by Ray Rogers | September 25, 2014 | People
Cast as the sexy double-take-inducing vixen in the infamous "Blurred Lines" music video, model-turned-actress Emily Ratajkowski proves she's much more with her role in the upcoming thriller Gone Girl.
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Miami's renowned humidity can be polarizing—people love it or hate it. Sports Illustrated model and “Blurred Lines” video vixen Emily Ratajkowski is in the former camp. “I’m a huge fan of humidity,” raves Ratajkowski, who loves the immediate effect the Magic City’s natural climate has on her. “Something about it is kinda sexy, and it always makes my skin feel really good. And luckily for me, my hair is naturally very straight; I just feel kind of sultry, and a little dewy.”
If anyone knows a thing or two about heat, it’s Ratajkowski, who is about to get her big-screen close-up opposite Ben Affleck in David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s page-turner Gone Girl, out next month. Ratajkowski vaulted to fame last year with her scene-stealing jaunt in the video for Robin Thicke’s 2013 song of the summer, “Blurred Lines,” in which she danced around topless wearing only a skin-toned thong, sarcastically rolling her eyes at the camera and the fully suited men in the video—a spot seen by more than 324 million YouTube viewers.
The controversy and ensuing discourse over the song came as a welcome surprise for Ratajkowski. “Anything that’s in pop culture and involves naked women and dressed men should be criticized or at least inspected, so I felt glad that it was criticized, because it gave me an opportunity to say the things that I felt about feminism today and about women in general in pop culture.”
And just what did she have to say? “There’s a larger thesis that I carry with me in general and that translates over to work like Gone Girl that I’ve been doing. We’re at an interesting time where women have been told to take the pill is cool, to sleep with whomever you want, or wear what you want. But if you’re naked, it can be offensive or sexist in some way. That’s the last step our culture needs to deal with. We have this culture of men, especially, watching pornography, but then offended by a classic nude portrait or photograph, and I’ve never felt that way.”
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Maybe it was her formative years, obsessing over Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts books, but Ratajkowski has always felt at ease with the bare form. She was cast in the “Blurred Lines” video after the director saw her nude photo on the cover of Treats! magazine. At first she turned the offer down, but a talk with the director convinced her to go for it. “The female body is a beautiful thing, and it should be embraced and celebrated, and there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable in your own skin. If anything, it can be really beautiful,” she says. “And the way that I was dancing, sort of sarcastically and I felt silly, it wasn’t for men—it was for myself and for other women, just like you would dance around your apartment.”
A precocious, early bloomer, the driven Ratajkowski began acting and modeling at age 14. By 17, she had a two-episode spot on Nickelodeon’s iCarly, but had no desire to hang around with the young Hollywood set. Rather, she would hightail it two hours back to her little surf town of Encinitas, near San Diego (“everybody’s idea of a California beach town”), where, she says, “I was hanging out with skater boys.”
While iCarly was a solid early experience, she was eventually drawn to the high-fashion modeling scene, citing Bianca Jagger and the androgynous looks of rocker Patti Smith as life-long style inspirations. (“I like playing with male silhouettes and boyfriend-type looks but also balancing it with something sexy, having one part of your body showing.”) Besides, she says, “I never saw myself as the Disney or Nickelodeon type of girl; I’ve looked pretty much the same since I was 14 and felt pretty much the same.”
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Inspired by her artist dad, she enrolled in art school at UCLA, but soon dropped out when her modeling career began to soar. That work has brought her to Miami several times over the years, her most recent visit being this February, for the 50th anniversary of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue. “We took a private plane from New York to Miami with all of the girls. You’d think it might have been like a punch line for a joke: 25 models on a private plane to Miami, what’s going to happen?” she cracks. But it ended up being a fun, family-style affair, with no hint of a midair catfight over who gets the coveted cover (although Emily can take comfort in that all three cover girls—Nina Agdal, Chrissy Teigen, and Lily Aldridge—each first appeared on the cover of Ocean Drive). They danced the night away inside LIV at the Fontainebleau, where SI put them up, after filming wrapped.
Ratajkowski turned 23 on June 7, also the day she appeared at the Guys Choice Awards for Spike TV, where she was crowned “Our New Girlfriend.” She brought her BFF from high school, Barbara, a preschool teacher who had the pleasure of meeting Sandra Bullock and Comedy Central’s Key & Peele. But Ratajkowski herself is not exactly starstruck. “Who you connect with is important—I’ve never worried about what people do professionally.”
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While music video fans across the globe have viewed her nearly naked body, she still holds a few secrets. “Not a lot of people know this, but my one and only tattoo is of a window, on the back of my ankle,” she confides. It was inspired by her mixed media collage artwork and her exploration of a sense of place and memories of home. She seems to have a good handle on being grounded no matter where she is, or what role she’s giving life to. And, model looks aside, it’s that realness that gives Ratajkowski her star quality.
She’ll be back in the pop culture hot seat this fall, playing a character who she knows will be audience-dividing: Andie Hardy, Ben Affleck’s character Nick Dunne’s mistress in Gone Girl. “Some viewers are going to think, I see why he was cheating on his wife: Not only was he unhappy, he has this sweet, beautiful girl that totally loves him,” she says. “And then a lot of women are going to go, That little slut!”
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It was Affleck who suggested her to director David Fincher for the part, after seeing her in “Blurred Lines.” “I came to the audition in Los Angeles and not only were the casting director and David there but also Ben Affleck, and I realized that they were pretty serious about me. We sat for 45 minutes running the scene and just talking about Gone Girl as a story, and Andie as a character. I left feeling pretty confident but also knowing that it was Sunday of Labor Day weekend and I probably wouldn’t hear for a few days. But an hour and a half later, my agent called and said that they were offering me the part.”
As for the on-screen cads she’s had to tango with, she’s more or less mum on Robin Thicke (switching the subject to her talks with the director when asked about the blue-eyed soul Lothario) and sticks to the character and plot points when discussing Affleck.
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Throughout filming in the small town of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, where the cast holed up at the Drury Suites and carpooled to dinner, Ratajkowski and Affleck’s on-screen time was kept in a bubble: “He’s the main character I’m in touch with during the film; I’m actually hidden from any other parts of his life, like with his sister and obviously his wife, so most of our scenes were together.” If that led to any offscreen bonding, she’s not one to say. In fact, she demurs when asked anything even remotely about her personal life across the board. Smart woman.
After Gone Girl, her next appearance on the silver screen is in the movie edition of HBO’s Entourage (due out next year), in which she plays a version of herself “on steroids”—“I drive an Aston Martin, and I’m in full hair and makeup when the guys run into me on the street.”
In real life, she rolls a bit more down to earth: “I drive a little Nissan Versa.”
photography by tony duran; styling by garth condit; Hair and makeup by Kela Wong/Opus Beauty using Dior and Bumble & Bumble