It was a few days after New York Fashion Week, and Emily Ratajkowski was at the Gemma restaurant on the Bowery in New York, huddled over a pot of chamomile tea and nursing a cold.
The past week had been a blur of late-night parties for brands like Barneys and Calvin Klein, modeling castings and film auditions. That night, she was confirmed to attend a party for YPlan, a new night-life app.
“You do what you have to. It pays the rent,” said Ratajkowski, 22, who despite her cold showed plenty of skin in leather short shorts and a black low-cut top.
On top of all that, word had recently gotten out that Ratajkowski had landed a supporting role opposite Ben Affleck in Gone Girl, a new David Fincher film.
At this point, you may be wondering: Who is Ratajkowski?
Fans of this summer’s hit song Blurred Lines may recognize her as one of three scantily-clad young women in the music video. She is the bosomy, doe-eyed brunette seen cuddling in bed with Robin Thicke. She appears naked, except for a nude-colored thong and a pair of clunky white sneakers, in a NSFW version of the video.
Rather than become a pop cultural footnote, she has parlayed her notoriety and fame (the video has garnered more than 206 million views on Vevo) into her lifelong dream of becoming an actress.
“I’m not worried about nudity,” she said. But “I’d rather play a complex character who has a love scene than a stupid girl who’s just a girl next door.”
She has met with studio executives and has been offered roles in movies and television shows, but her manager, Evan Hainey of Untitled Entertainment, who has worked with Lindsay Lohan and other young actresses, is grooming her for something bigger.
“There’s been a lot of great offers, but you have to wait for the better one,” Ratajkowski said.
Now, instead of being perceived as a catalog model (she has posed for Nordstrom and Kohl’s since she was a teenager, and scored a few lucrative commercial roles recently for Carl’s Jr. and Nikon), she has become a minor celebrity. Recently, she beat out Jennifer Lawrence in Esquire.com’s first Woman of the Year Award.
“All of a sudden, Hollywood, all of these producers, were like ‘You’re an actress,’ ” she said.
The fashion world also came calling. She appears in a new ad campaign for Rag & Bone. An executive at Tom Ford discussed potential campaigns. In late July, while in Paris for model castings, she met Karl Lagerfeld through the fashion editor Stephen Gan, who introduced her to Carine Roitfeld. Roitfeld would book her for the latest issue of CR Fashion Book, including one of the two covers and an inside spread.
That Ratajkowski would appear topless in some of the photos may come as little surprise. Born in London, she was raised in a permissive household where “Mom was topless on the beach every summer in Majorca,” she said.
When Ratajkowski was 5, her family moved to and around California, where her mother, Kathleen Balgley, was an English professor at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Her father, John Ratajkowski, worked as a painter, specializing in abstract impressionism and portraiture, and later as an art teacher at her high school, San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas.