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The emancipation or exploitation of ‘my body’

Emily Ratajkowski, best known as @emrata on Instagram, is a self-defined “model, actor, activist, entrepreneur, and writer” [1]. 

She rose to fame after starring in videos of pop songs in the 2010s and quickly became a sought-after model and then influencer. She has now taken on her experience in the world as a model and as a woman and wrote a book titled ‘My Body’ where she openly reflects on and narrates instances of her life where her body was at the foreground. 

@emrata

Emily has of today 28.8M followers on Instagram and utilises the platform not only to share bits and pieces of her life, unlike many other users, but also capitalises on her online presence to advertise her bikini line company @inamoratawoman and features in ads of companies ranging from cosmetic to high luxury brands. 

Now, going back to her book. It was published at the end of 2021 and was soon-after named a New York Times Bestseller. It has quickly taken over instagram stories of fellow models and the bookshelves of average Joe’s who are curious for an insight into the life of this celebrity who has been at times also a controversial figure. Despite having shared very intimate and also violent moments she has gone through, she keeps appearing to the reader as a figure outside of such body, which holds so much power over her and also over others, which is at times source of wonder and at others of despair, she seems not to be its agent and to passively tell what happens to this body who moves from casting to audition, from city to city. 

At one point, rather early on in the book she reflects on how a weight loss after an illness resulted in increased work opportunities but then never acknowledges the role she plays in the promotion of beauty standards which have affected generations of women and continue to do so by the depiction of skinny, white, and athletic bodies on instagram. This is not an attack on her personally but rather a recognition that the absence of alternative images to the category of ones that incidentally her body falls under is an extremely big pitfall of social media platforms and the fashion world at large. Yet, she also exposes the objectification of the body of very young women by the fashion industry by giving personal accounts of her early experiences as a model.

‘You’re a capitalist’, although said in passing by another character in her book, namely S. who is her now husband, this statement reflects how she has capitalised on her body for years, from the first modelling campaigns to the now posts on instagram that help sell her bikinis as they increase user engagement. Yet, she seems to see herself as more of a person who ‘works the system’ rather than being part of it, although how do you really separate the two?

@emrata

Her lack of power over her own body  culminates when pictures taken by a photographer, who then assaulted her during a shoot, were sold without her consent in a book named after her, ‘Emily Ratajkowski’. She becomes a commodity as her identity is completely undetached from the body that poses for photographs. If this speaks to the experience of femme individuals in the modelling industry and  in society, then her book is a fierce and unapologestic condemnation of it.

She has been paid for her beauty and does not seem to have had the space to be anything else than a pretty and attractive woman. Her plague has affected many others before her and will probably touch many others after. The societal presumption that a woman’s value is intrinsically linked to and reflected in her beauty and her appeal to men is what she could have denounced louder to become a voice of union of every body and everybody who has experienced this. However, perhaps the lack of power we see in her as a protagonist of the story is redeemed by her as a writer who does not hold back in sincerity. 

[1] Emily Ratajkowski, “My Body” (2021) 

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