There are plenty of stars who were music-video vixens before making it big: Alicia Silverstone was Aerosmith’s muse in the ’90s, and Courteney Cox boogied with Bruce Springsteen pre-Friends. But few have turned as many heads as Emily Ratajkowski, the 24-year-old model who danced topless alongside the clothed Robin Thicke and Pharrell in 2013’s Blurred Lines. Her provocative appearance helped make the video one of the most talked-about of the past decade — and jump-started her career. Within months, she landed her first film role, in Gone Girl, as Ben Affleck’s enamored mistress. This Friday, Ratajkowski costars in We Are Your Friends as a 20-something EDM lover who ends up dating two DJs — one famous (Wes Bentley), the other on the rise (Zac Efron). She was recently in Miami with Efron to pop in to Regal South Beach before a screening and then later hopped on stage at Grand Central club downtown, where DJ Them Jeans gave Efron a lesson in spinning.
Here are a few excerpts from her interview with the Los Angeles Times.
How did you start modeling?
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When I was 14, I had an acting teacher who was like, “She should think about modeling.” And my mom was like, “No, absolutely not. She’s too young, and I’m not going to put my daughter into an industry like that.” At first, when someone approached me to say I should get head shots I started crying in the car because I thought they meant a needle to the head. I definitely didn’t understand it. I was too young.
Do you mind that you’re still so closely associated with the music video?
It’s a weird thing. Rick Springfield wrote Jessie’s Girl, and he probably gets sick of talking about Jessie’s Girl. The thing is, I didn’t write Blurred Lines. I didn’t direct the music video. I’m really happy for the success, but it is kind of a funny thing to follow me around.
How did studio executives treat you when they learned you wanted to transition to acting?
Hollywood is a boys’ club, and that’s something I thought was a stereotype — and it’s not. That really shocked me. Still shocks me. Everyone’s helping their buddies out and pressing their buddies and playing tennis with their buddies and making movies with their buddies, and that grosses me out. I know that sometimes, I get in a room because someone has said, “I have this model — she was in the Blurred Lines video? Oh, and Gone Girl! So she’s also a good actress.” I’m sure that’s there.
Your character in ‘We Are Your Friends’ is a Stanford dropout, and you left UCLA after four quarters. Why did you decide to quit school?
I went in for the art department, which was really small, and I thought it’d be a school within a big school. But I didn’t really find that. I also find fine art education really arbitrary. Some of the conceptual stuff they were pushing I didn’t really agree with. When people are like — “College! Oh my God! Ultimate freedom!” — I didn’t feel that way. My roommates were loving hitting the town, but I wasn’t as psyched about going to the frats.
You have almost 3 million followers on Instagram. How conscious are you of the pictures you post?
You get people who are like, “If you want to be taken seriously as an actress, don’t post any sexy photos.” And that’s ... You can do whatever you want — that’s what being a woman is. That being said, I definitely think there’s a performance side of it. It’s not me. I’m not posting my meal when I think it’s a great, delicious meal. I do factor in the audience and cater to them. You put on an act a little bit. I want to keep it going because I think it’s an important platform and a lucky thing you can have as an actress. Before, everything that was being put out in the world was being dictated by other people.