A model feminist
Emily Ratajkowski is in love not just with the female form, but her own female form, which in the mind of the 29-year-old model, actress and campaigner is quite an important distinction to make.
You see, while in screen terms, the star of Gone Girl, I Feel Pretty, and a show-stopping arrival in Robin Thicke's controversial Blurred Lines video is a supporter of women’s rights, feminist power and also the notion that to dress (and undress) is a thing of beauty and shouldn’t be besmirched, she accepts that having the courage to go through with her convictions is an important part of the equation.
“There are many campaigners and supporters of women’s rights who profess that we should stand up and be counted in any environment, and that we should put our best foot forward in making a stand and demanding equality,” she begins; “but then those same people shy away from the opportunity to do that. It makes no sense to me.
“In my mind, if you are going to stand behind a campaign or a set of values, then reinforce them in your actions in as many ways as you can.”
It helps of course that the London-born, San Diego-raised model, whose surname originates from her Polish origins, has intelligence and style with which to back up her stunning looks.
Despite having landed her first modelling contract with Ford Models at the age of 14, Ratajkowski always regarded education as a must, and aged 18 she enrolled at UCLA , studying art history. Fully intending to develop a passion for some of the greatest visionaries and creatives of old, she finally relented near the end of her first year when the sheer weight of interest – and some particularly large pay cheques – lured her away from her studies. “It was an easy decision to make in terms of career and the opportunity that lay in front of me, though obviously this was tinged with a certain amount of disappointment that I wasn’t able to fulfil my studies.
“I know I won’t be the first to want to come back to education in later life, perhaps when things have calmed down a bit, and that’s certainly what I intend to do, as the history of art is something that truly engages me, as well as helping me to develop my creative side too.”
In the meantime, the model – whose estimated worth already tops £10million – can console herself with the curation and collection of a sizeable store of art, in the form of both painting and sculptures.
“LA has always been a hotbed for new artists emerging through the cracks, and that’s certainly the case now. While I’m enriching my own collection, I like to think I am building the career and reinforcing the talent of someone else.”
The idea of giving back has certainly been central to Ratajkowski, not least in how she presents herself as an icon for women everywhere.
Away from the catwalk, landing roles in David Fincher's Gone Girl and We Are Your Friends, alongside, Zac Efron, plus 2015’s Entourage, has seen the actress prove that she is much more than just the shapely, sumptuous model who has appeared on the covers of the likes of GQ, Sports Illustrated and Cosmopolitan. “I think it takes times to convince people that you might be more talented than simply a girl who looks good when she strips down,” she says, jokingly. “I know that will disappoint a few people, but it is actually true!”
She’s also keen to dismiss the notion that arriving at a certain point in an actress or model’s career brings with it a free pick of opportunities, implying that there isn’t the need to fight tooth and nail to impress. “Opportunities do not translate directly into jobs – I still miss out on much more than I am given, and I’m glad it’s that way, because I’d never want to walk into a job thinking I didn’t have to work for it, and that it got handed to me on a plate.
“I am proud person and I need that feeling of deserving everything I have.”
Away from the bright lights Ratajkowski is married to actor and producer Sebastian Bear-McClard. “I feel happy and settled both in terms of my relationship and who I am as a person, and that’s really important,” she says.
While speculation of private life, work and leisure time is now second nature to someone who doesn’t necessarily strive to stay out of the limelight, Ratajkowski does admit when the flashbulbs first fell on her, it was a difficult thing to come to terms with. The year was 2012, and the model found herself featured prominently in Robin Thicke’s largely controversial Blurred Lines video. “At the time it was just another job. I never thought, ‘yes, this is it, my big break!'. I certainly never for a moment thought there would be a song that would go viral, both in terms of the tune itself and the furore that went with it.
“For me it was about having fun, letting go, celebrating sexuality – it felt so friendly on set, just girlfriends hanging out together, dancing around the living room.
“Others interpreted it differently; but, you know, that will always happen and you just have to accept not everyone will have the same view as you. If they all did, the world would be a pretty uninspiring place.”
The model, whose recent work for Paco Rabanne and Vogue – where via a digital cover at the end of 2020 she announced the upcoming birth of her first child – has seen her remain a constant filler of column inches. She attributes her desire to keep working and evolving down to being an only child. “I used to put on performances for my parents, make them sit down, do these crazy hats and be very dramatic - I was very theatrical, but more than that, I always wanted to move on to the next project, and I don’t think that emotion or passion has ever left me.
“Even now, when I am asked if I am a model or an actress, I can only reply I say I am just someone getting out there and trying to fulfil my creative ambitions, at every turn. That’s what feels important.
“The truth is I want to continue with both. Yes, acting is creatively fulfilling; it's putting on a performance, you're assuming a character in acting. It's more personal than an image on a magazine cover where really it is a two-dimensional representation of the clothes you wear… but I love them both.”
Perhaps Ratajkowski’s strangest role so far has been playing herself in Entourage, the 2015 Doug Elin comedy starring Mark Wahlberg. “That was insane. Getting to play a funny Hollywood version of myself, it was an honour and I had so much fun. I loved the TV show so was really excited to be a part of it, particularly driving around in an Aston Martin.
“I definitely felt more pressure playing myself than I have done any other character though,” she admits. “When you’re given a script you can stray away from the core of the person a little, but when it’s yourself you are playing, you start scrutinising every aspect, even questioning you own words and expressions. It was a very strange experience to go through!”
While time away from the limelight appears on its way given the upcoming birth of her first child, Ratajkowski will undoubtedly keep her 27million Instagram followers nicely up to speed with developments. “There’s no point opening up to the world and expecting the world to open up to you if you’re then going to hide away. I’ve had times when I’ve gone a bit quieter on social media, but I think you have to respect and understand the world we live in to know the game.
“I’m totally fine with that, and if at the same time it continues to inspire and empower other women to be the best that they can be and live lives that are full and free, then that can only be a good thing.”
by Violet Wilder