Emily Ratajkowski is having her cake and eating it

11 December 2021

2:36 AM

11 December 2021

2:36 AM

After listening to an hour-and-a-half of Emily Ratajkowski talking about My Body I had to look up naked pictures of her on the internet to understand what she was complaining about. She arrived fully clothed to the ‘How To Academy’ to be interviewed by Pandora Sykes. This made it hard to know whether her dangerous-sounding upbringing as ‘an only child in a house with no walls’ had affected her physically. 

‘It had a profound effect on me,’ Emily told Pandora, explaining that she gets the ‘woozies’ to this day.

For those of you who have absolutely no idea who Ratajkowski is, never mind what she’s saying, Wikipedia explains her surname is pronounced ‘rata-cow-ski’ and she is an American model: 

‘Born in London to American parents and raised in San Diego, she first appeared on the cover of the March 2012 issue of the erotic magazine treats!, which led to her appearing in two music videos.’

One was Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, an anthem which was banned from university campuses in 2013 lest any young person took its lyrics (‘I know you want it, oh-oh-oh-oh, yeah-yeah’) literally. Ratajkowski was its stand out star: she appears topless, insouciant, and holding a farm animal. After seeing her performance, Ben Affleck picked her to play his mistress in Gone Girl and the readers of Esquire named her ‘Woman of the Year’ (over Hollywood actress Jennifer Lawrence who had just won an Oscar). At the time, in an interview, Ratajkowski explained: 

‘We have this culture of men, especially, watching pornography, but then offended by a classic nude portrait or photograph, and I’ve never felt that way.’

The more I learn of early 2010s Emily, the more I like her. But the acting career did not take off. She has now become one of the ‘first models to embrace ‘Instagram fame’ rather than the traditional route a model usually takes to gain notoriety’, according to a celebrity website. Things seem to be going well: she has 28.6 million followers (Jesus had 12, Hitler had 13.6 million, if you go by German soldiers). In 2018, she married film producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, with whom she now has a son, and bought a $2million (£1.5m) apartment in cash.

Put like that it might seem impossible to throw much of a pity party for herself but Ratajkowski’s a writer now (‘I didn’t think I was writing a book when I first started writing…on the Notes app on my phone’) and she knows how to construct a narrative. 

‘You signed up to movies you had no interest in and brands you thought were lame,’ Pandora explained for the folks back home, asking if she had started writing to ‘metabolise that’?

‘It was completely an attempt to metabolise that,’ Emily agreed. ‘It was weird to be known…for that song. I didn’t know who Robin Thicke was.’ 

In My Body, Ratajkowski now says she wants to be ‘respected for my ideas and politics…Even when I’m talking about selling bikinis it doesn’t feel like a contradiction because I’m still exploring what’s commodification, what’s control?’

With the greatest respect to Ratajkowski, this is like having your cake and sicking it up afterwards. Flogging bikinis to Instagram followers so they can earn likes by wearing them is the definition of commodification. So while she raises real problems for women I feel quite angry that none of them are told the solution: stop taking naked pictures and sending them to men if you don’t want to lose control over your naked image.

Sometimes I wonder if women who have to wear burkas in Islamic dictatorships don’t look at women in the West and think how lucky they are to get to wear clothes. Like many women, I take mine off to get in the bath and wear a bathing suit to swim. 

The only actual laugh of the evening came when the supermodel said she’d given her book its title so if any man googled ‘Emily Ratajkowski’s body’ he’d be confronted by a collection of empowering essays. But I wonder if she cares about all the women forced to read My Body who end up having to look it up and compare their bodies to images of hers.

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