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"I began to float outside of myself." 7 things we learned from Emily Ratajkowski's book.

This post discusses sexual assault and could be triggering for some readers. 

Emily Ratajkowski has one of the most discussed bodies in the world, but in a new book, she's the only one doing the talking.

My Body is a collection of essays about, well, her body. How it's perceived. How it's been used. How she uses it. What it's achieved for her. How it's made her feel. What she is beyond it.

Everything Ratajkowski does makes headlines, so writing a book feels like a way of taking ownership over her story.

"The media has looked for stories from whatever, like me walking the dog, and so here I am sort of offering a platter of the most personal and vulnerable narratives," she explains to Vanity Fair.

"People have said to me, 'the book is really brave' and I'm like, 'is that the word you would use?' Because I could think of a lot of other words. Maybe a little stupid."

Here are seven key takeaways from My Body.

Her family's fixation on her looks.

In an essay about her family and growing up, Ratajkowski recalls her mum's pride about the doctor exclaiming her to be "a beautiful baby".

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She grew up an only child in San Diego, listening to her mother tell stories about her own youthful beauty and of "adoring boys standing on the lawn below her bedroom window in high school".

This informed how she thought of her own looks.

"I tried to gauge where my parents thought I belonged in the world of beauties," Ratajkowski writes. 

"It seemed important to them both, especially to my mother, that their daughter be perceived as beautiful."

At night, she prayed God would make her "the most beautiful".

"Beauty was a way for me to be special. When I was special, I felt my parents' love for me the most."

Being sexualised as a child.

Ratajkowski recalls attracting unwanted attention from men from the age of 12.

"I'll never forget the look on his face as you walked past him," her mother told her about random men on the street. "He stopped dead in his tracks and his mouth fell open!"

At 13, she was sent home from a dance because adults deemed her dress "too sexy", and another time her dad asked her to "not dress like that, just for tonight" when she wore a pink lace top and a push-up bra.

"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 writes.

When she was in high school, a casting agent pointed to a close-up photo of her with her lips pursed and said: "Now this is the look. This is how we know this girl gets f***ed!" 

"My face felt hot," Ratajkowski writes about that moment. "Was this something to be proud of?"

Watch: Emily Ratajkowski’s Pregnancy Reveal Video: Vogue. Post continues below video.


Video via Vogue.
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She assumed it must be, because her mother placed that black-and-photo on the kitchen counter, facing their home's front door.

"Anyone coming in was immediately greeted by my pouty lips, bare legs and teased hair," she recalls, adding she was "embarrassed" by the photo.

Being sued for posting a photo of herself.

My Body includes the essay 'Buying Myself Back', which was originally published by The Cut in 2020.

In it, she recounts moments when photos of her had been bought, sold and shared without her consent.

In 2019, she was sued by a paparazzo for sharing a photo of herself, that they had taken, on Instagram.

"I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own," she writes.

She fought back against the paparazzi's lawsuit, and in October 2021, a judge found her Instagram Story could be a fair use of the image at issue and the matter should go to a jury trial.

Alleged sexual assault on a modeling set.

In 2012, Ratajkowski travelled to the Catskill Mountains in New York for a photoshoot with photographer Jonathan Leder. Her agent had not told her the photoshoot would be lingerie, but when she realised, she rolled with it.

"The makeup artist painted on a bright-red lipstick, and I changed into a high-waisted pink lingerie set. We headed to the upstairs bedroom to begin shooting. I sat up on an antique brass bed frame, my knees pressing into the faded floral-print sheets," she wrote.

After a while, Ratajkowski says Leder instructed her to take off her lipstick and "f*** up your hair".

"He was turned away from me when he said, 'Let's try naked now.'

"I'd been shot nude a handful of times before, always by men. I'd been told by plenty of photographers and agents that my body was one of the things that made me stand out among my peers. My body felt like a superpower. I was confident naked — unafraid and proud. Still, though, the second I dropped my clothes, a part of me disassociated. I began to float outside of myself, watching as I climbed back onto the bed."

Later that night, she wrote about being on the couch with Leder.

"Most of what came next was a blur except for the feeling. I don't remember kissing, but I do remember his fingers suddenly being inside of me. Harder and harder and pushing and pushing like no one had touched me before or has touched me since. I could feel the shape of myself and my ridges, and it really, really hurt. I brought my hand instinctively to his wrist and pulled his fingers out of me with force. I didn't say a word. He stood up abruptly and scurried silently into the darkness up the stairs," she writes.

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She went to sleep in the same bedroom she'd just done the photoshoot in, "terrified that he would come back".

"I listened for a sign of him as I watched the blue light of dawn peek in through the window. I thought about Jonathan’s daughter. 'Does she normally sleep in this bed?', I wondered."

The next day, she went on Instagram to find Leder had already uploaded one of the Polaroids from the night before.

Following Ratajkowski's essay being published by The Cut, a number of other women have made allegations of abuse against him.

Her confusion over using her body to 'sell' things.

In the essay 'Bc Hello Halle Berry,' Ratajkowski writes about a disagreement with her husband Sebastian Bear-McClard while on a sponsored holiday in the Maldives.

She is annoyed when he calls her a "capitalist", while they are people watching.

"I pointed out that we weren't like the other guests at this resort," Ratajkowski writes. The other guests are 'real rich people', she tells him.

"C'mon, baby," her husband says. "You're a capitalist, too, admit it."

She responds to say she is trying to succeed in a capitalist system, but that doesn't mean she likes the game.

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Later in the essay, she recalls posting a photo of herself on Instagram to promote a bikini from her company, and tallying up the likes over breakfast.

"Five hundred thousand in an hour. Not bad," she says.

"I'm still addicted to the sensation I get watching a post go crazy with comments and likes on Instagram. Casually snapping a picture and uploading it for 27 million people provides a pretty serious high."

She admits to making "multiple of the average American annual salary" for just five days of posting photos at the resort, and has a bit of an existential 'headache' about it all.

"I wanted to be able to have my Instagram hustle, selling bikinis and whatever else, while also being respected for my ideas and politics and well, everything besides my body."

Alleged sexual assault on the set of 'Blurred Lines'.

The video for the Robin Thicke song 'Blurred Lines' introduced the world to Ratajkowski. Eight years, and a lot of controversy later, Ratajkowski alleges Thicke groped her bare breasts from behind during filming.

"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."

Image: Star Trak.

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She says Thicke's actions made her feel "naked for the first time that day" but she'd been "desperate to minimise" the incident.

"I pushed my chin forward and shrugged, avoiding eye contact, feeling the heat of humiliation pump through my body. I didn't react – not really, not like I should have."

The video's director, Diane Martel, had intended the video to subvert power dynamics, placing men in the inferior position as the women ignored and mocked them.

"With that one gesture, Robin Thicke had reminded everyone on set that we women weren't actually in charge," Ratajkowski wrote. 

"I didn't have any real power as the naked girl dancing around in his music video. I was nothing more than the hired mannequin."

Letting go during childbirth.

In an essay, Ratajkowski writes about relinquishing control of her body during the birth of her son, Sylvester Apollo Bear.

"I laboured on all fours, staring at the checkered tile of our bathroom. My body felt like it was cracking open; the pain was all-encompassing, rippling through my core and spreading to every corner of my being. The contractions were coming without a break, and as one peaked, I felt gripped by sudden panic. I was desperate to make the pain stop, but I was trapped. I bit down, clenching my teeth."

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She said at this point, she realised there was nothing she could do to ensure the safety of herself and her baby.

"Our survival depended on the mysterious mechanisms of my body."

She then realised she trusted her body.

"My body had gotten me this far, hadn’t it? It was resilient. It had sheltered my growing son for nine months and kept his heart beating while his entire, complicated self developed inside me. Now it was opening up, right on schedule.

"I knew then that I had to let go. Despite my fear, I calmed. I surrendered."

While giving birth in hospital, she asked a mirror to be placed nearby so she could see herself.

"In the mirror positioned above me, I no longer recognised my face: it was puffy and red and the veins at my temple were pronounced and throbbing. My body was swollen and raw and unfamiliar. Everything had transformed. My baby’s heartbeat crackled through the monitor."

After Sylvester was born, the mirror was moved.

"The mirror was pushed to the side, but I could still see the place where he emerged. My body."

Emily Ratajkowski's book My Body is available now.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

Feature image: Getty.