Emily O’Hara Ratajkowski (/ˌrætəˈkaʊski/; born June 7, 1991) is an American model and actress. Born to American parents in London and raised primarily in California, she rose to prominence in 2013 after appearing in the music video for Robin Thicke‘s “Blurred Lines“, which became the number one song of the year in several countries and attracted controversy over its purportedly sexist content.
She appeared in the 2014 and 2015 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. Ratajkowski made her professional runway modeling debut for Marc Jacobs at New York Fashion Week in 2015 and has since walked on the Paris Fashion Week runway for Miu Miu and Milan Fashion Week for Bottega Veneta. She appeared in a Buick Super Bowl commercial during Super Bowl 50. She has become the spokesperson for brands such as DKNY, The Frye Company and DL1961. She has collaborated with The Kooples and designed her own line of swimwear.
Ratajkowski began acting as a child in the San Diego area before she gained a recurring role on the Nickelodeon series iCarly and later roles in major films. Her feature film debut was as the mistress of Ben Affleck‘s character in the 2014 film Gone Girl. Ratajkowski’s other roles have included the films Entourage and We Are Your Friends (her first leading role) as well as the miniseries The Spoils Before Dying and the anthology series Easy.
Ratajkowski is an advocate for women’s health issues as a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood and supports the right of women to express their sexuality. Her claim to being a feminist has been both supported and disputed.
Emily O’Hara Ratajkowski was born on June 7, 1991, in Westminster, London, the only child of Kathleen Balgley and John David “J.D.” Ratajkowski, both American. Balgley, a professor of English, was teaching under the Fulbright Program, when she met J.D., a painter and art teacher, while they were both teaching at San Dieguito Academy. At the time of their daughter’s birth, they were aged 39 and 45, respectively, and unmarried. Ratajkowski describes her mother as a “feminist and intellectual”. The family lived in West Kensington and Bloomsbury before they settled in the United States in San Diego, California, when Ratajkowski was five. She was raised primarily in nearby Encinitas in a small house near the ocean. Balgley formerly taught at California Polytechnic State University.
Ratajkowski is of Irish, German, and Polish descent. Her father was raised Catholic, while her mother was raised Jewish. Ratajkowski describes her heritage as “Polish Israeli”. She lived in, and traveled to, many parts of Europe as a youth, including long periods in the Irish town of Bantry and on the Spanish island of Mallorca. She spent her young adult summers in Ireland until she became a full-time model.
Before Ratajkowski left London at the age of five, she was obsessed with theater. She began acting as a child, staging shows for her family. Ratajkowski’s first formal role was as Elsa in an adaptation of The Little Match Girl at the North Coast Repertory Theatre School in Solana Beach, California. Later, in 2004, she played Harriet in the interactive Lyceum Theatre production of Harriet Potter and the Throne of Applewort. Ratajkowski grew up without television; she tried soccer, acting, and ballet before modeling.
Ratajkowski visited nude beaches in Europe with her family during her youth. Exposure to the nude female figure in photography and art during her formative years, including the work of her father, as well as the photography of Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts, prepared Ratajkowski for nude work. She is comfortable with the naked body, and states, “We have this culture of men, especially, watching pornography, but then [they are] offended by a classic nude portrait or photograph, and I’ve never felt that way.” Ratajkowski was also influenced by third-wave feminism and works such as The Beauty Myth and Promiscuities by Naomi Wolf. She claims that her role selection is swayed by the Bechdel test. She was a physically mature young teenager who endured pressure to limit expressing her sexuality and how she presented herself.
With encouragement from an acting coach, Ratajkowski met and signed with a talent agent who contacted Ford Models. That same day, she signed with Ford at age 14 and went on to do teen print catalog modeling for Kohl’s and Nordstrom. At 15, Ratajkowski began auditioning for Disney and iCarly roles, but as she pursued acting she was often cast as a “bitchy girl”, cheerleader, or other limited role. She attended San Dieguito Academy high school in San Diego, while modeling and acting in Los Angeles. After two nondescript movie roles, she appeared as Gibby’s girlfriend, Tasha, in two episodes of the third season of Nickelodeon‘s iCarly (2009–2010). Her manager discouraged her from pursuing many acting engagements until she could be more selective.
Ratajkowski attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for one year in 2009, then decided to model full-time. She found the fine art education at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture arbitrary and in conflict with her artistic concepts. She did not enjoy socializing with fellow students.
After campaigns and editorials with photographer Tony Duran, Ratajkowski began shooting more fashion editorials and posed for several early issues of the artistic erotica magazine treats!, including the cover of its third issue, in March 2012. She credits that cover for bringing her the two unsolicited, high-profile, music video roles. Ratajkowski later filmed commercials for Nikon and Carl’s Jr.,including multiple versions of a 2012 Carl’s Jr. commercial with Sara Jean Underwood. She also did nude and clothed art modeling for magazines, including a May 2012 shoot with Jonathan Leder, as well as work for Frederick’s of Hollywood; a 2012 holiday video and a 2011 Valentine’s video in which Ratajkowski appeared for the company are among the most popular videos on the company’s YouTube channel. Ratajkowski worked with photographer Tony Kelly for the March 2013 GQ Turkey cover.
Music video performances
Ratajkowski appeared in Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams‘s 2013 video, “Blurred Lines“. Previously, Ratajkowski had been cast in two other music videos: “Fast Car” by Taio Cruz, which was released on November 5, 2012, and Maroon 5‘s “Love Somebody“, which was released two months after “Blurred Lines”.
“Love Somebody”, shot on January 13, and “Blurred Lines” were both produced in 2013. The video for “Love Somebody” was released on May 21, 2013. Directed by Rich Lee, it shows bare-chested Adam Levine using inverse green screen technology to rub paint onto Ratajkowski with his hands. As they touch, they reveal each other.
Thicke had seen Ratajkowski’s treats! cover that The New York Times‘s Bee Shapiro described as “an artfully composed black-and-white photograph of Ms. Ratajkowski sitting completely nude with her knees tucked to her chest” and convinced director Diane Martel to cast her in the “Blurred Lines” music video. Martel felt that “she looked smart and stunningly beautiful” in the photo. Ratajkowski initially declined the role, fearing being classified as a music video model, but Martel persuaded her. The video was released on March 20, 2013. On March 28, Thicke posted an explicit version, with a topless Ratajkowski.
“Blurred Lines” was controversial: its video was called sexist for its perceived degradation of women, and some felt its lyrics promoted rape. Others disagreed,asserting that the lyrics supported female power and sexual freedom. Martel defended Ratajkowski’s performance, saying: “it’s very, very funny and subtly ridiculing.”Ratajkowski did not think of the video as sexist and claimed that the producers, through the use of humor and sarcasm, “took something that on paper sounded really sexist and misogynistic and made it more interesting”. She said that the song “gave me an opportunity to say the things that I felt about feminism today and about women in general in pop culture.” Ratajkowski did not feel objectified and enjoyed performing in a sexual manner: the attention given to the nudity in the video, she said, shows that America has not advanced as far as it should have, and, she believes, society represses sexuality, which is bad for both sexes.
“Blurred Lines”, and Ratajkowski’s associated video performance, was prominent beyond the sociopolitical controversies. The song became the number one song of 2013 on music charts in many countries, including Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Although second on the year-end US Billboard Hot 100chart, the song’s twelve consecutive weeks at number one made it the longest-running number one song of the decade until “Uptown Funk” spent fourteen consecutive weeks at number one in 2015. The song also remained in the news due to a copyright infringement lawsuit and appeal.
The “Blurred Lines” video garnered Ratajkowski notoriety, especially as a sex symbol. In October 2013, Esquire magazine named Ratajkowski “Woman of the Year”, over online fan vote finalist Jennifer Lawrence. That December, Rolling Stone magazine listed her among its twenty hottest sex symbols. In February 2014, Sports Illustratedmagazine named Ratajkowski as one of twelve 50th anniversary swimsuit issue rookies. In April, FHM ranked her the fourth sexiest woman in the world. Maxim magazine included Ratajkowski at number 62 on its 2014 Hot 100 list. AskMen ranked her the third most desirable woman of 2014.
Ratajkowski was on the July 2013 cover of CR Fashion Book, which included erotic scenes with Karlie Kloss and male models, photographed by Bruce Weber. On June 24, she appeared topless in the July 2014 American GQ cover story, photographed by Michael Thompson. A controversy ensued at retailer Lands’ End, some of whose customers received the issue for free. Some customers objected to the racy images, forcing Lands’ End CEO Edgar Huber to apologize.
Days after Gone Girl‘s September 26, 2014, New York Film Festival premiere, Ratajkowski became the cover model for the November 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan. On October 30, 2014, she appeared with Taylor Kitsch in the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare live-action trailer. Ratajkowski appeared on the February 2015 FHM cover, but she tweeted that her picture was used without her consent. FHM responded that “we liked the pictures so much we stuck one on our front cover”.
Ratajkowski co-starred in the 2015 film Entourage as a fictionalized version of herself, playing the love interest of Adrian Grenier‘s character, Vincent Chase. Her performance received critical commentary ranging from “less than compelling”, by The Hollywood Reporter‘s Sheri Linden, to “uncanny realism”, by The Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Steven Rea. Grantland‘s Morris described her role and performance with scathing sarcasm. She was also cast in the 2015 miniseries The Spoils Before Dying as Agent Day, appearing late in the series. Her performance was favorably reviewed by Emily L. Stephens of The A.V. Club, while other critics commented that she was part of a solid supporting cast.
Ratajkowski earned her first leading role, opposite Zac Efron, in We Are Your Friends, a musical drama released in August 2015, and was part of the film’s promotional tour to Europe and North America. Starting with the August 11 London premiere, this tour marked her ascension as a style icon as she earned multiple best dressed citations from various sources. She played Stanford University dropout Sophie, the love interest of Efron’s character and girlfriend/personal assistant of Wes Bentley‘s character. Her performance received mixed reviews. Alonso Duralde of TheWrap described the role as thin, as did Ty Burr of The Boston Globe. Burr said that Ratajkowski’s performance was “surpassingly dull”, while Nell Minow of Beliefnet stated that she “does more posing than acting”. Kyle Smith of the New York Post described her performance as “quietly entrancing”, and Jordan Hoffman of the Daily News described Ratajkowski’s performance as “stunning and sweet”. Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph and Grantland‘s Morris noted Ratajkowski’s rhythmic dancing skills and sex appeal, as previously seen in “Blurred Lines”.
Around the time of the release of We Are Your Friends, Ratajkowski appeared on the covers of Grazia France, British GQ, harper by Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle UK,and InStyle Australia, as well as a role as a 2015 MTV Video Music Awards presenter. The British GQ cover story was photographed by Mario Testino, who produced a short film featuring Ratajkowski for the magazine’s website. Soon after, on September 17, 2015, she made her runway debut for Marc Jacobs at the spring/summer 2016 New York Fashion Week finale. This appearance contributed to her number one listing among Vogue‘s 12 Breakout Beauty Stars of 2015. For fall/winter 2016 fashions, Ratajkowski walked the Paris Fashion Week runway for Miu Miu on March 9, 2016. She has expressed the desire to break barriers for shorter and more curvaceous models, commenting: “You don’t have to be 5’9″ and an A-cup to be a successful model.”
A Buick Super Bowl ad for its Cascada convertible during Super Bowl 50 on February 7, 2016, featured Ratajkowski and Odell Beckham Jr. The ad, in which she made a wedding bouquet catch reminiscent of Beckham’s famous catch from 2014, received average ratings, according to USA Today‘s admeter. The ad was filmed with a stunt double making the catch. Los Angeles-based jewelry designer Jacquie Aiche featured Ratajkowski in a spring 2016 campaign wearing almost nothing but body chains, rings, bracelets, pendants, and chokers. In May, Ratajkowski appeared in the Russian-language music video “Inseparable” (sometimes translated as “Indivisible”) with Russian entertainer Dima Bilan as a photographer and Ratajkowski as his muse.
Ratajkowski was one of five models to appear on the August 2016 Vogue Germany alternate covers along with Stella Maxwell, Irina Shayk, Lily Aldridge and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Along with Joan Smalls and Kate Upton, Ratajkowski was one of three models for the October Glamour cover. The cover story, which was shot by Carter Smith and includes an essay by Ratajkowski, says she has become known as an activist who considers being both sexual and serious to be non-conflicting ambitions. She appeared in a season 1 episode of Joe Swanberg‘s Netflix series, Easy that was released on September 22, 2016. Her episode, in which she is a lifecasting selfie artist, met with mixed reviews. She was a guest judge on the October 20, Project Runway season 15 episode. By November 2016, Ratajkowski was attached to Lying and Stealing, which also starred Theo James.
Ratajkowski began 2017 on the February Vogue España cover shot by Miguel Reveriego. Ratajkowski also made cover appearances on the March issue of U.S. InStyle,and the May covers of American Marie Claire (with alternate covers by Janelle Monáe, Aja Naomi King, Zoey Deutch, Alexandra Daddario, et al.) and the French L’Officiel.
In 2017, Ratajkowski promoted Fyre Festival on Instagram with Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and other actresses/models. Ratajkowski was reportedly the only actress or model to use the hashtag #ad, but has since deleted the post. The Federal Trade Commission has said #ad only worked if at the beginning of paid posts, and that the hashtag alone was not a sufficient disclaimer. A second class action lawsuit against Fyre Media, McFarland, Ja Rule, and the event promoters in Los Angeles. The plaintiff alleges that they deceived patrons into attending the festival by paying over 400 social media personalities and celebrities to promote it. The parties are accused of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud. On June 27. she was announced as the cover model for the August 2017 Australian Harper’s Bazaar, which had different newsstand and subscriber covers photographed by Pamela Hanson.
In July 2017 after modelling for the French fashion brand The Kooples‘s Fall 2017 collection, Ratajkowski was enlisted to design a 38-piece bag collection for the company. The collection, named Emily By The Kooples, comes in 6 colors and features a leather carryall bag, The Emily Bag. The bags are Italian-made and represent The Kooples’ first foray into bags. Later that month she was announced as the feature of cover stories in the August issues of Allure and British Glamour as well as a nude Patrick Demarchelier photospread for Love magazine.
As of July 2017, Ratajkowski has a variety of upcoming roles. She will play Jessica Weintraub, the female lead opposite Spencer Boldman in the film Cruise, which is written and directed by Robert Siegel. Ratajkowski was hired as part of the cast of the film In Darkness, alongside Natalie Dormer, Ed Skrein, and Stacy Martin. She has a role opposite Aaron Paul in Welcome Home. On June 20, 2017 she announced a role alongside Amy Schumer‘s in I Feel Pretty. In the summer of 2017, she became the face of The Frye Company for its Fall 2017 ad campaign. On September 23, Ratajkowski walked the Milan Fashion Week runway for Bottega Veneta. Later that month, she revealed that she was working with a dialogue coach to learn the French and Italian languages for Lying and Stealing. On November 1, Tyga posted an unofficial 60-second video teaser for “Tequilla Kisses”, which featured Ratajkowski. As a result, Ratajkowski was noted as the starring performer in Tyga‘s “Tequilla Kisses” bonus track music video. However, on November 4, Tyga removed the full video from various points of internet access including his own Instagram account, following complaints from Ratajkowski that the video was from a lookbook Ratajkowski did with Phillip Lopez in 2013. On November 9, Harper’s Bazaar UK published a story about Ratajkowski’s impending release of her own swimwear brand after Emrata Holdings LLC acquired the trademark to Inamorata in August and she left a trail of breadcrumbs on social media. Ratajkowski retweeted the story.The bathing suit line, Inamorata, went live on November 16, 2017 with three bikini separates and three one-pieces.
In February 2014, Ratajkowski broke up with her boyfriend Andrew Dryden, a creative director and menswear buyer. In September 2014, Ratajkowski was a victim in a female celebrity hacking and internet posting wave of stolen nude iCloud photographs. In December 2014, Us Weekly confirmed she had begun dating musician Jeff Magid.
Ratajkowski has raised funds, done public service announcements, and committed to a short film promoting reproductive and sexual health for Planned Parenthood(PPFA). She describes PPFA as her main charity because of its role in women’s health. Ratajkowski’s involvement has drawn ire from right to life advocates such as the National Right to Life Committee.
Ratajkowski says that she enjoys freedom of sexual expression “while still being a feminist”, and is outspoken about using her celebrity to support the empowerment of women and women’s sexuality. Amanda Hess of Slate questioned whether she is a feminist or an opportunist exploiting feminism. In The New York Times, Ratajkowski expressed her frustration that “society somehow feels that women can’t manage to be political, feminist and a sex symbol”. She has called society’s reaction to the naked female form “weird”. As a woman who enjoys expressions of the body ranging from ballet to pornography, Ratajkowski feels that she can be nude in her professional work and also support equality for women. British GQ‘s Charlie Burton stated that she is a feminist with more to say than others. He said that her message is one of sexual empowerment, because sex should not feel like a service and should be beneficial to all involved parties. Wolf said Ratajkowski is a modern feminist in a Harper’s Bazaar interview of Ratajkowski, in which Ratajkowski defended her form of feminism.
On the eve of the February 2016 New Hampshire Democratic primary, Ratajkowski spoke at a Bernie Sanders rally in New Hampshire to endorse his campaign. One of the main points of her speech, and her social media activity surrounding it, was to counter Gloria Steinem‘s statement that young female Sanders supporters were involved in the campaign (rather than supporting fellow female Hillary Clinton) to meet potential male romantic partners.
Ratajkowski has been frequently named in lists and polls that rank beauty or fashion in the media. She was ranked in Maxim‘s Hot 100 list in both 2014 (No. 62) and 2015 (No. 2). AskMen ranked her among its most desirable women of 2014 (No. 3) and 2016 (No. 14); while FHM ranked her among the sexiest in 2014 (No. 4), and 2015 (No. 18). She is also praised for her fashion sense: Ratajkowski made Vogue Italia’s Best Dressed List of 2015, and Harper’s Bazaar placed her atop its best dressed list at the February 2016 New York Fashion Week.
In their respective reviews of We Are Your Friends, Richard Roeper and Wesley Morris said that Ratajkowski, again playing the attractive object of affection, again failed to demonstrate acting prowess.
Ratajkowski described the pressure that she endured as a youth around her sexuality and her thoughts on female sexual empowerment, in Lena Dunham‘s Lenny Letter newsletter on February 16, 2016. Elle magazine, Esquire magazine, and Harper’s Bazaar republished her letter. Critics, including Glamour magazine’s Hayley Spencer, The Huffington Post‘s Jenavieve Hatch, and Rachael Moon of the Daily Mirror, praised it. According to Cosmopolitan magazine’s Nikki Kinstlinger and Georgia Simmonds of Marie Claire, Ratajkowski finds self-empowerment in defining and owning the expression of her sexuality and body. Salon‘s Erin Coulehan described the essay’s identification of a societal catch-22, in which showcasing female sexuality that may “offend, excite, or create envy” leads to criticism and body shaming. InStyle‘s Isabella Silvers concurred that “female sexuality isn’t always for the benefit of someone else”. Charlotte Gill of The Independent admitted that she was in the minority in finding the letter “rambling” and “dull”.
Ratajkowski defended Kim Kardashian from criticism when Kardashian posted a controversial naked selfie on Instagram in March 2016, saying that women have the right to “express their sexuality and share their bodies however they choose”. Then, Kardashian and Ratajkowski jointly advocated via social media for female sexual empowerment and against body shaming; nearly one million social media followers responded positively, and prominent global media outlets took notice.
Following her letter and social media statement, the controversy about her feminism heightened. Piers Morgan stated that Ratajkowski’s form of feminism was a misguided affront to true feminism, labeling it pseudo-feminist gibberish. After Morgan wrote that “feminism as it was intended is dead”, the Chicago Tribune‘s Heidi Stevens, as well as The Daily Telegraph‘s Helen Pankhurst (Emmeline Pankhurst‘s great-granddaughter) said that Ratajkowski neither killed nor bolstered feminism. Women’s Wear Daily‘s Taylor Harris questioned the impact of Ratajkowski’s feminism. The Independent‘s Gill questioned Ratajkowski’s feminism, saying that her professional activities “continued to advocate industries that treat us as pieces of meat”. Heather Saul of The Independent wrote in support of Ratajkowski in an article subtitled “Ratajkowski is becoming an important feminist voice in the debate over female censorship and sexuality”. New York‘s Allie Jones called Ratajkowski “the best feminist celeb”.
According to a November 26, 2016, story on Page Six of the New York Post, 71 photographs taken by Leder in May 2012 were being printed in a publication by Imperial Publishing and set for display in a New York art gallery in February 2017. On November 30, 2016, Ratajkowski tweeted that she was being featured in the photobook publication without her consent. New York noted that Ratajkowski had claimed that the pictures were intended for use in an artful magazine, while USA Today noted that she had hesitated to protest because she did not want to give Leder publicity.
In February 2017, Ratajkowski prominently defended the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, after overhearing Jacob Bernstein (son of Nora Ephron and Carl Bernstein) of The New York Times make what she considered was a derogatory remark about the president’s wife at a party for Diane von Furstenberg. The following month, she became the face of DKNY intimates. She noted that by July 2017, her sex appeal, especially her cleavage, has caused her to lose jobs. The following month she became the face of DL1961 jeans. In August 2017, she also became the face of the entire DKNY brand for its fall 2017 campaign.
In September 2017, Ratajkowski took issue with image editing done for the cover of the Madame Figaro issue included in the Saturday September 16 issue Le Figaro.American Vogue ran a feature article the following month for her “stylistic excellence”.
Biography Credit: Wikipedia