SUPERMODEL'S MEMOIR SURPRISINGLY SHINES
A REVIEW By Lily Wheadon
Emily Ratajkowski’s essay collection My Body was nothing short of beautiful. What I thought would be an autobiography chronicling the fame and fortune of one of the world’s most famous supermodels, ended up being a compelling exploration into what it means to be a woman.
I started reading My Body with low expectations. I was almost certain that Ratajkowski would talk about how incredibly difficult it is to be rich and famous for 237 pages. By the time I finished the essay collection, though, I was pleasantly surprised.
For a world-famous model and actress with tens of millions of Instagram followers, Ratajkowski was surprisingly relatable. Even though her upbringing and life story is relatively unconventional, her commentaries resonated with me, and presumably a larger audience. Her first essay, “Beauty Lessons,” highlighted all the ways that society had shaped her body image, and I found myself relating to some of them. Ratajkowski illustrates how society almost forces women to compete with one another and value their physical appearance above everything else through a series of anecdotes about her own life, explaining how everyone from classmates to celebrities to her own mother have shaped the way she views herself.
Although “Beauty Lessons” pulled me into the book, the next few essays did not pique my interest. They mainly described Ratajkowski’s rise to fame, her adolescent years, and the disgusting ways that men objectified her as her modeling career progressed. One thing that I enjoyed in these chapters, though, was seeing Ratajkowski’s persistent strength and confidence in herself.
In the latter part of the book, though, the essays all start to tie together. Ratajkowski seemed to more clearly establish her voice and her purpose. Readers can witness how she learns how to stand up for herself against men who objectify her, where earlier in her life she might have stayed quiet. Ratajkowski also begins to pull in elements of motherhood near the end, as she describes how she handled her mother’s declining health in “The Woozies” and her own path to becoming a mother in the final essay. Watching how motherhood transforms Ratajkowski’s view of her body gave a unique perspective on body image that I had not thought of before. She learns to trust her own body and appreciate it not only for its beauty, but for its strength and ability to carry children.
Ratajkowski details many romantic relationships that she had throughout her life, and reading about how she escaped toxic relationships and eventually formed healthy ones was a nice progression to see. Even in her healthier relationship with her husband, Ratajkowski shows that things are not always perfect by detailing not only their happy moments, but their conflicts as well. This perspective was refreshing to see, especially from someone with a large social media following who might tend to assume that her life is perfect, just as her social media reflects.
One of the most important themes in this essay collection was empowerment. Ratajkowski does not shy away from using the full names of people who have violated her, some of whom have significant influence in modern pop culture. Women have a tendency to apologize for being “too loud” and speaking out against injustice, but Ratajkowski never apologizes for speaking her truth or calling people out by name. She asserts herself in an especially bold manner in “Buying Myself Back” and “‘Men Like You.” The potential consequences of her words are severe, but the way she decided to tell her unabridged story anyway is truly inspiring.
The only true flaw I can see in this essay collection is the lack of claims of policy. Ratajkowski gets into the nuances of her personal experience as a woman and very clearly demonstrates how sexist our society continues to be, but does not provide any real solutions as to how to fight this injustice. Speaking up is the first step, but I would have loved to see what her thoughts were on what we should do to fight the patriarchy beyond that. Nevertheless, my expectations were exceeded and Ratajkowski delivered a thought-provoking and inspiring first book.