My Body by Emily Ratajkowski

Emily Ratajkowski’s new essay collection is an honest and thoughtful first-hand take on the patriarchy and commodification of the fashion industry

Book Review by Heather McDaid | 09 Nov 2021
  • Emily Ratajkowski - My Body
Book title: My Body
Author: Emily Ratajkowski

One autumnal afternoon in 2020, Twitter feeds were alight with an article – Buying Myself Back, by Emily Ratajkowski. The headline image was a photo of the model staring directly at the reader, a backdrop collage of images of herself, from magazine covers to video stills, and more. It was everywhere – and this story, unlike much of what she would go on to detail, was within her control.

The notion of the body and ownership of it – particularly as a model, and a woman in the public eye – is core to My Body, Emily’s subsequent essay collection. Including that breakthrough essay, in which Ratajkowski documents the ways her image was sold in many forms without her consent and beyond her control, My Body navigates the industry, and world at large, through this unifying lens.

Ratajkowski is often consumed, commodified and celebrated in quick succession; she explores her own relationship to her body, and the perception of others from childhood through adulthood; she discusses the variety of responses unabashed body confidence garners; she recalls her own experiences on the Blurred Lines video set that catapulted her rising star to new heights; she considers the body as she entered motherhood, and her shifting view of its importance.

My Body captures Emily Ratajkowski’s evolving understanding of herself, and others’ perceptions and expectations, while trying to dissect the patriarchal, capitalist, and often predatory backbone to the industry that defines her beauty as the standard by which others should aspire – what that means, how it financially rewards, and how that manifests. It navigates her own perspective on how women rationalise particular treatment, and the wider contempt for women’s sexuality.

Her self-awareness dives deeper than the surface to offer thought-provoking and impactful moments – some raw and awful, others heart warming – and a genuine attempt to ask bigger questions of how the industry operates and influences while acknowledging her privilege, though it doesn’t always provide answers, and here’s the gap. This essay collection aims big, and gets much of the way there – My Body is an observant, honest, thoughtful, and fascinating read, welcoming readers behind the curtain of an industry often shrouded in glamour, but also into the world of Emily.

Quercus, 9 Nov, £16.99