knew that there was potentially other power with becoming famous or becoming an image of a beautiful woman and what that represented. I grew up in the early aughts, and I’d seen what powerful women looked like. To me they were Britney Spears, and then there were powerful men who were presidents. That was sort of my understanding. So of course I wanted that, but I’d really hardened myself and thought, “I’m never going to have that kind of power, so I’m just going to make as much money as I can”. That meant often, as I write in the book, feeling like a mannequin, working with men who were maybe twice my age and stripping down and turning into their fantasy. “Blurred Lines” was this experience where a bunch of women asked me how I felt. Did I like makeup? Did I like my hair? I let myself relax and enjoy myself on that set. I think it’s one of the reasons that the music video had the success it did, because it isn’t just girls pouting. There’s a silliness to it and that’s a reflection of how I felt on set. The part where the power dynamics became clear was one that I had buried. I found it humiliating and incongruent with what I wanted to believe and feel about my position in the world. Ultimately, when I first wrote an early draft of this, the experience was buried inside of another essay, because I didn’t want it to be “the ‘Blurred Lines’ essay”. Then I realized that it needed to be its own.

SRINIVASAN: You were in an impossible position. You either hide it or bring it up. No matter what, the revelation, which is handled with such subtlety and care, would generate the kind of headlines it has. Like in The Sunday Times, which is a terrible right-wing newspaper. You’ve seen the headline.

RATAJKOWSKI: Not only the headline, but the images have been pictures where my breasts are exposed, and it says, “Emily Eroticakowski Accuses Robin Thicke of Sexual Assault”. It’s such a diminishing of what I actually wanted to say. Even having people approach me and say very kindly, “It’s so wonderful you spoke out”, is kind of missing the point of the essay. I’m looking forward to people being able to read and, I hope, understand why I decided to write it and what the point is of sharing that experience.

SRINIVASAN: If it’s any consolation, another terrible right-wing British newspaper described my book with the headline “The Right to Sex by Amia Srinivasan: Soviet-Style of Sex Reeducation”.

RATAJKOWSKI: Wow, that actually does make me feel better. [Laughs]

SRINIVASAN: A lot of people experience that kind of mistreatment, especially women who want to think about questions with nuance and ambivalence. A lot of the mainstream press can’t handle that. You expressed a hope that people will actually read the book as you wrote it: a set of complex, ambivalent, sometimes funny, very sharp, and also cold and dark meditations on representation and sex, embodiment, and capitalism. But you also expressed anxiety in the book that you won’t be taken seriously, because women who look like you in particular, and who also capitalize on how they look, are especially not taken seriously. I wonder how confident you are that you are going to be read properly, or are you going to still be read through a lens of male sexual fantasy?

RATAJKOWSKI: I have so much anxiety about this. I’ve lost a bunch of weight in the past month because I’m concerned and scared. My body has actually responded to the desire to how this book will be received and it’s a continuation of the metaphor. But something that I think the book could be criticized for and I totally understand is that I don’t give a lot of solutions, and I can often be cynical. What I’m about to say is not cynical and kind of positive, which is that ultimately, I write about being a muse versus an artist. I didn’t even realize that it was such a large part of the book. In some ways I wish that I had written more about it, but also I have realized that the book is a relic that is about creation and about the muse taking back power and becoming the artist. The act of writing the book has been an attempt at control, but ultimately, you have to release control in order to be happy and just to survive and exist in a meaningful way. I think, with publishing it and knowing that there’s this huge risk of people not reading it at all, and only looking at the headlines, I have to focus on the act of creating the book and the fulfillment that it’s given me, which is really all I ever wanted.

SRINIVASAN: Let’s talk about the shift from being the muse to the artist. I’m interested in the process that went into the actual writing of this book. It’s a very finely honed and controlled literary object. Your prose is spare, often cold, especially when you’re describing moments of male creepiness and assault. It reminds me of early Bret Easton Ellis, that same cold description of a certain toxic superficial culture. But in its places of coldness, it’s very affecting. You also do this very intricate interweaving of different temporal moments and different narratives. In the essay called “Toxic”, you’re interweaving this discussion of Britney Spears with the account of this high school almost-friendship. Then in “Beauty Lessons”, which opens the book, you’ve got this series of numbered vignettes about your childhood formation, your relationship with your mother, beauty, loveability. Can we talk about the craft of essay writing and what it’s about for you?

RATAJKOWSKI: I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, and it was one of the reasons I didn’t write more, because I had so much respect for wonderful writing that I felt like, “Why attempt, why not just appreciate?” I’ve always been drawn to sparse, unpretentious writing. Flowery language doesn’t really interest me. It covers it up. It’s often difficult to be very direct and not flowery because you really have to figure out what the fuck you’re saying. I have so much respect for people who are good at that, especially in essays, because the idea of an essay is to get to the root of something, to investigate it. That was what started the writing. It was not just, “I’m going to write a book”, but more feeling like I wanted to explore experiences and ideas that I couldn’t verbally lay out or organize. I would start on a note in my phone and that was really helpful, because once you start writing inside of essays, you can lose the stream of consciousness that you want to have. You do that particularly well. I think Leslie Jamison also does that really well, where you feel her mind working in the writing, which is very difficult because anyone who’s written knows that once you edit, you’re completely lost in the sentences and you lose the larger shape. So the notes thing allowed me to jump from one idea to the next. And as somebody who has grown up in the age of the internet and enjoys reading long books but can have a short attention span, I appreciate the way you can pick up and put down a book of essays.

SRINIVASAN: Can we talk about money?

RATAJKOWSKI: Yes. I love talking about money.

SRINIVASAN: You describe why you first got into modeling, and it’s because of money. You immediately contextualize it within the 2008 financial crash, which was so formative for people in our generation. You were watching peers moving back home and picking up the service jobs they had in high school, but you didn’t want to do that. Modeling was something you were already doing, but then you went full gung-ho into it. It reminds me of a move that, again, a lot of sex workers make, which is that whenever they write about sex work, they remind people that it’s something they do for money. And the reason you have to remind people is it stops the pathologization of a certain form of activity, because otherwise, people ask, “Why are you taking your clothes off, why are you uploading so many selfies?” Well, it’s a way of making money. It’s only when you forget about money and the broader capitalist system in which we operate that things start to appear pathological.

RATAJKOWSKI: Yes, and that was so important to me because there’s shame around, or at least I felt shame around, being money hungry. Autonomy and freedom and control come with money, and I knew that at a very young age. Nothing terrified me more than watching my friends who went out into the world have to return and give that up. My parents come from the generation where you go to college and get a decent job. Student debt wasn’t really on their mind. When I was a senior and I was deciding to go to UCLA, I took a job at a store. I thought, “I’m going to stop modeling now, and I need to get used to making this kind of money and have some experience in a real situation that I can bring to a place in L.A. and say I’ve actually worked. And I hated it. So even though modeling has all these things about it, I’d rather do it. Everybody also always reminded me that modeling has a very specific window and that if you don’t do it when you’re young and beautiful, it goes away. So I made the decision to jump on that, directly into an industry that when I got sick with the flu and lost some weight, I watched the number on the scale go down and the number of my paychecks go up. So all of a sudden I became hyper aware of how to have more. It’s kind of another conversation for a different book, but when do we start saying, “I have enough financial security, so I’m not going to compromise myself in certain ways because I feel safe and secure?”

SRINIVASAN: You said it’s a topic for another book, but that was actually the question I was going to ask you. When is it enough money?

RATAJKOWSKI: I’m wrestling with that. I write about the experience of being around really rich men. I’ve seen what real money looks like and what kind of lifestyle that guarantees. But I have noticed, and since writing this book, that I feel much more comfortable saying no to things. The money is, to me, still shocking. I kind of can’t believe what I’m offered for my actual time.

SRINIVASAN: One of the suggestions that comes through in “Beauty Lessons” is that there’s money and there’s the very real material drive for money, but there’s also for you and for many women, the internalized misogyny that results in a constant drive for male validation. You talk about how that’s inflected through social media, like the actual oxytocin hit, and I was amazed to find that you get an oxytocin hit off of an Instagram like. People who get like 10 Instagram likes definitely do, too, but it seems like the particular relationship that you were brought up to have with your beauty where you think that you’re lovable insofar as you’re beautiful, is expressed writ large by social media. So there is a sense in which that is what love is now. Love is how many likes you can have. How easy would it be for you to separate yourself from that economy of validation?

RATAJKOWSKI: I’ve started to, and it’s strange unlearning the ways that I understood love and specialness. I lost the distinction between the two, as a young person. That was true of my upbringing, and then I became a famous model with this instant feedback loop of specialness of lovability. It was spooky when I figured out that parallel. What I’ve learned, even just writing this book and why I dedicate the book to my son, is that the way that I’m actively trying to relearn what love and lovability can be is my attempt to be the best person I can be and, ultimately, the best mother. But it’s an ongoing process, because validation like that is really powerful.

SRINIVASAN: What do you think about the economy of validation and desirability in the literary world?

RATAJKOWSKI: I’m terrified. I think it’s going to be really interesting, too. I’ve already sort of dipped my toe in it and it’s a whole other thing.

SRINIVASAN: One thing that’s really bracing about the book is that it’s filled with creepy, shitty, abusive men. Not all of them, you do have good men in your life. But you have this extraordinarily intimate knowledge of male shittiness, of patriarchal sexuality and masculinity. The book ends with an essay on giving birth to a son. What does the project of raising a male child look like to you?

RATAJKOWSKI: When you said “good men in your life”, and you write about this as well, I think there just aren’t good and bad men. Yes, it’s not all men, and at the same time, it’s all men. In the same way that women are existing in the world that we exist in, there’s moments where any man can, always with ignorance, but whether knowingly or not, take advantage of the power dynamics that we so often ignore. My son, babies, have this genderless quality to them, and so I love affording that to him right now. I’ve just been treating him as this wonderful little human who’s being introduced to the world. Actually, I noticed that as soon as people know that he’s a boy, the way that they interact with him is different than they would have with a baby girl. Sometimes I feel frustrated by that because I think there’s even a tendency to throw a little boy in the air, be a little bit rougher with them than you would a little girl. That stuff already bothers me because I can see where it’s leading. I don’t have the answers, but the second that I knew I was having a son it came to mind. The best I can do is teach him compassion, and about these power dynamics that men don’t have to inspect in the way that women do, and make him aware of them and make him care about them. How’s that going to happen? I’m not entirely sure. I also think that this culture that I’m writing about in the book, is very bad for men. There are books about how bad it is for men. I see it in my life, the ways that it limits men, and how depressing their existence and their lives can be when they have to adopt this toxic masculinity. So I also feel incredibly protective of him in the same way I would with a daughter, from this culture.

SRINIVASAN: So many of the men you described in the book have a profoundly desperate quality to them. So while they might be exercising a huge amount of power, usually decision-making power backed by money, there’s also clear anxiety about their own masculinity, their place in the world, their desirability. They feel female desirability as this profound threat to their supposed mastery. And I totally agree with you, I think feminism that isn’t interested in the complexities of the distorting effects of patriarchy on the male psyche is not really feminism worth having. I want to recommend a book to you, which is usually the book I give to my friends when they get pregnant. It’s Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born.

RATAJKOWSKI: I know Adrienne Rich but I haven’t read that book.

SRINIVASAN: It’s my favorite of her books. She was the mother of two sons and it’s pretty much a meditation on that question, but in a profound and poetic way. It ends with this extraordinary image of what it means to set your son down on the shore of a river and cross that river and leave him there having the confidence that he’ll be able to follow. And how that possibility really is the most politically emancipatory thing we basically need to do: allow men to learn how to accept both that they have been radically dependent on women, but also to grow up.

RATAJKOWSKI: I’m crying because it’s so difficult and scary and sad to watch. Actually, one of the early reviews somebody wrote about the book was that these men had jealousy, there was a sort of jealousy of power, a threat of the validation I could give them or that a beautiful young woman could give them. I feel like that is the source of that, and it’s something bell hooks writes about so well. I thought the book you were going to recommend is Men, Masculinity, and the Will to Change. That book is wonderful in being compassionate towards men but I do think that so many of these things that I’ve experienced have come out of real fear and a need to prove something. I do feel incredibly empathetic towards that and am aware of it.

Source : interviewmagazine.com

Emily Ratajkowski discusses her new book ‘My Body’ and the complications of female empowerment

Appearing on the cover of this week’s Stylist magazine to mark the release of My Body, a new collection of essays in which she documents her life, Emily Ratajkowski speaks to author Terri White about why the notion of female empowerment is far more complicated than we often realise.

Emily Ratajkowski is one of the most recognised women in the world, with over 28.5 million followers on Instagram who know her as a successful model, actress and influencer. But with the release of her new book My Body on 10 November, Ratajkowski is holding up a mirror to her life and analysing how that fame has impacted her sense of self.

In this week’s edition of Stylist – available to download now – Ratajkowski speaks to author Terri White about how complex it has been navigating the idea of female empowerment – specifically the complexity of finding power in your looks, what you wear and how you present your body. “All of a sudden, every single thing that had ever made me feel validated and good about myself was questioned”, she says.

The interview details Ratajkowski’s’ early experience of being told: “learn to keep your voice down, girls like you get into trouble”, as well as navigating the modelling industry, and what ultimately spurred her to pursue an acting career later on – one of her most memorable performances being in the film Gone Girl. She also addresses the “complicated power of attraction” and the role her mother played in helping her understand womanhood.

Ratajkowski also talks about her experience of filming the infamous Blurred Lines video with singer Robin Thicke in 2013. She tells how the overnight fame that followed it affected her mental health and of the process she had to go through to recognise what happened on the video shoot – she alleges that Thicke groped her breasts – as assault.

“I think I’m still recognising it as such”, Ratajkowski explains. “The news leaked this past weekend and it’s like, ‘Emily Ratajkowski accuses Robin Thicke of sexual assault’. Seeing that makes me bristle. Because I feel like those words have such weight to them in this era. And there isn’t a lot of nuance allowed.

“But I do remember what the experience felt like in that moment. And how embarrassing it was for me. That part of it, I just… I don’t know, I guess that’s the thing that led me down the path of writing about it and processing it”.

In the interview, Ratajkowski shares how her experience of writing her book was both cathartic and painful, and how urgently there needs to be a crucial shift in how we educate and prevent men from being allowed to consider taking power over a woman’s body as “not a big deal”.


Source : stylist.co.uk

The Emily Ratajkowski You’ll Never See

With her new book, the model tries to escape the oppressions of the male gaze. So our writer is keeping some of her secrets.

I’m not going to tell you what the hostess said to Emily Ratajkowski. Instead, I will tell you this: We are having lunch at a restaurant. We consult the restaurant’s menu, which boasts many items. Ratajkowski, a model who first became famous for appearing naked in a music video, orders something. I, who have never been in a music video but have been naked many times, also order something. We remark casually on the restaurant’s ambience, noting its proximity to various locations. I turn on my recorder. Each of us is wearing clothes.

We are here to talk about Ratajkowski’s new book, My Body. In it, she reflects on her fraught relationship with the huge number of photographs of her body that have come to define her life and career. The book’s marquee essay, Buying Myself Back, which describes how Ratajkowski ended up purchasing a print of her own Instagram post from the appropriation artist Richard Prince, was published to great notice in New York magazine last fall. Ratajkowski also wrote that the photographer Jonathan Leder sexually assaulted her in his home after a photo shoot when she was 20.

At lunch, Ratajkowski explains that New York magazine took Buying Myself Back from her book proposal. In fact, she began working on My Body without anyone but herself in mind, jotting down notes on her phone as they occurred to her. One day she realized she was writing a book. Several times, Ratajkowski characterizes writing as a means of “organizing” her own thoughts — not as an act of branding but out of what strikes me as the genuine curiosity of a woman whom constant exposure has deprived of the possibility of self-knowledge.

But Ratajkowski knows she is in an impossible position as a model-turned-writer. Indeed, the author has spent her career dodging the backhanded compliment that she is the “thinking man’s naked woman”. Failure will be met with schadenfreude; success, with smug surprise. Someone recently asked her who her ghostwriter was. Others asked if her face is on the book’s cover. (It isn’t.) After Buying Myself Back came out, a journalist unearthed a 2018 profile in Marie Claire in which the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams lavishly praised her breasts while expressing surprise that she’d read Roberto Bolaño’s daunting novel “2666”. An irritated Ratajkowski tweeted her exhaustion with profiles that have boiled down to “She has breasts AND claims to read”.

We cannot see ourselves. This is an existential fact, as sure as death. Yes, we can look down at our limbs and trunks, but we cannot enter our own regard as subjects; we cannot see ourselves seeing. For a model, this existential fact is promoted, or relegated, to a professional one. “I don’t even know what I look like anymore”, Ratajkowski confesses to me. “I can’t even tell what’s a good or bad picture in the same way. It’s just another picture”. Sixteen years in the modeling industry — over half her lifetime — have left Ratajkowski burned out and grasping for narrative.

With My Body, Ratajkowski has created a new mirror for glimpsing her own reflection. Some essays recount the author’s hustle as a young model who often found herself in troubling situations with powerful men; another is written as a long, venomous reply to an email from a photographer who has bragged of discovering her. Throughout, Ratajkowski is hoping to set the record straight: She is neither victim nor stooge, neither a cynical collaborator in the male agenda, as her critics have argued, nor some pop-feminist empoweree, as she herself once supposed. Today she is just a girl, standing in front of 28 million Instagram followers, asking them to take her seriously.

Whether she’ll succeed remains to be seen. While Ratajkowski wrote My Body to reassert control of her image, publishing it will mean releasing yet another piece of herself into the world. “That’s the misery and the joy of it”, she tells me, comparing the process to giving birth to her son, now 8 months old. In the book, Ratajkowski remembers asking for a mirror when she was in labor, so she could see her body. “I wanted to witness its progress”, she writes. This is a modest goal, and equally profound, especially for someone who is looked at for a living — to regard oneself, without preconception or judgment.

Photography, for all its ambition, cannot bear witness; nor, for that matter, can the mirror, save perhaps in moments of rapture or deep quietude. Before the mirror, we had the mysteries of water to betray our forms; before that, the glowing eyes of another animal. Ratajkowski knows there is something hungry in the camera. It takes what it wants and holds it forever — “like a footprint or a death mask”, as Susan Sontag wrote. To cope, Ratajkowski has internalized the gaze; walking a red carpet, she hears the clicking of photographers and knows, as if by echolocation, what each photo will look like — and that none will capture the real her. Ever since her private photos were posted to 4chan by hackers, she has started to assume that every picture taken of her will become public, just to quell her anxiety. “There are no images that are just for myself”, Ratajkowski remarks sadly.

The phrase reverberates in my mind as we talk. “For better or worse, I’ve always been drawn to overexposure”, Ratajkowski writes in My Body describing the thrill she still gets when uploading a photo of herself to Instagram. I’m drawn to exposure, too; I’ve written extensively about my own body, and like Ratajkowski, I’m ambivalent about the attention it has won me. (I can confidently say it’s why I was assigned this article.) “I knew that when I met you”, Ratajkowski discloses later; it’s why she feels comfortable talking to me. But if I’m sympathetic to her compulsion, I’m not doing her any favors by writing a profile about her, which is just another kind of portrait. Then again, she was the one who called it My Body.

Could we help each other out, one woman to another? In this context, the idea of equality would be a fantasy; we cannot step outside our roles and histories and meet, as it were, in the wild. But it could be interesting to try. I ask Ratajkowski if she would like to take some Polaroids with me. As I imagine it, we would take photos of ourselves, by ourselves, and then share them with each other — and no one else. Ratajkowski interjects. “It would be about the experience of taking them”, she says simply: how we felt, whether we could trust each other, whether we could see each other, ourselves. She agrees to the exercise, fascinated by the idea of a photograph of herself that, by some miracle, nobody will ever see. “I do love the idea of our bodies being in conversation”, she later tells me. I am struck by the tenderness of her remark. When I ask what we should do with the photos afterward, Ratajkowski smiles. “We have to set them on fire”.

Ratajkowski was born in London in 1991, but raised in Encinitas, Calif., a surf town outside San Diego. Her mother was an English professor; her father, a painter and high school art teacher. The house where she grew up, which her father built himself, was filled with eccentric details: mismatched doorknobs, exposed beams and walls that stopped short of the roof. “It’s an artist’s house”, her mother would tell guests sheepishly. As a girl, Ratajkowski would be awakened by “the rhythmic sound of my parents having sex” — or more often, their vicious screaming matches. She would sink onto the floor of her bedroom and play with imaginary friends until it ended. But even when the house was silent, Ratajkowski writes, “I could hear my parents’ thoughts”.

Early in My Body, Ratajkowski describes a diptych of herself and her mother as young girls; when guests see the photos in her parents’ living room, they ask who is who. From a young age, she sensed that her mother felt entitled to her beauty, “like a piece of bequeathed jewelry”. Ratajkowski’s parents, and especially her beauty-obsessed mother, took immense pride in their daughter’s modeling career, which began when she was 14. When, as an adult, Ratajkowski finally persuaded her mother to take down an ostentatiously placed print from an old photo shoot, the latter responded matter-of-factly, “You’re more beautiful than that now”.

This is a portrait of a young girl with no privacy and a single avenue for self-worth. In bed, Ratajkowski prayed for beauty, squeezing her eyes shut to “focus on the expanding spots of light behind my eyelids”, developing the wish like a photograph. As a teenager, she would scrutinize herself in her bedroom’s full-length mirror, which her father first hung for a ballerina ex-girlfriend. In her freshman year at San Dieguito Academy, where her father taught painting, word spread that “Rata’s daughter models”. After graduating from high school, Ratajkowski studied art for a year at U.C.L.A. before dropping out to pursue modeling full time, appearing fully naked on the cover of Treats, an artsy Playboy imitator, in 2012. She liked to tell friends that the French word for “model” was “mannequin”. “I’m a mannequin for a living”, she would say, shrugging ambivalently.

The Treats pictorial caught the eye of the recording artist Robin Thicke, who recommended Ratajkowski for the music video for his 2013 single “Blurred Lines”. The unrated version of the video, which YouTube censors removed within a week of its posting, featured Ratajkowski and two other models flouncing around in nude thongs next to Thicke and his collaborators T.I. and Pharrell Williams. “Blurred Lines” arrived at the peak of the feminist blogosphere — an unfederated group of scrappy writers and websites that approached the crude oil of personal experience with the blowtorch of moral certitude — and bloggers seized upon the video as an emblem of “rape culture”. “I know you want it”, sang Thicke, a declaration of predation putatively excused by the nudity.

The controversy rocketed a bewildered Ratajkowski to international fame. “I and, more specifically, the politics of my body were suddenly being discussed and dissected across the globe by feminist thinkers and teenage boys alike”, she recalls. When Ratajkowski told reporters she had found the experience “empowering”, some dismissed her as complicit in her own victimization — or worse, a clueless agent of rape culture. At the time, Ratajkowski responded defiantly; these days, she’s not so sure. She knows that her fashion-week invitations, brand ambassadorships and short-lived film career (she played Ben Affleck’s topless mistress in Gone Girl), to say nothing of her massive Instagram platform where she hawks bikinis and endorsed Bernie Sanders — this is all the fruit of male attention.

Perhaps. The language of objectification has followed Ratajkowski like a hungry dog for her whole career, waiting for her to let down her guard. Her reputation as thoughtful and well read, coupled with her support of socialist policies, has only heightened for her the growing expectation that famously beautiful women be able to justify, politically, the act of being famously beautiful. Caught in the wrong video at the wrong time, Ratajkowski became an effigy for the exhaustion of a pop-feminist framework; if the author of My Body cannot decide whether her success has been empowering or not, that’s because this is a trick question.

It is by transforming one’s body into an object that one can sell it; it is by selling it that one may gain food, housing, status, influence and, yes, “power”. This is as true for the poorest sex worker as it is for the most celebrated actress; it is also true, by the way, for Amazon workers, short-order cooks and (my neck hurts as I write this) magazine writers. I am not mocking our differences; I am saying that the experience of becoming an object for pay is so general as to be trivial. That the tiny sliver of this experience to do with female sexuality should be singled out by feminists for censure reflects, certainly in Ratajkowski’s case, a gratuitous inflation of male power’s scope and reach.

Accordingly, the best parts of My Body are when Ratajkowski realizes that the best way to stop thinking about the male gaze is to think about something else instead. “I’m very obsessed with women”, she tells me. When Ratajkowski arrived on the set of “Blurred Lines”, she was pleased to find that the director Diane Martel had stacked the crew with women; for many hours, Thicke and the song’s other co-writers weren’t even present. Ratajkowski remembers wiggling around in her platform sneakers “ridiculously, loosely, the way I would to entertain my girlfriends”. The “Blurred Lines” video, viewed today, is clearly self-parodic. If anything, with its mismatched props, barnyard animals and flat beige cyclorama, it depicts a group of attractive people amusingly failing to make a music video. “There’s something risky and sexy about relationships with other women when you’re aware of the gaze, but the gaze isn’t there physically”, Ratajkowski observes.

But the blurred lines between one woman and the next, unacceptable to misogynists and many feminists, too, will most likely disappear next to Ratajkowski’s allegations that a drunk Robin Thicke cupped her bare breasts during the shoot. “I felt naked for the first time that day”, she writes, ashamed that it would take her years to call it sexual harassment. The allegations have already leaked to the tabloids, which have cast Ratajkowski as a helpless victim. “Remind me why I decided to do this?” she texted me after The New York Post called her childhood “sad” and “sexualized”. (Representatives for Thicke didn’t respond to requests for comment.)

The book contains many accounts of violation, sexual and otherwise. In one essay, it is not until after the death of Ratajkowski’s first boyfriend, who she says raped her when she was 14, that she is able to whisper to herself, “Owen, no”. (Owen is a pseudonym.) In Buying Myself Back, Ratajkowski is incredulous when she is sued for posting a paparazzi photo to Instagram; horrified when hackers leak her nudes on 4chan; furious when Jonathan Leder, who she says digitally penetrated her without her consent, publishes Polaroids of her with an allegedly forged release form. (Leder has said that Ratajkowski’s allegations are “too tawdry and childish to respond to”, telling a fact checker for New York magazine, “This is the girl that was naked in Treats magazine and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?”)

But the author of My Body has no investment in herself as a victim. If the men who hurt Ratajkowski in My Body are predators, she does not depict them as predatory. On the contrary, they are small, insecure people desperate to prove themselves, as pathetic as they are powerful. As Ratajkowski is quick to note, her experiences are neither disintegrating, even when traumatic, nor especially unique; her point is simply that they are no one’s but her own.

Instead of focusing on her damage — she considers suing Leder, but says he isn’t worth the trouble — Ratajkowski would rather create. My Body is only one example of that. Last May, she cleverly auctioned off an NFT, or nonfungible token, of a photo of herself standing next to the Richard Prince print, coolly reappropriating Prince’s appropriation of her image. (The NFT sold for $175,000 through Christie’s.) There was cheerful wit here, and more deliberateness in her self-presentation than the model took earlier in her career. These days, Ratajkowski is not looking for vengeance, or even recognition, but something quieter.

For the book’s epigraph, Ratajkowski selected a lucid passage from the late John Berger’s influential book Ways of Seeing, adapted from the 1972 television series of the same name. “You painted a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called the painting ‘Vanity’, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted for your own pleasure”, Berger wrote, addressing an Everyman painter. “The real function of the mirror was otherwise. It was to make the woman connive in treating herself as, first and foremost, a sight”. The point is clear: If Ratajkowski is complicit in being looked at, the crime is ours for looking.

When I have told female friends that I am writing about Emily Ratajkowski, most have asked me some variation on the question “So how hot is she, really?” We often forget that, when we speak of women’s envy for one another, we are also speaking of the ever-present gap, hardly unique to women, between one’s self-image and one’s reflection in the mirror. Indeed, it is a particular cruelty of popular feminism to have mistaken the universally alienating experience of examining one’s reflection for a uniquely female one, solvable through self-love and political consciousness. “I hate women who compare themselves to other women”, Ratajkowski imagines yelling at her therapist in My Body, knowing she is talking about herself. But feminism can be just as competitive as any beauty pageant: yet another mirror in which to examine one’s blemishes, and yet another means — the irony is exquisite — of comparing oneself with other women.

For what is wrong with wanting to be beautiful? Pop-feminism, for its part, is so preoccupied with criticizing what we rotely call “conventional beauty standards” that it has surprisingly little to say about beauty. It may be tempting, given the evidence of Ratajkowski’s own career, to deny the possibility of a beauty that would transcend male taste, at least in this world. Of course, the imagined saturation of the beautiful by male preference is immediately disproved by the existence of at least one lesbian (me); but it is further refuted if we acknowledge that the envy that heterosexual women have for one another is indeed an authentic expression of female desire.

When Ratajkowski was 15, beauty’s name was Sadie. Tall and magnetic, Sadie was a cool girl in the Gone Girl sense — eating burritos, getting high, hanging with a crew of skater boys. Ratajkowski was in awe. “Sadie seemed dangerous”, she remembers, “like she was built of weapons she had yet to master”. That year she fell into the older girl’s gravity, catching rides with her to the Ford modeling agency in Los Angeles (Ratajkowski helped her friend sign) and attending drunken house parties where Sadie would play fight with boys until she collapsed on the concrete.

After high school, the two fell out of touch. Sadie went off to college in San Francisco, then to art school in Los Angeles. Ratajkowski, after a year at U.C.L.A., dropped out to focus on modeling, commuting from San Diego to Los Angeles for catalog jobs. When she was 19, she showed up at a casting for Treats. Waiting at the studio, Ratajkowski spotted a large poster for “Blow-Up”, the 1966 film about a fashion photographer by the Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, his first English-language work. “I love that film”, she told Treats’ founder Steve Shaw, who excitedly produced a book of Helmut Newton photographs to show her the tasteful nudity he was after. Then he asked her to take her clothes off. “A mere mention of a pretentious film — it was so easy to subvert your expectations”, Ratajkowski writes in an essay addressed to Shaw. But she hadn’t feigned her admiration for “Blow-Up”, which she watched in high school, struck by the desperation of the film’s beautiful models. She even owned the same poster, which features the film’s protagonist straddling the German supermodel Veruschka as he searches for the perfect shot.

Later in “Blow-Up”, the fashion photographer, whose name is Thomas, wanders into a park and takes candid photos of a pair of lovers. When he enlarges the photos, Thomas is startled to notice a gunman hiding in the bushes, as well as what might be a dead body. But before investigating further, he is interrupted by two aspiring models who demand that he photograph them. When he gropes one of them, she panics and gestures at her friend. “She’s got a better figure than me!” she squeals. In the infamous sequence that follows, the girls end up rolling around laughing on one of Thomas’s paper backdrops while he peels off their nylons. “Much was made of the nudity in 1967”, remembered the late film critic Roger Ebert. “Today, the sex seems tame, and what makes the audience gasp is the hero’s contempt for women”.

But does the male gaze really have any more control over what it sees than Thomas does in the park? All photographs are clues in search of a mystery; they tell us something happened, but they do not say what. This is as true of “Blurred Lines” as it is of “Blow-Up”, right down to the possible crime. “I don’t know that a woman giggling sheepishly means what these male directors think it means”, Ratajkowski says to me, wondering how the actresses must have felt on set. The sequence is far too chaotic to be choreographed. The models tug at each other’s bodies, crunch awkwardly on the paper beneath them. They are as interested in each other’s bodies as they are in the photographer, who remains mostly clothed; when they first wrestle each other to the ground, Thomas is not even in the room. What kind of sex the models have offscreen with him — or with each other — is left to our imagination.

When I ask if she thinks her friendship with Sadie had a sexual charge, Ratajkowski is hesitant. “I don’t know if it was true homoeroticism because I do think it was about male desire”, she answers, recalling how much the boys at school liked seeing the two of them together. When they were alone, Ratajkowski was unsure what the older girl could possibly want from her. On the weekends, the two friends would crash with Sadie’s boyfriend, Mike, the three of them crammed onto one bed together. One night, Ratajkowski awoke to the feeling of Mike’s hands on her bare breasts; Sadie lay beside her, still asleep. Ratajkowski rolled over out of his reach, and never told Sadie. “I told myself that in choosing to reach over Sadie’s body to touch mine, Mike had complimented me”, she writes. “I knew that if Sadie found out, she’d blame me”.

Ratajkowski, Sadie, Mike — this is a classic triangulation. But what does it mean? “Did it give me some power over her?” Ratajkowski wonders in retrospect. “I even started to convince myself that I liked the feel of Mike’s touch. Maybe I was into it? Turned on even?” Mike had crossed a line, yes. But if anything was arousing, it wasn’t his attention but the prospect of Sadie’s jealousy. “Your boyfriend likes my boobs better than yours”, Ratajkowski imagines needling her friend. And as for Mike? If the author’s teenage attraction to her friend indirectly expressed the lust of skater boys and male photographers — that is, if Ratajkowski liked Sadie because boys liked Sadie — then it is equally plausible that Mike’s fumbling betrayed the intuition that his girlfriend’s relationship with Ratajkowski had, at root, nothing to do with him. (Sadie and Mike are pseudonyms.)

My point is that heterosexual male desire — that vaunted juggernaut of psychic space — is just as often a convenient vehicle for women, gay or straight, to reach one another. I ask Ratajkowski if she has seen “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”, the 1988 adaptation of Milan Kundera’s novel about a love triangle. (She has.) In the film, a photographer named Tereza asks her friend Sabina, an artist whom Tereza correctly suspects of being her husband’s mistress, to pose nude for some photographs. Initially meek, Tereza begins to order Sabina around, pushing her naked body into the carpet; behind the lens, Tereza is crying. When they are finished, Sabina slips on her robe and snatches the camera. “Take off your clothes”, she says, pinning Tereza to the couch and miming sex. By the end of the sequence, the two women have collapsed in laughter.

Ratajkowski remarks on the husband’s absent presence in the scene. “There’s this very clear power thing where the women are both aware of how men look at them, and specifically one man”, she says, “and yet they also have their own relationship”. Then she asks me for my reading. I tell her that the women are trying the camera on like an article of clothing, experimenting with the gaze, seeing if they can see each other. They are nervous, titillated, ashamed, jealous, vicious. They role-play as Tereza’s husband; they role-play as each other. They want to humiliate each other, and they almost have sex. Their laughter, like the laughter of the groupies in “Blow-Up”, expresses both the futility of escaping and the fact that, somehow, they already have.

I arrive first at the studio, a cavernous space with massive windows overlooking SoHo. Before the official photo shoot for this article, Ratajkowski and I are going to take the Polaroids we discussed. In the dressing room, I take a seat in front of a vanity lined with glowing light bulbs and exchange a few halting words with Ratajkowski’s publicist and stylist. In my tote bag are two lighters, a box of matches and a little brass pot, for fire safety. The night before, Ratajkowski told me she was excited to destroy the photos. “The chemical inside the Polaroids is sticky”, she texted.

Ratajkowski walks in a few minutes later. Unprompted, she tells me she’s been meaning to read Camera Lucida, a book on photography by the French writer Roland Barthes that I mentioned to her in passing. Barthes built the book around an old photograph of his mother as a young girl standing in a glass conservatory. Discovering the photo while sorting through her possessions, the grieving writer felt that he could glimpse in the faded image the full being of his late mother. Nevertheless, Barthes refused to print the photograph in the book. “It exists only for me”, he told his readers. “For you it would be nothing but an indifferent picture”. Shortly after the book was published in 1980, Barthes himself died after being hit by a laundry van in Paris. “Let’s hope that doesn’t happen to us”, Ratajkowski quips.

We retire to the greenroom upstairs with a vintage Polaroid camera provided by a crew member. Ratajkowski suggests that we photograph each other in addition to ourselves; I agree. To decide who goes first, we play rock, paper, scissors. “Paper covers rock”, she says triumphantly, before realizing we hadn’t specified what winning meant. She’s up, I say. “You just want me to go first”, she teases, picking up the camera. I step outside, closing the door behind me, and sit at the top of the stairs. I can hear echoes of the crew setting up for the shoot below.

The door opens. Ratajkowski hands me the camera, grinning. “You’re up”. Alone, I hop up on a long table opposite a full-length mirror and take two shots before letting Ratajkowski back in. With childlike solemnity, we place our undeveloped Polaroids facedown on a small bench in the room’s odd glassed-in corner, which looks out onto the studio like a private box at a stadium. Then Ratajkowski directs me to sit in a chair. I laugh when she points the camera at me, because I do not know what else to do. I know how my face will look — and that I will not like it. When it’s my turn, I position her against a dark mahogany wall. “Tell me what to do”, she says. “I like being directed”. I say, “Look away. Don’t look at me”.

We seat ourselves in the glass corner. There are now eight Polaroids total: four of her, four of me. I pick up the photos Ratajkowski took of herself, and she does the same with mine. For a moment, we look. The first thing I notice is that the vanity she chose has caught the glass window across the room, producing a ghostly series of mirrored lights. I try to describe her expression to her, but to my frustration I cannot find the words. “You know, I’m about to have a million pictures taken of myself”, Ratajkowski explains, gesturing at the studio below. She decided to make these different.

Ratajkowski turns over the photos we took of each other. “Oh, whoa”, she mutters. We forgot that the vintage camera didn’t have a flash; without the luminescence of a mirror, these Polaroids are dark and ethereal. In some, we are not recognizable. To my surprise, Ratajkowski can’t bring herself to destroy the photos, suggesting that we exchange them instead. “It feels nice to take each other’s picture and then take them away”, she explains. “Like a handshake or a hug”.

I’m not going to tell you what Emily Ratajkowski looks like in the Polaroids she gave me. Instead, I will tell you this: Like millions of people around the world, I have seen many pictures of Ratajkowski. Now I have seen a few more. These, no one else will ever see. Does that make them any more real than the thousands of other Emilys that Ratajkowski describes in My Body, dispatched into the world with the click of a shutter? “Everybody is going to write about me in terms of what I represent in the zeitgeist”, she says wistfully as I end our final interview. “The real Emily will get lost”. She leaves to get dressed for the big shoot and I decide to stay. I watch her pose in front of the camera, disappearing once more behind herself.

Source : nytimes.com

Photoshoot by Austin Hargrave for The Sunday Times Magazine

Emily Ratajkowski Grabs the Narrative

With her new book of essays, the model and actor reflects on the experience of gaining fame and creating an image in the age of digital celebrity. It has, unsurprisingly, been a process. “People have said to me, the book is really brave”, she says. “I’m like, is that the word you would use? Because I could think of a lot of other words. Maybe a little stupid”.

Emily Ratajkowski’s body has sold burgers. It’s sold perfume that smells of the ylang-ylang tree with notes of sandalwood and ambrette seed. It’s sold a range of hair products and at least one “innovative lifestyle beauty brand”. It’s sold a few lines of intimates and untold numbers of swimsuits. It’s sold inexpensive clothes and mid-range clothes and luxury clothes. It’s sold pants when it wasn’t even trying to, when it was just walking down the street. The thing that her body will not be selling, though, is her book. She’ll sell My Body with her name.

The model decided how her essay collection would be packaged. She insisted in her proposal that it should be called My Body and the jacket should only bear text. Her publisher, Metropolitan, went for it, which, though those things are often out of an author’s hands, was probably smart thinking. This is a person who understands how things will look.

“All of these are stories about my body in different ways”, Ratajkowski said of the collection on a Zoom call about a month before its November 9 release. “How it’s perceived, how I’ve used it, how it’s been used, what access it’s granted me, how it’s also made me at times feel like I’m nothing more than a body. I knew that a lot of people would roll their eyes at the title and think like, Oh, Emily Ratajkowski, wrote a book called My Body. Like whatever. My name is sort of synonymous with an image of my body and the Instagrams and ‘Blurred Lines’ and whatever else. And I liked using the real associations that people have in a conceptual way so that it would inform the book once they started it. Thinking about their preconceived ideas about me and using that as a tool in the experience of reading it”.

It’s good business for models to be aware of how they appear, but few have interrogated the political implications of their body for them and for those who consume it in the form of a book. There’s the essay “Transactions”, an exacting ledger of what gets exchanged when a person is paid simply for attending an event. There’s the prescient “Britney/Toxic”, on the type of young female friendship that’s contingent on some boys woven in with what Britney Spears meant to her as she was getting into modeling. (Spears meant power, mainly. “In my mind there were presidents and there was Britney Spears”, she told me).

Ratajkowski started modeling at 14. She was an only child born to “bohemian” parents, living outside San Diego, when her mother signed the paperwork. She kept doing the job over the years, impelled forward in the industry not necessarily by passion for the work, but by the money that she made and the freedoms it afforded her. Her big break was the 2013 video for Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’, the inescapable song of the summer that year, one that straddled the line between louche and sleaze. The video made her instantly recognizable, and her opportunities accelerated. She was cast in movies. She got paid to make appearances and peddle bigger and better products. Every time, she was picked to execute someone else’s vision.

So besides how things look, control, creative or otherwise, is something Ratajkowski has devoted her 10,000 hours thinking about. In the last year, she’s turned 30 and entered a new phase of her career and life. In March, she gave birth to a son, Sly, who she had with her husband, Safdie brothers favorite producer Sebastian Bear-McClard. She’s signed onto fewer movies, but launched a swimwear brand, Inamorata, in 2017, vertically integrating her modeling into her own brand, and it’s been humming along ever since, even expanding to clothing. And then there is My Body, which undergirds it all—especially “Buying Myself Back”, an essay about trading her image back and forth, which doesn’t seem like it will ever have a happy ending, or any ending at all, considering that the story we’re about to get into has only continued on in real life outside the book of essays. The story and its real-life afterword are an ouroboros of reflection and ownership, a kind of nonbiodegradable hazardous byproduct of living now as a model in an era when image, or more precisely the ownership of image, is everything. It is part of Ratajkowski’s life. We can but try to keep up.

Last year, Ratajkowski published “Buying Myself Back” in New York magazine, an essay that recounts three moments where she lost control of her photos. She has paid huge sums of money to regain a version of ownership of those images, hence the title of the piece. In one instance, Richard Prince included her in a show at Gagosian gallery in New York, for which he blew up Instagram posts on large canvases, alongside a comment he had left there. A Gagosian employee bought the one Prince did of Ratajkowski, so she got a different portrait of herself, paying for half the over $80,000 price tag. Her boyfriend at the time paid for the other half, and she also received a small study of the work. (Artnet later reported that Ratajkowski and her then boyfriend commissioned the portrait. Asked to clarify, a rep for Ratajkowski told Vanity Fair, “She bought a Prince piece for $80,000, the cost of which she split with her boyfriend”).

When she and her boyfriend broke up, she bought his half of the painting, plus an extra $10,000 for the study. She hadn’t wanted to pay for the smaller piece since it was a gift, but as she describes in the essay, some of her own photos were part of the enormous celebrity iCloud hack at the time, literalizing the loss of her image to a devastating degree, and providing an unfortunate reminder that her ex had his own photos of her. She lost the will to fight. It was easier to pay. In the same essay, she wrote about a paparazzi suing her for posting to Instagram an image he took of her walking with a bouquet of flowers over her face. This is a copyright no-no. Ratajkowski has been entangled in a lawsuit ever since. This will be important to know later.

In April, after she gave birth to her son, Ratajkowski made an NFT of herself smiling in front of the Prince portrait of her original Instagram post.

“I was just honestly high off of postpartum hormones and spinning out of control. Everybody was talking about NFTs and I had my first glass of wine post-pregnancy and was like, ‘This makes me think about…'” she said with a goofy lisp, bringing her pointer finger to her temple. It made her think about the essay she wrote, about the conceptual art that she never volunteered for, about ownership, about women, about OnlyFans, about revenge porn and the iCloud hacking and how hard it is to protect an image, especially—especially—if your image is a valuable asset on which you’ve built your livelihood. Her face. Her body.

And so she made the NFT and sold it at Christie’s in May for $140,000 before fees. It was something like a win. But then: “I actually just got off the phone with my lawyer before this call and I’ve spent a very serious amount of what the NFT went [for] fighting the paparazzi who sued me for the image I write about in ‘Buying Myself Back’. So it’s a never-ending cycle”.

It occurs to me as we’re talking, but not for the first time, that it can feel absolutely nuts for someone like Ratajkowski to want to put something as revealing as a book of essays into the world, to give up more of how she thinks and risk being taken, bit by bit, out of context. She beats me to it, saying: “The media has looked for stories from whatever, like me walking the dog, and so here I am sort of offering a platter of the most personal and vulnerable narratives. People have said to me, the book is really brave and I’m like, is that the word you would use? Because I could think of a lot of other words. Maybe a little stupid”.

It’s already happened, though, with the essay she titled, ‘Blurred Lines’. The Sunday Times aggregated quotes from the piece in October, and sites spun it out across the internet, something she very much did not want or enjoy. A quick recap: Ratajkowski starred in the music video alongside two other young models and musicians Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. The popularity was almost immediate as was the controversy. Weird, huh, that in one version the nearly naked women are dancing around fully clothed men, said some. Weird, huh, how the lyrics were things like, “You know you want it”, and “I hate these blurred lines”.

Looking back now, the song and video felt like they were created in a lab to enrage second-wave feminists and garden-variety conservatives alike, baiting what we would now call “the discourse”. At the time, Ratajkowski, who was the standout in the video for both her clowning and her body, defended the project in interviews. She didn’t see it as misogynistic; it was doing something with misogyny.

Ratajkowski recalls those interviews in the introduction of the book, and wrote that she feels “a tenderness toward my younger self. My defensiveness and defiance are palpable to me now. What I wrote and preached then reflected what I believed at the time, but it missed a much more complicated picture”.

The essay is a descent into that complication. Which is why it especially frustrated Ratajkowski when details from the piece appeared online. If you only read these, you’d think that the book’s big reveal is that a tipsy Thicke had allegedly groped Ratajkowski’s breast on set, which the video’s director, Diane Martel, corroborated to The Sunday Times. The conversation online flattened predictably into variation of the headline, EMILY RATAJKOWSKI ALLEGES ROBIN THICKE FONDLED HER BREASTS ON THE SET OF ‘BLURRED LINES’ MUSIC VIDEO. (Thicke has not yet responded to requests for comment on the story).

It’s not at all unusual when a published story gets dismantled and sold for parts on today’s internet, so it probably wasn’t a surprise when this part of the essay fueled a news cycle for a few days. The fact that it happened early, without her consent, and that readers couldn’t actually read what was on the page even if they wanted to? That she wasn’t prepared for.

“It feels worse”, she said, worse than having photos of her distributed against her will. “I think partly because I’m not as used to it, which is, you know, whatever. But also because I chose this medium to capture nuance, to say multiple things at one time”.

She didn’t even want to write about ‘Blurred Lines’ in the first place, but it eventually felt unavoidable. It would be a missed opportunity to talk about exactly what she wanted to talk about with My Body. Like how your idea of power and who has it can change, and then a memory gets reframed. Like how sometimes you get to do something you really want to do—like write a book of essays—in part because of a day of work that you signed up for many, many years ago, where someone did something he wasn’t supposed to do because he could, and that can be hard to reconcile.

In writing it, she took measures to protect herself from the problem of the big headline extraction. She padded the work with a ton of background, context, descriptions of who she was at that time (just dropped out of college to pursue modeling because it was finally paying the bills), what jobs she was getting then (ecommerce jobs, mainly), what jobs she wasn’t getting (Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated), how she negotiated her rate for the project (by playing hardball, it sounds like). At one point, she declined to publish the piece as an excerpt, as she had done with “Buying Myself Back”, preferring her readers to encounter it entirely in its context. That way, maybe, they wouldn’t misunderstand her.

“It’s been a little strange to have even people who are well-meaning come up to me and say, I’m so glad you spoke out about Robin Thicke'”, she said. “And it’s like, well, no, I didn’t speak out. And that’s not at all the message behind this. It wasn’t about ‘I need to tell my story of sexual assault’ because that’s just not even how I see it”.

“The part that not a lot of people are focusing on is that I really was enjoying myself”, Ratajkowski said. “Actually I was having a really great day on that set. Also this other thing happened and that says something about the world we live in. Both things exist at the same time”.

So, yes, writing about one’s most vulnerable moments within a ravenous internet might be, as she joked, “stupid”. And then as soon as she voices the point she presents the counterpoint. In writing, there’s control, the kind that’s never available to her as a model or an actor or an influencer. In choosing words, building structure, deciding if what she means is really what she means, she gets to feel in control. “I can’t help but return to it”, she said.

As her friend and early reader Lena Dunham puts it to me in an email, “People know what Emily looks like. They have a sense of her based on limited snippets of social media access, and they think they understand her because of her street style. But she’s actually in many ways been obscured by her own image, something she discusses in the book with a lot of skill. And so this is actually Emily becoming a known quantity, but also making it clearer that she’s an unknown quantity”.

“We literally haven’t had one of her before”, Dunham added. “I mean, I’m pretty sure she’s the first global supermodel to write a Marxist leaning book of feminist theory… but if someone can name another one for me I’ll be psyched”.

Despite the complications therein, the ‘Blurred Lines’ video was undeniably her launchpad, and it did to Ratajkowski what launchpads have done to many beauties in the music and film industry—that is, flattened and amplified. She landed those Sports Illustrated shoots and also a role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, then later in the EDM-bildungsroman We Are Your Friends. In movies, she was the hot girl for whom husbands strayed from wives, whom boyfriends lost to new boyfriends.

You can easily see a person for whom this is true wanting to explain their whole selves and analyze their own rare position in the culture, to be the call that’s coming from inside the house (which she’s done fairly successfully in interview bursts and news-generating posts on social media). But you can just as easily see a person like this wanting to run. To move to the woods, or do what Ye does these days and wear a mask and try to live post-identity.

Ratajkowski seems to be aiming for a middle way. Before My Body is officially released in the world, she has to promote it, and she must watch again as someone else takes the process of her writing a book and puts her in a context of their choosing. It’s something she admits makes her uncomfortable as much as it excites her. The discomfort she staves off by focusing on having written something that she’s proud of. The excitement she fosters with a lot of focus.

“What I’ve been leaning towards recently, and this is evolving because I’m sort of in the midst of it right now, is that it’s very exciting and flattering to be able to have people want to talk about the book one way or another”, she said. “I’m somebody who, you know, when I’ve done press cycles in the past, I’ve been talking about perfume or hair care, and it’s so nice to be talking about real ideas that I’m super interested in”.

“I think ultimately in the end, like accepting that you can’t control everything”, she said. “That’s where I am with this”.

Dunham helped here too, especially by getting her to a place to worry less about being taken out of context, which may be inevitable. “I wanted her to get comfortable with the idea of being willfully misinterpreted but at the same time for her to know that though those voices can come fast and thick, they’re a smaller contingent than the people her book will matter deeply too”.

And she has the tools of refusal and insistence now on this side of success. I asked to meet her in person because the job of telling a small story of a person can be much easier to do when you’re in the room with them. Her team very kindly told me that it wouldn’t be possible; her schedule was too tight. This is a fine excuse, and a believable one. Busy person is busy.

So Zoom it was. The frame that met me comprised unadorned white brick walls, a small white chest of drawers with black handles, and Emily too. She was dressed in a sweater the color of ambivalent clouds. Remove her face and the Zoom would do an excellent impression of the gray scale. There was so little of her that she allowed to be considered. I had to laugh.

I asked her after all of this, if there’s a future in which she no longer models. “I now have a son and I live in New York City and I want to have a certain type of lifestyle and it’s pretty hard to turn away the opportunities that come with modeling”, she said. “Where I am in my career is that I do as many things as I can that I have control over. That doesn’t mean everything, but it does feel like a different type of modeling than a lot of the modeling I write about in the book where I really did feel like a quote, unquote mannequin”.

“My position has changed and also what I’m willing to do has changed. I’ve started to just draw lines in the sand and it feels really good”.

Source : vanityfair.com

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