Model and activist Emily Ratajkowski has had a tremendous career largely focused on her image and sexuality. And if she’s learned anything from the experience it’s that she is constantly in a double bind of sexuality and power.
The power dynamics are often “subtle,” the 30 year old recently told Know Your Value. It’s something she writes about in her new book “My Body,” a collection of essays exploring feminism, sexuality and power – and what it means to be a woman and a commodity.
Ratajkowski, who alleges in her book that singer-songwriter Robin Thicke groped her in 2013 while filming the video for "Blurred Lines,” noted there are more “shrouded sides to entering an industry that will treat you as an object…”
“My hope is that the book starts conversations about power and the way misogyny infiltrates and affects our lives,” she said.
Ratajkowski chatted with Know Your Value about her new book, the advice she wishes she could tell her younger self, being a new mom and more.
Below is the conversation, which has been edited for brevity and clarity:
Know Your Value: What was the genesis of deciding to write “My Body” and what was that process like?
Ratajkowski: I started writing for myself in an attempt to organize my thoughts around various ideas and experiences I'd had. I've always loved reading but the idea of writing a book was intimidating. It wasn't until I had maybe six or seven essays that I decided I was writing a book.
Know Your Value: In your industry, there’s a double bind of sexuality and power – themes that you explore in your new book. Do you feel like you’re constantly juggling feelings of feminist empowerment versus dealing with the commodification of your body and sexuality? How have you reconciled the two, and what advice would you give to women to step into their own power?
Ratajkowski: Absolutely. I don't have answers when it comes to telling women how to manage the dichotomy that exists when you capitalize off of your image and sexuality. I would never tell a young woman not to model. There are simply too many, undeniable advantages to succeeding as a beautiful woman in our culture. I know that a lot of people will pick up my book because of the name I've built for myself by commodifying my body.
That being said, I'd encourage a young woman considering modeling to read my book to understand the more shrouded sides to entering an industry that will treat you as an object and encourage the rest of the world, even yourself, to see you that way.
Know Your Value: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
Ratajkowski: The power dynamics I write about in the book are often subtle. My hope is that the book starts conversations about power and the way misogyny infiltrates and affects our lives.
Know Your Value: How have your views on your own body image changed from when you were a teenager, to your 20s to now 30s? What do you wish you could tell your younger self?
Ratajkowski: I used to think that I was a hustler: savvy. I thought I was working the system by commodifying my body and sexuality. I pointed to my fame and success and called it empowerment. I now know it's not that simple. I'd probably tell my younger self to stop being so defiant. That being said, I spent a lot of my 20s having a lot of shame, so I'd also tell her to stop blaming herself.
Know Your Value: You’re a new mom! How has the last year been for you? In what ways has motherhood changed you, and has it taught you anything about yourself?
Ratajkowski: Motherhood has completely changed me. I was finishing the book when my son was born and it totally shifted my priorities in a way I didn't expect. The thing that had been the most important project in my life, suddenly didn't seem to matter as soon as my son arrived. I am still trying to figure out the balance, but I imagine I will be for the rest of my life!
Know Your Value: What are your top tips to build confidence and resilience?
Ratajkowski: Don't be afraid of vulnerability! People have the wrong idea about confidence, they think confidence is someone who doesn't have anything to be ashamed or embarrassed about but that's not the case. A confident person is someone who is able to be vulnerable and also unafraid.