Just days after attending her first Cannes Film Festival, Emily Ratajkowski was spotted jumping into Barton Springs public swimming pool in Austin, Texas. It’s this kind of juxtaposition that characterizes the 25-year-old perfectly. She was born in England to American parents, started acting long before modeling, and perhaps most importantly, she confidently flaunts her enviable appearance in the face of slut-shaming critics, not for the sake of adulation but instead to incite conversation about women’s ownership of their own sexuality. Needless to say, there’s more to her than meets the eye. We caught up with Emily, who has three films in the pipeline, to pick her brain about feminism, the impact of social media and how she stays balanced.
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ND: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
ER: To not let other people's perceptions define who you are or who you want to become.
ND: Let’s talk about how you define feminism.
ER: I define it as equality for women and freedom of choice: to have control over one’s body, identity and sexuality, and to have the power to choose when and how they should be shared.
ND: That sentiment is central to a lot of conversations about you, as you often make headlines for posting photos that showcase your body. How do you think social media in particular is changing the conversation around women’s rights?
ER: Social media is an incredible tool for women. It gives us a platform to speak and share ourselves directly with the world without a third party tainting our perspectives.
ND: To that point, what do you think is the most misunderstood thing about you?
ER: People get too caught up in social media. Even though I love Instagram and think it's a useful tool, it certainly doesn't say that much about me. In 10 years we'll laugh at the concept of a "social media girl" because everyone will be using it as a tool to self-promote, be political, share their lives and so on. It won’t be unique to certain personalities—it will just be a universal form of communication.
ND: Given that you’re constantly in the public eye and closely followed on social media, your voice is louder than that of the average woman. What’s most important for you to achieve with your voice? What would you like to be known for?
ER: That's a tough one! There are so many things I want to be remembered for. I guess I'd like to be known as someone who broke through stereotypes and helped women find happiness in their unique identities—however contrarian they might seem at times. It’s also very important to me to contribute with great storytelling and filmmaking, which is why I’m constantly working.
ND: Modeling and acting are both full-time pursuits in their own right—you can’t cover magazines like InStyle and star in multiple films by just squeezing in a few hours here and there. You’re clearly driven and busy. What is a typical day in your life like?
ER: It totally depends! Right now I'm shooting a movie—Welcome Home—in Italy, so that means five days a week I'm at work for 12 hours each day. When I'm not filming, I'm usually traveling a lot for modeling.
ND: How do you decompress? What’s your favorite workout?
ER: I love yoga! I get really stiff from flying so much, so it's perfect for me, plus I love that it's a workout for both mind and body. I also just splurged on a house to share with eight of my friends for a vacation once I’m done filming!
ND: Your style both on and off the red carpet spawns imitators everywhere. You’re often sporting up-and-coming designers, you mix high and low brands and you toe the line between fashion forward and accessible. How would you describe your style philosophy?
ER: I’d say it’s a combination of balanced, sexy and chic. Some of my favorite designers include Céline and Altuzarra. I’m inspired by the style of people like Bianca Jagger in the 1970s or Rihanna—I’m obsessed with all her shoes!
ND: How do you define beauty? What is your go-to beauty product?
ER: Beauty is in the tiniest moments. It's a feeling and a state of mind. I feel the most beautiful when I’m happy and focused. In terms of actual products, I swear by Retinol Reform from Shani Darden. It has completely changed my skin.
ND: What are three things people would be surprised to know about you?
1) I was an actress before I was a model. I started studying theater when I was six years old, and my first official job was modeling for a Girl’s Life cover when I was 13.
2) I'm a complete goof. I like making fun of myself and making people laugh.
3) I love to eat! There isn't one kind of food I don't like or a meal I won't try.