Emily Ratajkowski: “I know all the pitfalls of working as a model”


“My phone is a self defense weapon and a barrier that separates me from the world. It’s a tool that didn’t exist before, that my colleagues in the ’90s didn’t have, and I don’t envy them.”

Emily Ratajkowski looks at his iPhone, which rests on the coffee table of an elegant Florentine hotel. It looks like a normal phone, but if you were to open Instagram you would see that has 29.5 million followers, more than the population of Australia. The highest-paid model in the world in 2022, with a turnover of 75 million euros, shakes her head slightly, amazed – even she – at how much that tool has changed her life.

“Changed for the better, sure. I can’t imagine my career without social media. Naomi [Campbell]Kate [Moss]Christy [Turlington]Pretty [Evangelista] and the others had zero control over their image, they had no idea how their pictures would turn out in magazines, it was a miracle if they saw a Polaroid from time to time. Now everything is different, radically different: there are monitors, we can take makeup selfies, use the phone as a mirror. Models like me, like Gigi and Bella HadidWhat Kendall Jenner we have had -and still have- the opportunity to shape our image on-line through social networks, we have been able to influence – in this sense I understand the word influencer– in the way the world sees us. Our place in the world, in a way. It is clear that your phone can also become a double-edged sword, you have to find a balance“.

“When I was 20 years old – without much experience in life, although I started modeling as a teenager – I was obsessed with my Instagram, and at that stage it was clearly very useful,” Ratajkowski continues. “Then, of course, I learned from experience that you can also attract a lot of trouble, there are those who want to to hack your phone Lots of things can happen”.

She is now 31 and has been a mother since March 8, 2021. (The American tabloids already take her separation from her husband, film producer Sebastian Bear-McClard, for granted: they put a like still post in which she accused him of cheating on her).

She is an actress, businesswoman and designer and has published a successful book, My body (Today’s Topics), in which she talks about herself with impressive candor for someone on her level of fame. In general, the tone of the autobiographies of American celebrities in the peak of fame, like her at the moment, is much more cheerful and positive. Ratajkowski (Emrata, as her fans and followers call her on social networks, evoking her username on Instagram), on the other hand, is quite critical of fame, the fashion system, her family but , above all, with herself.

The open secret of books published by celebrities is that they are rarely written by them. It is even said that, sometimes, they don’t even read them (although the only one who claims not to have read his autobiography is rocker Pete Doherty, from The Libertines and Babyshambles). She, instead, has chosen directly (and correctly) not to appear on the coverneither in the American edition nor in those intended for foreign editions, a choice that goes against the grain, just like her and her entire career: “The only photo of me is on the inside flap, a small one, not even of a famous photographer.” , but an unassuming digital photo taken by a friend, who has her own credit and has been satisfied”.

The book talks about the sexual assaults she suffered as a child. and calls for more attention from the fashion world to the safety of models: “It is not a minor issue, and for me it is non-negotiable, things are changing but not fast enough.” Ultimately, she is an autobiography in the true sense: “The frantic self-promotion and branding product commercial works well on Instagram, but I wanted my book to be different…Anyone who tells me it’s an honest book is giving me a valuable compliment.”

Media chaos management

It is impressive that a very young woman, at the center of a media mechanism as chaotic as that of an -old-fashioned but inevitable term- Super model, has decided to base the entire reflection of the book on an extremely complex topic, which is never talked about in fashion because it can evoke unpleasant responses: “Who does my image belong to? Under what conditions is it marketed and at what price?”

The book – which is also unusual in this – opens with a quote from the great English art critic John Berger (1926-2017): “You painted a naked woman because you liked to look at her, you put a mirror in her hand and called the picture Vanity, thus condemning on the moral plane the woman whose nudity you had represented for your pleasure. The real function of the mirror was another. It served so that the woman was conniving as it was, above all, a ‘spectator'”.

Emily Ratajkowski at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022.Daniel ColeAP

Fashion -fashion photography- and Instagram are the mirror, but whose vanity really is? Who watches and who is watched? The theme of the stolen image is recurrent: the nude Polaroids published without authorization by a photographer with legal ramifications, the incredible affair of the artist Richard Prince who printed a screenshot of Ratajkowski’s Instagram and sold it for $90,000, and then she took a picture of herself in front of Prince’s work and sold it at auction, in a set of mirrors. A labyrinth, in which only Jean Baudrillard or Umberto Eco would have known how to find the way: “Incredible? Yes, incredible. Even I find it hard to believe, even though it happened to me.”

Little Sly is, of course, his joy: “I call it ‘the joy machine’, a smile machine. I have never experienced such emotions. I have friends who after a few years no longer say they are new parents, new parents, but for me if you have a child who is six, eight, ten years old, you are in a way a new parent because all the experiences you have with your child are still new, for you and for him. It’s always the first time. He’s my magical boy.”

‘resting bitch face’

She brought it with her to Florence because she is a sporty mom who knows that traveling with a one-year-old can be less laborious than traveling with a four- or five-year-old. Ratajkowski is also famous for the rarity of her smiles, which is why on several occasions she has been cataloged with what the American slang, with its usual coarse pragmatism, has called resting bitch face (“resting fox face”). Obviously, it is not a question of antipathy, but simply of a lack (and commendable) of willingness to smile at random, and it is precisely about that fox face Ratajkowski builds a hilarious chapter of his book, set in his favorite place, a popular spa Korean from Los Angeles, his old city.

“From Los Angeles, since I moved to New York, I miss the autumn light, the beach and, above all, that spa“. The Korean sauna in which all the women are equal, and they are themselves, because there are only naked bodies in the total contempt of the masseuses, without a male gaze.

Ratajkowski writes of the women in that sauna: “The features of their faces relax, with the corners of their mouths and their eyebrows downturned. The expression that in the subway would be called resting bitch facein the sauna is just a sign of relaxation: without artifice, without acting”.

It’s one of those moments she longs for, away from the fashion sets, or the Hollywood ones: “I’ve been working hard on myself, and on my book. What’s our image in the Internet age? Even outside of fashion I say, social networks broadcast our lives: I at least have acquired this habit of broadcasting myself, but for my son it will be the normality of the world. It will be normal for him to leave the mark of his life on the web, forever. To me, to you, that continues to impress me. Not for my son, for him it will be the functioning of the world, like the air he breathes, day and night. A natural element.”

He spent the pandemic writing a book and making a child: “The night before confinement I was in the theater, everything seemed normal, it was full. And then the world went black. But now New York is incredibly alive and vibrant again. All the world wants to go out and see people, he hasn’t given up. It’s the right energy, when you are in new york you become a part of it. I was in the studio with Sly two weeks after giving birth, nursed him there, don’t let it get to you.”

As defender and symbol of #MeToo (those who liked the video of Blurred Lines that made her famous will read with regret the backstage scenes of the book), she has not lost faith: “I know all the traps of this job. Having said that: now in the studios people are, as a general rule, much more open and communicative than before; if something goes wrong it is unusual for everyone to pretend that nothing is wrong. I hope it will become the new norm in the fashion industry: it will make us feel less and less like mannequins.”

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Emily Ratajkowski: “I know all the pitfalls of working as a model”

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