One of the most famous models in the world, Emily Ratajkowski has experienced first hand the perks and the horrors of capitalising on one’s body. In her early 20s she claimed to feel great about posing, with or without clothes, for magazines such as GQ, Vogue and erotic publication Treats!. With time, however, she began to question her beliefs. Ratajkowski’s debut book My Body is an accomplished and candid personal take on her evolving relationship with her own body as a commodity. In twelve essays, she covers her years as a model but also reflects on her childhood as well as her pregnancy and the birth of her son Sylvester, to whom the book is dedicated. On its publication, Ratajkowski presented the book on Instagram Live.
Emily Ratajkowski (American accent): I’ve always loved reading essays. It’s almost like listening to an album, each song has a different tone... These essays are exploring the relationship I have to my body and to the marketing of model bodies… really to men. They’re not in chronological order but I would say that the beginning does have more stuff from my earlier life, childhood and high school, and when I was nineteen and starting to model, I’d left college and was living in New York and LA and trying to just make a living as a model. A lot of it is about the deeply-embedded power dynamics that are often unspoken that every woman deals with, we feel it in our female friendships, we feel it with men and it was important to me to talk about that. So it’s really stripped down, it’s very vulnerable.
Ratajkowski says that she wrote the book having realised the great psychological and physical cost that comes with playing along with the system.
Emily Ratajkowski: There were a lot of things that I was working out personally but also politically and questioning my beliefs and the way that I saw the world. Throughout my early 20s I’ve been outspoken about my beliefs around sexuality and women’s empowerment. I really had that point of view, that a woman commodifying her body and being sexual can be powerful and great for her. And as I got older I started to realise that there were a lot of experiences that had made me very unhappy.
Many of Ratajkowski’s experiences detailed in the book are humiliating, some harrowing. She says that she initially began to take notes on her phone as a way to process uncomfortable feelings.
Emily Ratajkowski: The essay that was in New York Magazine was definitely one of the hardest to write, I was on a twelve-hour flight and I couldn’t sleep, and I just started writing: I just needed to get this out so I could just process this experience, and then it fit into the idea around ownership and image and all of that. There’s one about my first boyfriend. I actually still don’t really like to read it. In some of the essays, I talk about things that I wanted to forget or wanted to not write about or be known for, but it was crucial to what I was hoping to accomplish with the book.
A NEW LIFE
Ratajkowski worked on My Body for three and a half years, during which time she got married, became pregnant and had her first child. This, she says, offered another challenge and an opportunity to explore her theme.
Emily Ratajkowski: I did have mom brain and was trying to finish the most important thing I’d ever worked on, while also breastfeeding and not getting a whole lot of sleep. But it actually allowed me to write the last essay that deals with birth and the way that my relationship to my body has evolved over the years.