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Actress Emily Ratajkowski Exposes The Predatory Nature Of The Photography World, And Her Message Is So Strong

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Actress and model Emily Ratajkowski recently published an article with the publication The Cut titled "Buying Myself Back—When Does A Model Own Her Own Image?" discussing her experience being in an industry that is dominated by men and her experience being sexually assaulted by a photographer. The article went viral on the internet and was praised by many readers and supporters of Ratajkowski for her bravery in addressing this difficult subject.

The article starts out with Ratajkowski explaining a situation where she found out she was being sued by a paparazzo for using pictures he took of her on her own social media. The photo was one of the actress carrying a big vase of flowers she had just bought for her friend, completely covering her face and only showing her legs. Her lawyer informed her that she was being sued by the "copyright troll" for $150,000. 

She explained that paparazzi appearing out of nowhere had become a norm for her since 2013. "I’ve become accustomed to large men appearing suddenly between cars or jumping out from behind corners, with glassy black holes where their faces should be," she wrote. Realizing that her lighthearted intention in posting the image did not actually reflect how the paparazzi saw their relationship to her, she wrote "I have learned that my image, my reflection, is not my own."

This acts as a primer for more exploitative experiences she's had in the past. 

She recalls a time when the artist Richard Prince made a painting using an instagram photo of her in the nude and how many people made her feel like she should be honored that he included her in his collection. That photo was then bought and hang up on a her boyfriend's friend, a gallerist who introduced them to Prince's series', home. She later learned that there was a similar style photo from a photoshoot with Sports Illustrated that was made by Prince. She bought that piece with her boyfriend at the time. After they split up, he gave her a ridiculously hard time in order for her to procure ownership of the painting that held a photo of her own body and face. She reached out to Prince's studio, which gave no assistance or clarity over the ownership. 

"All these men, some of whom I knew intimately and others I’d never met, were debating who owned an image of me," she wrote.

She recalled the instance a year earlier when her nudes were leaked on the website 4chan in a phishing scandal. Again, someone else had ownership over her body. She felt like she was destroyed after that instance and couldn't handle going through that again, so she paid her ex what he thought she owed him and got the painting. "I exchanged the safety of those hundreds of Emilys for one image — an image that had been taken from my platform and produced as another man’s valuable and important art," she wrote.

Ratajkowski recalled another time when she was 20 years old and was instructed by her manager to do a photoshoot with a photographer named Jonathan Leder in the Catskills. She described the first meeting as very awkward. She slowly began to feel the pressure of being the prettiest and sexiest model in the presence of the photographer, a pressure no one should feel in the presence of anyone, especially a man. she remembers thinking "this guy shoots all these women, but I’m going to show him that I’m the sexiest and smartest of them all. That I am special," she wrote. 

The shoot was a lingerie one. After the photographer's dissatisfaction with the photos, he wanted to do some in the nude. After examining the nude photos, he was making comments about her body as opposed to the product of the photos.He made a comment about how her nipples changed sizes a lot and liked when they were larger. "I said nothing and nodded, confused but somehow feeling that he meant to insult me," she said. 

She recalls being very drunk after the photoshoot. When the makeup artist had gone to bed, and after much conversation, Leder took advantage of her sexually. He was hurting her and when she shoved his hands away, he stood up and scurried away silently. "I was both confused as to why Jonathan had left without a word and terrified that he would come back," she wrote. She described that different parts of her body had ached. 

Years later, after her rise to fame, she found out that the photos he took of her were being sold as a book titled in her name, including some of the most "revealing" and "vulgar" images that he took of her. Her images were being sold for $80 per copy. 

"I felt suddenly terrified. If I hadn’t been protected during my shoot with Jonathan, what did that mean for all the other thousands, maybe millions, of photos of me that had been taken over the years? I began to run through the countless shoots I’d done in my early career. It had been only two years since the 4chan hacking," she wrote. "I found myself touching the place on my scalp where my hair had fallen out."

The signature for the pictures' release was forged, she claims. There was nothing she could do and even in the occasion of winning a lawsuit against Leder, the pictures were already on the internet. When the actress spoke out about the exploitation and abuse of power that was implemented upon her through Leder, she got much backlash. Using and abusing? This is only a case of a celebrity looking to get more attention. This is exactly what she wants," someone wrote. 

Jonathan Leder responded to the sexual assault allegations that night by saying: "You do know who we are talking about right? This is the girl that was naked in Treats! magazine, and bounced around naked in the Robin Thicke video at that time. You really want someone to believe she was a victim?” 

Ratajkowski concludes the piece by saying that she was done spending any more money and energy on Leder. The piece acts as a form of empowerment for her and a space to tell her side of the story. "I will remain as the real Emily; the Emily who owns the high-art Emily, and the one who wrote this essay, too. She will continue to carve out control where she can find it," she wrote. 

You can read the full article here.