In Emily Ratajkowski’s new collection of essays, “My Body,” the story of Audrey Munson, the teenager nicknamed “America’s first supermodel,” serves as a powerful reminder of the dangers of being idolized.
Having posed for some of the great sculptors of the early 20th century, Munson can be found today in parks, plazas, and state capitals throughout the United States. But after inspiring several high-profile statues, including civic fame, the gilded copper woman perched on top of New York’s municipal building attempted suicide in 1922, at age 28, and was committed to a psychiatric hospital at the 39 where he spent the last six. decades of his life.
“I suppose this is the life cycle of a muse,” Ratajkowski writes in “Men Like You,” one of the 12 essays in the collection. “Let yourself be discovered, immortalize yourself in the art for which you are never paid and die in the dark.”
Ratajkowski may be a long way from obscurity, but she’s still a muse. Their likeness has helped sell everything from hamburgers to Buick cars. With more than 28 million Instagram followers and a portfolio of models that leans more lingerie than haute couture (her agency dubbed her a “commercial ‘swim girl” best suited for catalog work, she writes), The media have featured Ratajkowski as a modern woman. Sex symbol of the day, which is why his reflections on objectification and exploitation are so fascinating.
“When I was writing, I wasn’t really thinking about posting,” she told CNN Style during a video call, “because it was one of the only ways I could be really vulnerable and honest, not think about anyone reading it.”
At age 21, Ratajkowski was catapulted to fame after appearing nude in the music video for Robin Thicke’s 2013 song “Blurred Lines,” which has since garnered more than 768 million views on YouTube. “She was not only famous; she was famous for being sexy, which, in many ways, was gratifying to me,” she writes in an essay named after Thicke’s song. Ratajkowski, now 30, details the experience of being an object of intense desire, from euphoric highs to twisted psychological lows.
In “K-Spa,” after enjoying the anonymity of a women-only spa for more than 15 pages, Ratajkowski recounts that she was hit by a truck driver while driving home from the Korean neighborhood of Los Angeles. She is dejected at first, but satisfaction from external validation soon emerges: “I guess she thought I looked pretty,” she writes. “I smile a little in spite of myself. I notice my lips look pale. As I drive home, I rummage through my bag and put on some lipstick.”
Emily Ratajkowski’s “My Body” comes out November 9 and is published by Metropolitan Books. Credit: Metropolitan Books / Emily Ratajkowski
The essays are filled with anecdotes illustrating the double-edged nature of desire, which Ratajkowski hopes will make it even more accessible.
“I feel like we hear words like ‘patriarchy’ and ‘capitalism’, and (they feel like) big words and these big concepts, but I wanted to explore the ways that those things play out in everyday situations,” he explained.
“For me, this book was about talking about the times when women can be very vulnerable and the power dynamics that are often hidden. That’s what I’d really like to see: plus a conversation about those power dynamics.” .
The book details various cases of sexual assault throughout his career, events that he thought about long before the book was published. “I was really careful what I chose to include and why,” he said. “The reason I wrote about those experiences wasn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m going to (write) a list of times I’ve been sexually assaulted.’ It was more, ‘Let me go back to the times where I’m very ashamed, where I feel really unresolved feelings and I’m interested in exploring why.’
‘I am an accomplice’
There are no good resolutions in “My Body”, but Ratajkowski considers where it has taken her to exploit her image and confesses, with surprising vulnerability, the agony and ecstasy of being idolized. “Worse than the arm sweets are invisible, right?” she writes, before an unpleasant interaction with her husbands manager makes her untangle: “I squeeze my eyes shut. I felt a sudden urge to disappear.”
The modeling industry is not taken lightly either. From agents who abandoned a young Ratajkowski in precarious situations to an unhealthy obsession with weight loss (the job apparently only started to improve after a severe attack of stomach flu brought her down five kilos in a week), “My Body “represents the world of fashion. as a predator and a disorientator. And yet the star has no plans to go out of business.
“I have found ways to gain control where I can, and that has been a great help to me,” he explained. “The industry really teaches you that you’re replaceable and that the less likeable you are, the less likely you are to get hired. That scared me when I was a young model and I was doing it for money. But the other thing is, I’m in a position. different. Now, I’m not an unknown model. “
Emily Ratajkowski walks the runway at the Versace show during Milan Fashion Week, September 2021. Credit: Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty
Her decision to continue modeling has already been chastised by some for evading the very issues she raises herself, but Ratajkowski says she would “never blame any woman for trying to operate within the confines of the world we live in.”
“I mean, I’m an accomplice.” She continued. “But I also think it’s wrong to embarrass a young woman for wearing a tight dress because she wants someone powerful to notice her. I don’t think we should continue to criticize women for saying, ‘This is how I can be successful.” and capitalize on my image or my body. ‘ That is an extension of the same misogyny that I have seen so much in my life. We are all accomplices. “
Throughout his essays, Ratajkowski reflects on the fleeting life cycle of a muse. He quotes Audrey Munson, the sculptor’s role model immortalized in stone and bronze, whose reflections on the transience of his craft feel as relevant now as they did a century ago.
“What about the artists’ models?” Munson wrote once. “I wonder if many of my readers have not stopped at a charming sculpture masterpiece or remarkable painting of a young girl, its very abandonment of the curtains accentuating rather than diminishing its modesty and purity, and have wondered: ‘ Where is she now, this model who was so beautiful? ‘”