Emily Ratajkowski is sick. Not like “so sick, brah,” but actually ill. She’s been traveling, and while you can usually tell when people are jet-lagged or under the weather, she looks unfazed. She’s wearing tennis shoes and an oversized suit as we sit on the patio at the Chateau Marmont, with views of the sprawling Los Angeles landscape.
We’ve already heard everything you have to say about Ratajkowski. Google her and you’ll find loads of headlines about bikinis and her “famous curves.” Yes, she made a splash when she appeared topless in Blurred Lines five years ago; showing off swimsuits is a part of her appeal — and her job as a model — but we can celebrate her without declaring her sex appeal as her most important feature. She’s in an interesting place, professionally: she’s appeared alongside heavy hitters like Ben Affleck and Amy Schumer on the silver screen and leads the upcoming film Cruise by Robert D. Siegel, out later this year. She owns a swimwear line and her sexuality. But because of that, she’s whittled down to an object, which many, like Piers Morgan, claim is her own fault.
POPSUGAR sat down with the star to talk feminism, body confidence, social issues, and — like it says on her Instagram bio — how she is just your average “intellectual girl who also loves her titties.”
PS: We’re sure you always hear, “You’ve have the sexiest body.” Do you ever get tired talking about your body?
Emily Ratajkowski: I do, because it’s literally just my body. For women, it’s such a huge part of our identity. When my female friends describe someone, they’re like, “She has wide hips.” At a certain point, you think, “Does that matter?” Then you meet them, and it’s all about the way they carry themselves. I know this from my own experience. I meet so many beautiful women, and maybe they wouldn’t be a professional model, but they carry themselves well. I always say that to people.
PS: It seems your character in I Feel Pretty played into that a little bit.
ER: Totally. That’s why I wanted to do the movie. Amy [Schumer] sent me the script, and I was like, “OK. Totally.” In some weird ways, we come from completely different sides of it, but I think we believe in a lot of the same things fundamentally. So when she sent it to me, I was like, “This is exactly what I want to talk about.”
PS: What did you think about the movie’s backlash?
ER: There was so much. What I always say to people is, “It’s not, ‘I Am Pretty.’ It’s ‘I Feel Pretty.'” We never know what her idea of herself is once she feels different, right? We just know that her whole life changes because she feels good about herself. And that, to me, is such a good message. It’s really unfortunate we live in a culture now where any time anyone tries to send a message, it gets ripped apart at every angle. I want comedy to try to deal with issues like that. It shouldn’t be like, “Well, she wasn’t this and that.” I want to be able to be messy and test things out and talk about things without us being scared. And there’s been a big reaction to that too.
PS: People tend to hold back because they are afraid of what could possibly happen when they do speak out.
ER: That’s not good because guess who’s not afraid to speak out? When you have Trump being like, “Well, here’s how I see it,” and people are like, “Well, at least he tells it like it is,” that’s so unfortunate.
PS: Many women see talent like you, and they feel like it’s a hard standard to live up to. What’s one thing people are surprised to learn when they meet you?
Photographed by Jonas Bresnan
ER: The whole idea that I don’t feel insecure about my body. That is so crazy to me. I’m a human, and no one out there is perfect. You’re not going to love yourself every f*cking day — that’s too much. I definitely have those issues and deal with it where I look in the mirror and I’m just like, “Oh, God. Not today. Please, not today.” Finding a way to kind of get past that and love yourself and give yourself a break. I love that I am imperfect.
PS: Do you feel like you get stereotyped?
ER: Totally — but so does every woman. That’s the thing that is so crazy about our culture is women do get really kind of boxed into these things. Like, “Oh, well, she was this way, so, you know, she’s that type.” It’s like, what? And men don’t get that in the same way. They just don’t.
PS: Did you struggle with self-confidence growing up?
ER: I just turned 27. You realize that your mortality is imminent and that’s the side of, “Oh, I’m getting close to 30.” But the other part of me is like, it’s so cool to be a woman and not take as much sh*t and know what I like and don’t like — and have opinions and don’t feel embarrassed about them. In that sense, I think I’ve gotten more confident. I also weirdly think that being in this very strange, unique position of having the world watch your life and what you wear and judge you so harshly has made me have to let go of a lot of those pressures. It’s like what everyone goes through, but on steroids. Being young was really hard. I was very confused; I felt constantly embarrassed and ashamed of myself rather than thinking, “Who cares? Don’t think people care so much about you. They don’t.”
PS: If you could offer advice to a younger woman who went through what you went through growing up, what would you say?
ER: People’s reaction to you is their problem and says more about them than it does about you. I think about that with trolls. It’s so easy for someone to slide in a comment that’s negative. We think it’s so personal, and the truth is people really only care about themselves. They just don’t care that much about you to give you the time to really hate you that much. Remember that. All of their aggression and their negativity is coming from something out of them and not you.
PS: We read about Rachel Bloom and the thing that happened with Neil Patrick Harris with the Tonys. She said something like, “I hope that if I have 27 million Twitter followers at one point, people are not kissing my ass.” [Editor’s note: here’s exactly what she said about the matter to GQ.] Basically, she was saying when you have that many followers, you think everything you say is amazing because you’re getting “likes” and retweets on all of them. What do you think about that?
ER: You have to let it all go because if you think that you’re going to be able to ignore trolls, you have to let go of the importance of those compliments because they’re not real. Those aren’t the people that know you. Those aren’t the people that love you. They’re also complimenting you for reasons that have more to do with themselves. Just let it all go. Find as much confidence and inner satisfactions you can. But, trust me: easier said than done. Everyone loves a “like” and a retweet.
PS: What’s the biggest struggle you’ve had to go through in your career? What is your long-term goal?
ER: I’ve realized I really love being creative. That’s what makes me happy. Whether it’s acting and working on projects like that or building a business — which I am with my swimwear [Inamorata Swim] and designing that, which is actually much more creative than I would have thought, just as far as hiring people — or strategies. I see myself moving in more of those avenues. I would love for more acting, and the biggest struggle at this moment is finding projects that really speak to me and that I really feel excited about. Movies are in a weird place in general right now. People don’t go to the movies like they used to. Studios are strange. I feel that there is some female narrative, but a lot of them aren’t actually true stories about women. They’re just man stories with a woman in it. I think finding the right projects that really get me excited. And I don’t mean the big studio movies with this director or that director, but things that are fun. It’s a group project, basically. I want to find good groups to make stuff with.
PS: Women more than ever are really lifting one another up, but there’s still a female-vs.-female mentality. What is one thing you think women should or can be doing to support one another?
ER: It comes down to not weighing another female’s attractiveness through the eyes of men. Looking at your friends without thinking through the male gaze is so important. Once you stop doing that, you will have beautiful friends, you’ll have not-so-beautiful friends, and it will not matter. And you’ll be connecting with people based on the things that you share. I think it’s really hard to do. I had an interview a week ago where a guy was like, “So, is it hard for you to have friends who are not in the industry? Has it ever happened to you that one of your friends got hit on before you?” These are real questions. And he thought he was asking in sophisticated ways, and [it] made me realize that men, obviously, need to change the way they think about that. But women cannot constantly be looking at each other through men’s eyes. We have to see each other as just women, not about whether or not who’s “sexier.” You know?
PS: Is there a particular cause that you’re really passionate about?
ER: There was a moment when Trump got elected where I was gutted. I felt like, “Well, nothing matters. I don’t even know where to go.” What I’ve realized is that there are causes that I feel especially strong about. I struggle with the word “activist” because I just don’t know how to be an activist anymore in this climate. It’s really difficult when one person in the population has so much power. But for me, it’s mostly about women’s issues, rights, equality — but even just the things we’re talking about right now. I also feel really strongly about Black Lives Matter. So those are really the two things.
PS: In 2018, those things are super important. If you’re not rallying for them . . .
ER: It’s just hard, though, because it’s not like I don’t care about the environment, for example. I just don’t want to be one of those people who throws myself behind whatever concept feels right. I want to talk about things and think about real, fundamental changes rather than just, “Let’s raise some money for this issue.”
PS: You travel the world and you meet many people. Is there one person in the past year that you’ve met who really made an impact on you and who you can’t forget?
ER: That’s so hard. I mean, I married someone! That’s the first person who’s coming to mind. I meet a lot of esteemed people that are really impressive. But I think there’s some relationships that you cultivate over time, especially with women, that are so valuable. I don’t have a specific story, but when young girls come up to me and are like, “Thank you for making me feel, like, comfortable in my skin.” No one’s feeding them this line. It’s just so genuine. That, to me, is everything. It means that while there might be so many misconstrued ideas about me, I’m reaching someone. That’s so, so important because I don’t know that I had that when I was younger. I don’t know that there was a woman who was a pop star or out there — it was so different. It wasn’t Instagram where I was like, “Oh, wow. She’s cool,” but also “What does she stand for?” I had Britney Spears, who was cool but also was destroyed by her fame.
Photographed by Sara Jaye Weiss/Shutterstock
PS: You’ve been named a new “muse” for Kérastase and are the face of the Resistance Extentioniste line. Do you remember your first memory of the brand?
ER: My hairstylist, Jennifer Yepez, gave me product. I grew up with two-in-one shampoos, like shampoo/conditioner, going to Rite Aid and getting whatever brand was $4, you know? I didn’t really understand hair care, and it kind of intimidated me, having something that wasn’t like, “Oh, a professional’s coming to finally make me look decent.” It was something I could bring into my life. It also felt kind of like an identity thing for me, getting to have products that you know are your go-tos. Not only is my hair healthier, which means that it takes less time because I can just let it air-dry.
PS: What’s the craziest beauty treatment you’ve ever done?
ER: I do the microcurrent thing, which is insane. Joanna Vargas did it to me right before The Met, and she did half my face. But it really works! She also has an LED bed. For the full body. It’s amazing.
PS: What is one product you carry in all of your bags?
ER: It’s more like five. For real. I always have a retinol cream, a good face wash, and the Kérastase elixir with me. That one is for me — when I’m on a plane, it’s the only thing that will keep my ends OK so by the time I land, I don’t feel like a dried-up prune. Also, usually I’m getting heat on my hair when I’m working, so it’s nice to have it. And then Aquaphor. I love Aquaphor. I put it all over my body. I put it under my eyes at night. Apparently it can be good for your actual eyesight too? I don’t know if it’s true. My mom told me this! But it’s moisturizing for under your eyes. I love beauty more than I think most people know.
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