You’ll recognize Emily Ratajkowski as the bodacious beauty from Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video. She’s all nubile flirtation — no top, nude panties, white sneakers and rouged lips temptingly parted — meets wide-eyed pseudo-innocence, playfully skipping and bouncing to the beat.
We watched, gyrated along and leered. It was the music world’s “Fifty Shades of Grey,” dividing opinion over its social acceptability: ban it versus give me more. The polarization of opinion is irrelevant; although we all had something to say on the subject, it brought one woman, originally cast as a backing dancer, to the forefront.
That said, the line between Ratajkowski’s current image as sexpot eye candy is at odds with her Martin Scorsese acting ambitions. She intends to blur the boundaries between two incongruous worlds through what she refers to as “balance” between the commercial (read: cash-paying) roles and creative career-progressing endeavors.
She has a clear mission statement, but it’s one that could be difficult to implement when you consider that she’s a YouTube beauty to the tune of more than 276 million views, and now surely commands considerable buck to boogie. It will depend on the success of her upcoming role in director David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” as to whether Ratajkowski can escape that lucrative, but vapid, music video dance sphere.
Initially, the 22-year-old was reluctant to be cast in the video.
“Naked girls dancing around in a music video sounded pretty intense and I didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a music video girl after shooting with Maroon 5 in ‘Love Somebody,'" she says.
It was the video’s director who convinced the young model to accept the job, while Thicke, a married man in his mid-30s, took the brunt of the negative barrage for the video’s sexist undertones.
However, the model and her family have the final word on the controversial Ratajkowski (pronounced rat-a-COW-ski — the J is silent) phenomenon. When asked what her mother, a feminist and English professor, thought of the video, she replies, “She thinks it’s beautiful and important for women to embrace their sexuality.”
Ratajkowski describes the word feminist as “testy," saying, “People connect a lot of strange things to that word. In general, I really love women and I want them to be treated equally.”
She continues: “I think some people have a problem with a model who has done nude work using the word 'feminist,' but I have no problems with saying it.”
Ratajkowski, the current face of fashion retail site Revolve, is keen to avoid being typecast as a gushing airhead despite appearing in the 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
“I’m definitely not into that swimsuit model vibe. I like the ballet and I like to see female porn films — I’m a little different in that way, I guess,” she asserts.
The British-born model is aware that her topless cavorting could strike discord with Hollywood directors. But as she rightly points out on being cast as Ben Affleck’s mistress, Andie, in "Gone Girl," due out this October: “When you’re working with director David Fincher ("The Social Network," "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") people definitely do take you seriously.”
She adds: “I’m doing Sports Illustrated but I’m also appearing in the Spanish fashion magazine S Moda. For every sexy thing, I want to do a fashion thing. For every modeling job, I want to do a serious acting role.”
Of course, the pigeonholing might well be something that she has to contend with in the meantime. However, it makes sense for her to make the break from being desktop dance star to silver screen sensation in order to certify her as a serious acting talent.
“I want to establish myself [in the industry] and there are a few things that’ll be announced in the next few months that will balance everything out,” she says.
She’s already established herself on social media. The thumbnail flick-book Instagram keeps her in the eye of her 836,000 followers.
"Social media gives you the power to express yourself and design yourself,” she says.
That interaction not only works as a marketing avenue for self-promotion, but also as an indicator of her pop culture relevance.In fact, the modeling profession wasn’t always receptive to her plans to break into acting — a dream she’s had since childhood.
“I told an agency in New York my goals and they said it was only a select group of girls that have that opportunity,” she explains.
The timing of the Fincher film might be fortuitous, but it seems doubtful this is the case of a pretty wallflower seizing her 15 minutes of fame. For her part, Ratajkowski makes it sound like she’s always had a career game plan, and it doesn’t involve selling out for questionable success.
“Throughout my childhood, I acted, so it was always something I felt passionate about — I just really didn’t want to play the mean girl in high school or the cheerleader,” she says.
Indeed, looks can be deceiving and behind the ditzy dancing is a girl, who in her words, “is looking to surprise people.”