Meet the real Emily Rata­jkowski

She found fame danc­ing half-naked in a mu­sic video, but has gone on to carve out a cred­i­ble act­ing ca­reer. When it comes to Emily Rata­jkowski, the big­gest mis­take would be to un­der­es­ti­mate her

Grazia (UK) - - Contents - PHO­TO­GRAPHS SI­MON EM­METT

Like most peo­ple, I first no­ticed Emily Rata­jkowski in Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines video, the un­cen­sored ver­sion of which fea­tures her danc­ing naked ex­cept for a flesh-coloured G-string. Later, she played a busty school­girl in Gone Girl. Her ca­reer since has fea­tured many half-naked In­sta­gram pics. All of which is why Piers Mor­gan has writ­ten her off as a ‘global bimbo’, snip­ing that her fem­i­nism would make Em­me­line Pankhurst turn in her grave.

It’s lucky, then, that I don’t judge women by what Piers Mor­gan thinks of them. Look harder, and there have al­ways been clear signs that there’s far more to Emily than her body. She is po­lit­i­cally en­gaged – sup­port­ing Bernie San­ders and a rad­i­cal left; cam­paign­ing for Planned Par­ent­hood. Her per­for­mance in up­com­ing ’80s-set rom­com Cruise has been hailed as ‘su­perb’ by crit­ics.

Emily is mid-shoot when I ar­rive. She is head-turn­ingly beau­ti­ful – long limbs, del­i­cate fea­tures, pool­ing brown eyes. As in­ter­est­ing, watch­ing her, is how aware of her body she is, study­ing the pho­tog­ra­pher’s im­ages, con­sid­er­ing her an­gles, the jut of her hip. Be­fore Emily, 27, was a model, she stud­ied his­tory of art. Now, she says – set­tling down, swad­dled in a gi­ant white robe – she en­joys the way In­sta­gram al­lows her to marry cu­rat­ing and art-di­rect­ing. Are self­ies art? ‘ Yes!’ she grins, ‘I think self­ies have more to do with talk­ing about gaze, es­pe­cially for women. I don’t know if that is al­ways art but they def­i­nitely en­gage in a con­ver­sa­tion about the gaze – a new level of self-por­trait.’ She hates art elitism, though. ‘ The thing that made me not like the art world is snob­bery and the bull­shit,’ she grins. ‘Art in every form should be about a vis­ceral re­sponse.’

She is, of course, much smarter than many peo­ple (those who still find it con­fus­ing that a beau­ti­ful woman who en­joys her own body can also be in­tel­li­gent) give her credit for. We meet in Paris, af­ter her ap­point­ment as the face of Paco Ra­banne’s new Pure XS For Her fra­grance. This is fit­ting be­cause Emily shares both the sexy stylish­ness of Parisian girls and the phi­los­o­phy of French fem­i­nists. She ad­mires how French­women em­brace their sex­u­al­ity in a way that’s ‘never vul­gar’ or ‘ob­vi­ous’ be­cause they al­ways ‘have own­er­ship of their bodies’. She is con­fi­dent strad­dling the sexy-fem­i­nist di­chotomy be­cause she is the one defin­ing the ex­pres­sion of her sex­u­al­ity.

Her early ex­pe­ri­ences of the fe­male body were for­ma­tive. She stud­ied art, tak­ing life-draw­ing classes as a teen. On hol­i­days in Europe she hung out on Span­ish beaches sur­rounded by top­less women. All of which gave her a nat­u­ral ap­pre­ci­a­tion of nu­dity ‘rather than mak­ing it al­ways about sex’.

Still, as her own body de­vel­oped, she was em­bar­rassed to find it be­ing po­liced. She re­calls an in­ci­dent when she was 13 – ‘I had quite a fig­ure at that point, curvy with re­ally big breasts’ – when she wore a cute dress to a dance and was turned away for look­ing too sexy. ‘It was so em­bar­rass­ing. I wasn’t hav­ing sex and didn’t know what be­ing sexy was so it was very strange to get that kind of re­ac­tion. I felt like it was my fault although it wasn’t.’ Her mum went crazy, writ­ing a let­ter say­ing, ‘ You do not po­lice my daugh­ter just be­cause she looks dif­fer­ent…’ Emily says, ‘See­ing her re­sponse to those things – never let­ting me feel guilty… the way she raged against 

women must feel Lib­er­ated, not con­strained, by fem­i­nism

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