Emily Ratajkowski has reflected on her childhood and her parents’ fixation with beauty, and how it contributed to the expectations she placed on herself.
The model discussed the topic at length in her upcoming book of essays My Body, in which she recalled her mother and father discussing her looks from the moment she was born, with her mother Kathy often telling her that she was “such a beautiful baby”.
According to Ratajkowski, beauty was important to her parents as her mother herself had been beautiful, with the model explaining that she had “tried to gauge where my parents thought I belonged in the world of beauties,” as “it seemed important to them both, especially to my mother, that their daughter be perceived as beautiful”.
Ratajkowski also writes that she felt that beauty would make her seem “special” to her parents, which in turn made her feel more loved, according to excerpts published.
When Ratajkowski turned 12, she says she became aware that men were attracted to her, an awareness that was also noticed by her mother, who would often point out these instances.
“I’ll never forget the look on his face as you walked past him!” her mom would say, according to Ratajkowski. “He stopped dead in his tracks and his mouth fell open!”
After an agent approached her about modelling in middle school, the 30 year old recalls how her father, a high school art teacher, had proudly displayed her modelling “comp” card, which included her headshots and measurements, in his classroom.
At her first modelling audition, Ratajkowski remembers her mother again pointing out a man’s interest in her looks, with her mom telling her: “That boy looked at you when you stood up and flipped your hair. He was watching you.”
In the forthcoming book, the model also details other defining and disturbing moments from her childhood, including one incident when she was sent home from a school dance at 13 years old because chaperones had said her outfit was “too sexy”.
“I was a child, but somehow already an expert in detecting male desire, even if I didn’t completely understand what to make of it,” she said.
According to Ratajkowski, the objectification continued as she grew older, with the model recalling how, in high school, a casting agent had praised close-up photos of her face because of the expression she was making, telling her: “Now this is the look. This is how we know this girl gets f***ed!”
While Ratajkowski said she initially thought of her beauty as empowering, she writes that she eventually realised that “women who gained their power from beauty were indebted to the men whose desire granted them that power in the first place”.
“Those men were the ones in control, not the women the world fawned over,” she said, according to The New York Post, with the model acknowledging that, if she were to face “the reality of the dynamics at play,” it would have “meant admitting how limited my power really was – how limited any woman’s power is when she survives and even succeeds in the world as a thing to be looked at”.
“‘I was forced to face some ugly truths about what I understood as important, what I thought love was, what I believed made me special, and to confront the reality of my relationship with my body,” she writes.
In the book, Ratajkowski also details an encounter of alleged sexual assault by Robin Thicke on the set of the music video for the singer’s hit song Blurred Lines in 2013.
She writes: “Suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt the coolness and foreignness of a stranger’s hands cupping my bare breasts from behind. I instinctively moved away, looking back at Robin Thicke. He smiled a goofy grin and stumbled backward, his eyes concealed behind his sunglasses. My head turned to the darkness beyond the set.”
At the time, the model says that she was “desperate to minimise the incident,” with Ratajkowski recently telling People that she hadn’t come forward with the allegations sooner because she was worried about the impact to her career.
“I was an unknown model and if I had spoken out or complained, I would not be where I am today, I would not be famous,” the model said.
Ratajkowski also expressed her frustration with the incident being shared before the release of her book on 9 November, telling Extra on Monday: “It’s been hard for me, I really like to have control over my image, and I wrote this book of essays to share the whole story and all sides of it.”
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