It could have been easy to dismiss her as another video vixen in the service of making male musicians – in this case Thicke along with his collaborator, Pharrell Williams – look sexually desirable. And yet, as the YouTube views ticked skyward (344 million and counting), Emily’s name was as much at the centre of the discussion as the guys’. There was just something different about this woman. She defied assumptions.
Before Blurred Lines, Emily was an unknown model. Her biggest credit: a commercial for fast-food chain Carl’s Jr. Post BL, she’s in two major film roles, first with Ben Affleck in Gone Girl, and next with Zac Efron in the upcoming We Are Your Friends.
But when the call came for the video that would make her a star, she balked. “Initially, I turned it down,” she says. “I read the breakdown, and it sounded so bad – I didn’t like the idea of it.” But a woman-to-woman convo with director Diane Martel changed her mind. “She explained to me the goofiness behind it. It’s all about celebrating your sexuality and embracing it. It’s important that women take control of that.”
Born in London, the only child of an English professor mother and artist father, Ratajkowski’s upbringing wasn’t exactly conventional: “My mum was 39 and my dad 45 when they had me. They weren’t married.” Her mother found out she was pregnant right after accepting a teaching position in London. A telling anecdote involves a trip to the grocery store when she was a baby and a man approached her mother. “Your daughter is so beautiful; she should be a model,” he said. “No, she is going to be a brain surgeon,” her mother retorted.
Eventually, the family moved to San Diego, where Ratajkowski caught the acting bug. Her parents, having no desire to drive to LA for auditions, set her up with an acting coach who recommended modelling. At 14, Ratajkowski was signed by Ford Models. But the agency didn’t know what to do with the sexy teen, too short and too buxom for the runway. Yeah, we get it – pretty face and great boobs? Sob.
But as so many girls with #bigboobproblems know, being sexualised at an early age was overwhelming. “All of a sudden, men are checking you out and you barely know anything about sex,” she recalls of developing early. Typecasting led her to quit acting in high school when “All the roles I was getting were the bitchy girl or the cheerleader, which is not me.” Emily the Woman was not Emily the Body, and she’d be damned if people didn’t respect both.
Read the full interview with EmRata in the December issue of Cosmo – on sale today!