Emily O'Hara Ratajkowski (/ˌrɑːtaɪˈkɒfski/; Polish: [ratajˈkɔfskʲi]; born June 7, 1991) is an American model and actress. Born in London to American parents and raised primarily in California, she rose to prominence after appearing in the music video for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", which became the number one song of the year 2013 in several countries, despite it being controversial for many reasons including its nudity, plagiarism, and its themes of both sexual degradation and sexual freedom.
Ratajkowski's modeling career has progressed from retail adwork to arthouse erotica and high fashion. She appeared on the cover of the March 2012 issue of erotic magazine treats! This led to her being asked to appear in two music videos: "Blurred Lines" and Maroon 5's "Love Somebody". She appeared in the 2014 and 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issues. Ratajkowski made her professional runway modelling debut for Marc Jacobs at Spring/Summer 2016 New York Fashion Week in 2015 and has since walked on the Paris Fashion Week runway for Miu Miu. She was a spokesperson for Buick in a Super Bowl commercial for its Cascada during Super Bowl 50.
Ratajkowski's acting career began with youth acting in the San Diego area before she gained a recurring role on 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 2015 films included Entourage, We Are Your Friends with Zac Efron (her first leading role), and The Spoils Before Dying. She has several current acting engagements in various stages of development.
Ratajkowski is an advocate for women's health issues as a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood (PPFA). In addition, she supports the right of women to express their sexuality and supports Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign.
An only child, Ratajkowski was born in Westminster, London, to American parents. At the time of her birth, Ratajkoski's mother and father were aged 39 and 45, respectively, and not married. Her mother Kathleen Balgley, a professor of English and writer described by Ratajkowski as a "feminist and intellectual", was in London temporarily to teach under the Fulbright Program. Balgley had met Ratajkowski's father, John David "J. D." Ratajkowski, a painter and art teacher, when they both taught at San Dieguito Academy. The family settled in San Diego when Ratajkowski was 5. She was raised primarily in nearby Encinitas, California in a small house near the ocean.
Ratajkowski is of Jewish, Polish, Irish, and German descent. Her father was raised Catholic, while her mother was raised Jewish. Ratajkowski's mother formerly taught at California Polytechnic State University, known as Cal Poly. When asked about her heritage in 2012, Ratajkowski answered "Polish Israeli". She lived in and traveled to many parts of Europe during her youth, including long periods in Bantry, Ireland, and Mallorca, Spain. She spent her early youth summers in Ireland until she became a full-time model. Ratajkowski grew up without television; she tried soccer, acting and ballet before modeling.
Exposure to the nude female figure in photography and art during her formative years, including the work of her father, prepared Ratajkowski for her eventual nude and semi-nude appearances before the camera. Among her influences was exposure to the photography of Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts in books. Ratajkowski said she is comfortable with the naked body due to her background and life experiences, stating "We have this culture of men, especially, watching pornography, but then offended by a classic nude portrait or photograph, and I've never felt that way". Ratajkowski also frequently visited nudist beaches in Europe with her family during her youth. As a young teen who experienced early pronounced physical maturation, Ratajkowski endured pressure from friends, family and society to repress expressing her sexuality. She was urged to censor both her expression and how she presented herself.
Ratajkowski has done public service announcements promoting safe sex and birth control for Planned Parenthood (PPFA). She also committed to participate in a short film about reproductive and sexual health issues for PPFA. Ratajkowski describes PPFA as "the main charity that I work with" because of its prominence as a proactive women's health organization, and has worked with PPFA to raise funds. She reports receiving a wide range of responses to her involvement, including comments on her bravery. Ratajkowski's involvement has also caught the attention of right to life advocates and drawn ire from the likes of the National Right to Life Committee. Planned Parenthood has presented her as a spokesperson for its birth control support. Ratajkowski is outspoken on her interest in using her celebrity to fight against the social implications of speaking out for empowerment of women and sexuality.
Ratajkowski has stated that she enjoys freedom of sexual expression to "wear what she wants, sleep with whom she wants, and dance how she wants, while still being a feminist."Amanda Hess of Slate questions whether Ratajkowski is a feminist or an opportunist exploiting feminism. In an interview for The New York Times, she notes her frustration that "...society somehow feels that women can't manage to be political, feminist and a sex symbol."Ratajkowski finds society's reaction to the naked female form "weird" given how comfortable her parental support system conditioned her to be with it. As a woman who enjoys both ballet and pornographic entertainment, she feels that regardless of whether she does professional nudity, she can believe in equality for women. Ratajkowski, acknowledges that in both her modelling and acting professions there are pressures to stay fit, but feels that a support system has enabled her to handle the pressure. British GQ's Charlie Burton states that she is a feminist with more to say than others, but not a hardcore feminist. He says her feminist message is one of sexual empowerment because sex should not feel like a service and should be a benefit enjoyed by all involved parties. Heather Saul of The Independent defended Ratajkowski's message with an article under the subtitle "Ratajkowski is becoming an important feminist voice in the debate over female censorship and sexuality"
On the eve of the February 9, 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 (and thus Hillary Clinton opponents) were in it for the boys.
Ratajkowski published her recollections on the pressure about her sexuality that she endured as a youth and her current thoughts on female sexual empowerment in Lena Dunham's Lenny newsletter on February 16. The letter was republished by many major media outlets including the websites of Elle, Esquire and Harper's Bazaar. It was received favorably by a wide variety of media outlets: Salon's Erin Coulehan describes the essay as a statement about the Catch-22 of being a woman in a society where showcasing sexuality in a way that may "accidentally offend, excite, or create envy" leads to criticism and body-shaming; Glamour's Hayley Spencer describes it as "powerful"; The Huffington Post's Jenavieve Hatch says Ratajkowski "has a lot to say"; InStyle's Isabella Silvers endorses Ratajkowski's point that "Female sexuality isn't always for the benefit of someone else"; Cosmopolitan's Nikki Kinstlinger notes that Ratajkowski "makes it super clear that she is hell bent on doing things her way, and taking ownership of her sexuality, her gender and her body"; Georgia Simmonds of Marie Claire describes Ratajkowski's statements as follows: "Fundamentally, she refuses to be apologetic - she is determined to define sexy on her own terms, shame-free and finds empowerment in that process." Rachael Moon of The Daily Mirror notes that the letter is a revealing discussion of "what it means to be sexual". Charlotte Gill of The Independent admits she is in the minority, but feels that the letter is "rambling" and "dull".
Ratajkowski supported Cara Delevingne's decision to stop modelling to pursue acting, noting that one should be free to change the forum in which one expresses one's creativity. In keeping with her letter, Ratajkowski became involved in the March social media controversy surrounding Kim Kardashian's posting of naked selfies by defending Kardashian's right in the context of women's rights to "express their sexuality and share their bodies however they choose". By the end of the month, Kardashian and Ratajkowski jointly advocated for female sexual empowerment and against bodyshaming with millions of social media followers responding positively and many prominent media outlets around the world taking notice. This prompted Piers Morgan to state that Ratajkowski's approach to feminism is a misguided affront to true feminism, eventually labelling her actions as a pseudo-feminist gibberish. Gill questions whether Ratajkowski understands feminism because her career has been composed of anti-feminist activities for which she has been paid to perform under contract.