Required Reading: The Five Books That Changed Emily Ratajkowski’s Life

Required Reading is a series in which we invite people we love to recommend five of the books that have defined their journey as a reader. Consider it your new favorite book club. 

Emily Ratajkowski initially declined the offer to appear in Robin Thicke’s video for “Blurred Lines.” “Basically it’s just another shitty music video with a bunch of naked girls,” she reports telling her agent in her new book, My Body, out tomorrow from Metropolitan Books. But the director convinced Ratajkowski that the result would be more satirical than salacious, more excitement than exploitation. On the day of the shoot, she wore white underwear and plastic see-through tops, eventually stripping to just a nude thong for the unrated cut.

Ratajkowski recounts all this neutrally—it’s one of many instances in which she seems at ease with physical exposure, immune to the insecurities such undressing might elicit in the vast majority of us. There’s a “work is work” attitude that pervades much of her approach to modeling, especially in the moment, a sense that she will do what it takes to get the job done. “I think exposing myself could become a form of confidence or control,” she told me over the phone recently when I asked about her comfort with physical exposure.

The act of writing, of course, is another exercise in exposure, and My Body, with its discomfiting descriptions of sexual assault, explorations of familial pressures, and queasy examination of the image economy is fairly unflinching. “But what I found with exposing my body is that it becomes very one-dimensional,” Ratajkowski continues. “It exists in one way, whereas writing allows for so much more nuance.”

It’s that pivot which is at the heart of My Body—a flat-seeming title that is really about the intersection of a sense of self with physical form, especially when that physical form is famously on display. “Most of these essays were written before the book was sold,” Ratajkowski says. They were not, in other words, money-making work (not “work is work”), at least when she began. The dynamic shifted once she had a publisher, but writing it still allowed her a degree of license and expression she hadn’t previously experienced: “The work I had done before wasn’t art—it wasn’t creation.”

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