There used to be a time in which it was expected for women to be seen and not heard, but not anymore for model Emily Ratajkowski. In an effort to prove herself as with brains as well as beauty, the model released an essay with The New York Times Magazine supplement, The Cut. In the essay entitled ‘Buying Myself Back When does a model own her own image?’, released on the 15th September 2020, Ratajkowski reflects on her life and career as a model, and its subsequent relationship to her own image. 

Who is Emily Ratajkowski?

If you’re unfamiliar with the name, you’re almost definitely familiar with her image – which is partly her point. Ratajkowski dropped out of art school in California, USA, and worked her way into a modeling career to relative success in her early 20s. It was only when the controversial – but very sexy – music video for Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ went viral in 2013 did Ratajkowski’s career really take off. 

But wait, what’s happened?

In the quickly circulated essay online, Ratajkowski details her rise to fame, noting the ways in which her image has been exploited, stolen, and possessed in various ways by men in her personal and professional lives. Whilst there are several disturbing points to be noted from the piece – lingering possessive attitudes from family and past boyfriends where her image and public persona seem to provide a source for both support and contention is just one troubling aspect that comes to mind. 

The controversy of the piece however comes with the accusation of sexual assault on Ratajkwoski by the photographer Jonathan Leder. In the article, Ratajkowski details the night she and Leder spent together in 2012, where it is suggested he manipulates the situation and pressures Ratajkowski in the way she was expected to perform, before then sexually assaulting her at the end of the evening shoot. As if not bad enough already, Ratajkowski is then stripped of the rights of all images from that night through an alleged forged release signature, and subjected to the release and rerelease of photos from the night, increasing in popularity each time with her rising fame.