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Emily O'Hara Ratajkowski

Birthplace: London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom
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Managed by: Alex Bickle
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About Emily Ratajkowski

Emily O'Hara Ratajkowski (/ˌrɑːtaɪˈkɒfski/; Polish: [rataj%CB%88k%C9%94fsk%CA%B2i]; born June 7, 1991) is a British-American model and actress. Born in London to American parents, and raised primarily in California, she rose to prominence after appearing in the controversial music video for Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines", which became the number one song of the year 2013 in several countries.

Her modeling career has progressed from retail ad work to art house erotica and high fashion. She appeared on the cover of the March 2012 issue of the erotic magazine treats! which led to her being asked to appear in two music videos: the controversial "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 the 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's Cascada in a Super Bowl commercial during Super Bowl 50.

Ratajkowski began acting as a youth 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. Currently she has several acting engagements in various stages of development.

Ratajkowski is an advocate for women's health issues as a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood (PPFA) and supports the right of women to express their sexuality. Her claim to being a feminist has been both supported and disputed. She also endorses Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign.

Early life

Ratajkowski, an only child, was born in Westminster, London to American parents. At the time of her birth, her mother and father were aged 39 and 45, respectively, and unmarried. Her mother, Kathleen Balgley, a professor of English and a 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 five. She was raised primarily in nearby Encinitas, California in a small house near the ocean. Ratajkowski's mother formerly taught at California Polytechnic State University.

Ratajkowski is of Polish, German, Polish Jewish and Irish descent. Her father was raised Catholic, while her mother was raised Jewish. She told Niamh Horan of the Irish Independent: "Both my grandmothers are from Ireland". 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, County Cork, Ireland, and Mallorca, Spain. She spent her young adult 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 nude and semi-nude appearances before the camera. Among her influences was exposure in books to the photography of Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts. 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 [they are] 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 suppress expressing her sexuality and how she presented herself.


Ratajkowski enjoyed staging theatrical performances for her family as a child. Her first formal acting role was as Elsa in a production of The Little Match Girl at the Theatre School of the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach, California. She also appeared as Harriet in the 2004 interactive production of Harriet Potter and the Throne of Applewort at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza, San Diego. After gaining acting experience, she was told that modeling could be a gateway to an acting career. She was inspired by Bianca Jagger and Patti Smith. Ratajkowski was signed by Ford Models at age 14. She continued to attend high school in San Diego at San Dieguito Academy, while modeling and acting in Los Angeles. Ratajkowski did print catalogue modelling for Kohl's and Nordstrom as a teenager.

As an adolescent, Ratajkowski decided to pursue an acting career, but in auditions she was often cast as a "bitchy girl", cheerleader, or another limited role she did not want. After two nondescript movie roles, she appeared as Gibby's girlfriend Tasha in two 2009-2010 third-season episodes of Nickelodeon's iCarly. Her manager, Evan Hainey of Untitled Entertainment, discouraged her from pursuing many acting engagements until she was in a position to be more selective.

Ratajkowski attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for one year in 2009, then decided to model full-time. She found the fine art education at the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture arbitrary and in conflict with her artistic concepts. She did not enjoy socializing with fellow students.

After doing campaigns and editorials with photographer Tony Duran, Ratajkowski began shooting more fashion editorials and posed for several of the first few issues of the Los Angeles-based artistic erotica magazine treats! She appeared on the cover of the magazine's March 2012 third issue. She credits that cover for bringing her the two unsolicited, high-profile, music video roles. Ratajkowski later performed in commercials for Nikon and Carl's Jr.. She was featured with Sara Jean Underwood in multiple versions of a Carl's Jr. commercial in August 2012. She also did nude and clothed art magazine photograph shoots, including modeling work for Frederick's of Hollywood. As of March 30, 2016, two videos in which Ratajkowski appeared for the company—a featured Holiday 2012 video and a local Valentine's 2011 video—are among the five most popular videos on the company's YouTube channel.

Ratajkowski worked with photographer Tony Kelly for the March 2013 cover of GQ Turkey. As a 5-foot-7-inch (1.70 m) model with "curves that put her in a different class from runway models", she considers herself to have the potential to break barriers for shorter and more curvaceous models.

Music video performances

Ratajkowski is well known for appearing in Robin Thicke, T.I., and Pharrell Williams' video "Blurred Lines". Before that performance, Ratajkowski had been cast in two other music videos; "Fast Car" by Taio Cruz, which was released on November 5, 2012, and Maroon 5's "Love Somebody", which was released two months after "Blurred Lines".

Both "Love Somebody", which was shot on January 13, 2013, and "Blurred Lines" were produced in 2013. The "Love Somebody" video was released on Vevo on May 21, 2013. It was directed by Rich Lee, and shows bare chested Adam Levine using inverse green screen technology to rub paint onto Ratajkowski with his hands. As they touch they reveal each other. Levine "caresses and serenades" Ratajkowski during the video.

Thicke had seen Ratajkowski's treats! cover that Bee Shapiro, of The New York Times, describes as "an artfully composed black-and-white photograph of Ms. Ratajkowski sitting completely nude with her knees tucked to her chest" and convinced director Diane Martel to cast her in the "Blurred Lines" music video. Upon viewing the cover, Martel decided that: "She looked smart and stunningly beautiful". Ratajkowski initially declined the role fearing being classified as a music video model, but Martel persuaded her to accept it. The "Blurred Lines" music video was released on YouTube on March 20, 2013. An explicit version of the video, with extensive nudity, was posted by Thicke on March 28, 2013. Ratajkowski danced topless in one version of the video and was scantily clad in the other.

"Blurred Lines" is controversial because some feel it promotes rape, while others disagree and assert it promotes female power and freedom in sexual congress. In a September 2014 cover story for Ocean Drive magazine, Ratajkowski says the song: "gave me an opportunity to say the things that I felt about feminism today and about women in general in pop culture".

The song's video was criticized as being sexist for its degradation of women, however director Martel points to Ratajkowski's performance as: "very, very funny and subtly ridiculing". Ratajkowski told Esquire she did not think the video is sexist, and she claims that the producers "took something that on paper sounded really sexist and misogynistic and made it more interesting". In Complex, she also says she interprets the video to be about: "these ladies being silly and a little sarcastic". According to her British GQ interview, rather than feeling objectified, Ratajkowski notes that her experience in the video is one of a person who enjoys performing in a sexual manner.

Ratajkowski feels the attention given to the nudity in the video illustrates that American culture has not advanced as far as it should have. She believes that sexuality is repressed in contemporary society, which is bad for both sexes. She told Complex: "I think there's different kinds of nudity, and there's different kinds of sexiness, and obviously it's hard to distinguish those things. I think that the video was tasteful, beautiful, and there's nothing offensive about it".

"Blurred Lines" and Ratajkowski's associated video performance were prominent for several reasons besides the sociopolitical controversies. The song became the number 1 song of 2013 on music charts in many countries, including Canada, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, and United Kingdom. Although the song placed second on the year-end US Billboard Hot 100 chart, the song's twelve consecutive weeks at number one made it the longest running number one song of the decade until "Uptown Funk" surpassed it with fourteen consecutive weeks at number one in 2015. The song also remained prominent in the news due to a copyright infringement lawsuit and subsequent appeal.

Rise to fame

The "Blurred Lines" video garnered Ratajkowski much fame and attention, especially as a sex symbol. On October 22, 2013, Esquire named Ratajkowski their "Woman of the Year", after she beat Jennifer Lawrence in the final round of an online fan voting contest. In December of that year, Rolling Stone listed her among its twenty hottest sex symbols (from both sexes) of the year. On February 4, 2014, Sports Illustrated named Ratajkowski as one of its twelve rookies for its 50th anniversary Swimsuit Issue. On April 30, 2014, FHM ranked her the fourth sexiest woman in the world. On May 23, 2014, Maxim included Ratajkowski at #62 on its annual Hot 100 list. AskMen ranked her the third most desirable woman of 2014 and the hottest model of the year.

Ratajkowski also appeared topless on the cover of the July 2013 issue of Carine Roitfeld's magazine CR Fashion Book which included erotic scenes with Karlie Kloss and male models, photographed by Bruce Weber. She parlayed her sudden prominence into supporting roles in major films. Ratajkowski played Andie Hardy, the mistress of Ben Affleck's character, in David Fincher's 2014 film adaptation of Gillian Flynn's novel Gone Girl. Affleck encouraged Fincher to consider Ratajkowski for the part after seeing her in the "Blurred Lines" video. Her hometown newspaper U-T San Diego describes Ratajkowski's performance in Gone Girl as "nuanced". Styleite's Ben Barna says he received positive feedback on her performance. Much of the commentary about Ratajkowski's appearance in the film focuses on her sex appeal, but some note that her small role as a "duplicitous and manipulative former student" is critical to the film.

On June 24, 2014, Ratajkowski appeared topless on the cover and in a photograph spread by Michael Thompson in the July 2014 edition of American GQ. The magazine caused a controversy at retailer Lands' End which had arranged for its best customers to receive a free copy of the issue. Some of the company's customers objected to the racy cover, and the accompanying images in the associated story, forcing Lands' End CEO Edgar Huber to make a public apology.

In September, Ratajkowski was one of many female celebrities targeted in a wave of hacking and internet posting of nude photographs stolen from iCloud accounts. A few days after Gone Girl premiered at the 2014 New York Film Festival on September 26, she was announced as the cover girl for the November 2014 issue of Cosmopolitan. On October 30, 2014, Ratajkowski appeared with Taylor Kitsch in the live-action trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare in advance of its November 4 release. Ratajkowski appeared on the cover of the February 2015 issue of FHM, but she claimed via Twitter that her picture was used without her consent. FHM has stated: "We liked the pictures so much we stuck one on our front cover".

Ratajkowski co-starred in the 2015 film Entourage, in which she appeared as a fictionalized version of herself. Her role as Vincent Chase's (played by Adrian Grenier) visually appealing love interest is described in a myriad of sexist ways in the press, with several mentions of her as the object of multiple affections. However, Ratajkowski's performance received critical commentary ranging from "less than compelling" by the The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden to "uncanny realism" by The Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea. Wesley Morris of Grantland describes her role and performance with some sarcasm: "the holy presentation of the model and actress Emily Ratajkowski as a combination of Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, and a walking Viagra dispenser". Some critics, including A. O. Scott of The New York Times and Alonso Duralde of TheWrap, note Ratajkowski's early disappearance from the film.

Ratajkowski was cast in The Spoils Before Dying as Agent Day, and appeared late in the 2015 miniseries. Her performance in this role was favorably reviewed by Emily L. Stephens of The A.V. Club. Other critics note in passing that Ratajkowski was among the key members of the solid supporting cast.

Early leading roles

Ratajkowski was cast in her first leading role, opposite Zac Efron, in We Are Your Friends, a musical drama which was released in August 2015. She was part of the August 2015 promotional tour to Europe and North America for We Are Your Friends. Around the time of the film's release, Ratajkowski was prominent in the media. She made cover appearances on the August 14, 2015 issue of Grazia France, the September 2015 issues of British GQ and harper by Harper's Bazaar, as well as the October 2015 issues of InStyle UK, and InStyle Australia. The British GQ cover story was photographed by Mario Testino, who produced a short film for the magazine's website. At the August 30, 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, she and Rita Ora presented the MTV Video Music Award for Artist to Watch.

Ratajkowski's We Are Your Friends performance garnered her mixed reviews for acting and broad support for her telegenic appearance. She played Stanford University dropout Sophie, the love interest of Efron's character and girlfriend/personal assistant of Wes Bentley's character. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times and Wesley Morris of Grantland note that Ratajkowski, who again played the attractive object of affections, again fails to demonstrate acting proficiency. Ty Burr of The Boston Globe says Ratajkowski's performance is: "lovely to look at and surpassingly dull". Nell Minow of Beliefnet is also unimpressed. Kyle Smith of the New York Post, Jordan Hoffman of Daily News and Glenn Kenny of praise her performance with descriptors such as "entrancing", "sweet", "sexy" and "sensible". Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph and Morris note that Ratajkowski continues to demonstrate the rhythmic dancing skills and sex appeal previously seen in "Blurred Lines". After noting her beauty, Duralde of TheWrap states that Sophie was a thin role (a sentiment echoed by Burr), while Christopher Gray of Slant Magazine described Sophie as a muse. Bilge Ebiri of notes that Ratajkowski's role in the love triangle takes a back seat to the bromance between Efron and Bentley as the movie's central relationship.

Ratajkowski has a variety of upcoming roles. Her next role will be as Jessica Weintraub, the female lead in Cruise opposite Spencer Boldman, which is written and directed Robert Siegel. On February 19, 2016, broke the story that she joined the cast of In Darkness alongside Natalie Dormer, Ed Skrein and Stacy Martin, Ratajkowski also announced in March 2016 that she would be involved in Joe Swanberg's Netflix project Easy.

Before Ratajkowski began filming Cruise, she made her runway modelling debut for Marc Jacobs at the Spring/Summer 2016 New York Fashion Week September 17, 2015, finale. This appearance contributed to her selection by Vogue as one of its 12 Breakout Beauty Stars of the 2015. For Fall/Winter 2016 fashions, Ratajkowski appeared on the Paris Fashion Week runway for Miu Miu on March 9, 2016.

Buick featured Ratajkowski and Odell Beckham, Jr. in its first Super Bowl ad for the Buick Cascada convertible during the second quarter of Super Bowl 50 on CBS on February 7, 2016. The ad, in which she made a wedding bouquet catch reminiscent of Beckham's famous catch from 2014, received average ratings according to USA Today's admeter. The ad was filmed with a stunt double for Ratajkowski making the featured catch. She developed a relationship with Jacquie Aiche as a customer, and she was featured by the Los Angeles-based jewelry designer as the face of her Spring 2016 campaign wearing almost nothing but body chains, rings, bracelets, pendants, and chokers. Ratajkowski was a host for PopSugar's April 15, 2016 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival sunset kick-off party.

Activism and advocacy

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 support of birth control. Ratajkowski is outspoken about 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 the professions of modelling and acting 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.

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 critics in assorted media outlets, including Glamour's Hayley Spencer, The Huffington Post's Jenavieve Hatch, and Rachael Moon of The Daily Mirror. Cosmopolitan's Nikki Kinstlinger and Georgia Simmonds of Marie Claire note that Ratajkowski finds self-empowerment in defining and owning the expression of her sexuality and body shamelessly. 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. InStyle's Isabella Silvers endorses Ratajkowski's point that: "Female sexuality isn't always for the benefit of someone else". 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 her 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 via social media for female sexual empowerment and against body shaming with millions of social media followers responding positively, and many prominent media outlets around the world taking notice.

Following her published letter and social media statement, her feminism became a topic of controversy. Piers Morgan states that Ratajkowski's approach to feminism is a misguided affront to true feminism, eventually labelling her actions as a pseudo-feminist gibberish. After Morgan wrote that "Feminism Is Dead", critics such as Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune and Emmeline Pankhurst's great-granddaughter, and Daily Telegraph journalist, Helen Pankhurst stated that Feminism was neither killed nor bolstered by the statement. Nonetheless, Gill questions whether Ratajkowski understands feminism because her career has been composed of anti-feminist activities which she has been paid to perform under contract. 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". In New York, Allie Jones refers to Ratajkowski as "the best feminist celeb". Women's Wear Daily journalist Taylor Harris questions whether Ratajkowski is impacting feminism in a meaningful way.

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Emily Ratajkowski's Timeline

June 7, 1991
London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom