Would You Read A Book About Why It Sucks To Be Emily Ratajkowski?

I first heard about Emily Ratajkowski’s book My Body via an article by Judith Newman called “Victimhood Goes Mad” in Airmail. Newman thought the book was sort of ridiculous and I nodded along as I read her article, agreeing with Newman’s critique impulsively because, yeah, I mean, I’m not particularly eager to hear about Ratajkowski’s resentment towards a system that made her super famous, and rich.

Emily Ratajkowski’s on the Howard Stern Show on November 9, 2021.

Then I heard her interview on Howard Stern and became curious. She seemed to be putting words to something about our Instagram and TikTok culture that has not really been vocalized before. What? I’m not exactly sure. But it felt almost like the collective subconscious of every person that ever posted a photo on Instagram coming forth, and the fact she won the system made her thoughts on it all the more textured.

I also got the sense from her interview that she was genuinely uneasy about releasing the book and revealing so much about herself. And while I’m not a fan of resentment, I’m certainly someone that believes gifts often have curses embedded in them and there are important lessons for the rest of us to glean about life from the “lonely at the top” archetype.

So after the Stern interview intermingled with Newman’s article, I had to read it; what was the deal with the book? Plus, the PR engine behind this book was so large I couldn’t escape it for a moment and had to give in.

The cover of My Body is a text-based design.

So, to summarize, My Body is a candid, fast-paced book that feels like a refined diary covering the following topics.

  • Being beautiful and the depersonalization from people (or more accurately men) using her body as a “tool” to sell things…
  • Mental health: dealing with going from nobody to somebody and growing up too fast…
  • Confronting differnet types of sexual assualt and how to heal from them…
  • Describing the wretched boy’s club that runs the art world, particularly fashion photography, and Hollywood….
  • Emily’s frustration with playing the game of capitalism and… mental health.
  • The excitement but also the emptiness of social media and the “perks” assocaited with it…
  • The wonder and beauty of her having her child…

My Body felt like it almost could have been a subplot in Bret Easton Ellis’s 1998 novel Glamorama, a whimsical and sardonic screed about the modeling industry. There is a quote in Glamorama that I kept thinking of as I read Ratajkowski’s book: On the verge of tears — because I was dealing with the fact that we lived in a world where beauty was considered an accomplishment — I turned away and made a promise to myself: to be harder, to not care, to be cool.” Though her book is not nearly that melodramatic, the overarching sentiment is similar. Without beauty, who am I?

A photograph of Emily Ratajkowski with her new book from her Instagram account.

One takeaway from the book is that it almost seems like Ratajkowski would have had a happier life if she was never famous.

When she talks about the “Blurred Lines” music video that skyrocketed her into global fame, she says the music video was just another job, another way to pay the bills, like everything she was doing at the time, it was just part of the dumb grind of making a living. And the tsunami of fame after it was something that happened to her, sort of without her consent and certainly not her forethought.

I found this anecdote from the book interesting because it just shows how much Ratajkowski refused to play the game, as she compares herself to the approach of another model. (As an aside, it seems peculiar how thinly she hides the identity of the other model here? A Victora Secret model that she later mentions married a tech mogul. I mean… Who could that be?!? Is she casting shade? 👻)

As I walked toward the exit, I passed a group of people dancing. I saw that Jho Low’s face had grown red and sweaty. He was drunk. A tray of shots appeared in front of him, and he grabbed two, handing one to the Victoria’s Secret model. She had ignored me and the other guests, her attention focused on Jho Low. Now she kept her eyes locked on him as he took his shot, throwing her head back dramatically as he did, only to quickly toss the alcohol over her shoulder. When he faced her again, her eyes sparkled and the famous dimples appeared on her cheeks. Damn, I thought, what a maneuver.”

In any case, Ratajkowski’s sense of the job compared to the other model is night and day and it makes you think Ratajkowski would have had a happier life living in a suburb of San Diego and completely not famous, but maybe 14% happier? Or living in New York as an art director, unknown, but even more wealthy and infinitely happier… directing commercials for Gucci while a guest lecturer at NYU?

Ratajkowski’s resentment for capitalism, an underlying current throughout the book, makes sense given the above. Ratajkowski got caught up in a profession she did not like to pay the bills, and then that music video blew up, and she got stuck in it because a system much larger than herself took control. The industry swallowed her as it did for so many young stars before her. Though she seems to be stepping away now and reinventing herself quite well as an author, which seems to undermine so much of her anti-capitalist mindset.

One of the common criticisms of the book is the privilege of it all. It’s kind of feels like reading a book by the founder of Sephora saying, gosh I wish I had that simple life and owned that cool Glossier brand instead of this institutional conglomerate. Let me own In-N-Out Burger, not McDonald’s! But, like, whatever, we all think the grass is greener.

For example, these are some real thoughts from the book. #TryNotToJudge

  • It feels weird being paid $25,000 to goto the Super Bowl when everyone else has to pay for tickets. Right. Ratajkowski was paid $25,000 to attend it in a VIP suite with other celebrities.
  • Is it possible to ever go on vacation when you’re constantly being invited to go on free vacations and upload Instagram pictures of the resort tagged?
  • Would my life have been better if I wasen’t so beautiful?

At face value, these are absurd questions. One sentence from the aforementioned Airmail article says — Google the neuroscientist/model Nell Rebowe, and that’s your testament that the privilege of beauty doesn’t hold you back from doing serious work. Your life was your decision. As true as that might be, it is not sympathetic to the current context.

There is a big chunk of the next generation growing up thinking that getting a free vacation to take photos is the definition of success. They are trapped in the mirage of social media and fame. Ratajkowski exposes the more empty side of it and in that sense, My Body is a powerful tale for late Millennials and Generation Z that have been enmeshed in the toxic web of social media since birth.

It’s also a curious memoir, a curious metamorphosis of a young person taking back her life from the monstrous and vampiric media machine. I imagine, too, it’s only the beginning, and Ratajkowski’s next book will be all the more powerful as resentment burns away and the embers light the way towards a more optimistic worldview.