Emily Ratajkowski, the model, actress, and alleged rent dodger, is releasing her memoir, My Body, next week. Here are some of the things she does not care for:
Being too pretty.
Not being pretty enough.
Wearing a lover’s shirt at night. (It makes her lonely.)
Not getting attention.
Power. (Unless it’s hers, which it never is. Not really.)
There are two things she definitely enjoys, though. One, sex with her husband—the only occasion when she feels “at one” with her body. (“When my husband and I fuck, I like to look in the mirror so I can see that I’m real,” she writes. “It helps me to return to myself.”)
And two, her new baby, Sylvester Apollo Bear. Or at least this is what we glean from her Instagram feed, where, amid shots of her in various stages of undress, there is one series of her in an oxygen mask, pushing him out—in full hair and makeup. (Her, not him.)
Ratajkowski can be an interesting thinker about appearance and its value, yet I kept wondering if the point of the book was to deflect envy, a “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” screed for the 2020s. If so, mission accomplished! Among the many valuable observations:
- What, you thought a life of travel on someone else’s dime was a good thing?
- Being paid $25,000 by a billionaire to go to the Super Bowl with a bunch of other famous people is hell on earth.
At every point in history there are deeply fortunate people with gifts of beauty, brains, and wealth that ask for the public’s sympathy and try to explain, often to a journalist like me, their burdens.
(Want to snort coffee through your nose? Take a sip while reading old interviews where Julia Roberts calls herself an “ugly duckling,” then look at her high-school yearbook photo.)
And, in fact, no person on the planet is immune from sadness, frustrations, illness, mental-health issues, and tragedy. Terrible things can and do happen to people with brains, beauty, and wealth … but brains, beauty, and wealth are not among those terrible things.
There’s something about the pandemic, a period of profound loss for millions, that has made the privileged want us to remember that they are hurting, too. It’s almost as if they’ve become competitive about their problems.
Did Ellen DeGeneres think it made her more relatable when she compared being cooped up in one of her palaces to “being in jail”?
Terrible things can and do happen to people with brains, beauty, and wealth … but brains, beauty, and wealth are not among those terrible things.
We are living in a time when Lourdes Leon, Madonna’s daughter, worried that she might be remembered only for her looks. Presley Gerber, Cindy Crawford’s model son, had Misunderstood tattooed on his cheek. Kylie Jenner confessed to Interview magazine that her worst fear “is waking up and finding something bad about me on the Internet.”
(My worst fear involves winding up on the street with Alzheimer’s, lice, and my original nose, but thus far I haven’t confessed that to Interview.)
In October, Kate Beckinsale told Howard Stern that her I.Q. of 152 has been an impediment as an actress. (Because, what, you learn your lines too fast?) “Every single doctor, every single person I’ve ever come across has said, ‘You’d be so much happier if you were 30 percent less smart.’” Where was all that I.Q. when you read the script to Van Helsing, Kate?
But arguably the most startling comment came from Donald Trump Jr. in 2017. Junior was passing the Arlington National Cemetery, the final resting place for Americans who gave their lives for our country, when he was struck by the eerie similarities between the fallen and his family.
“In that moment, I also thought of all the attacks we’d already suffered as a family, and about all the sacrifices we’d have to make to help my father succeed.… Frankly, it was a big sacrifice, costing us millions and millions of dollars annually.”
Fallen heroes, fallen schmeroes: Ivanka had to give up her shoe line.
Are the downsides of privilege really that bad? Here’s Ratajkowski musing on a beach, envying four women in hijabs who she imagines are taken more seriously by men than she is because they are covered up. (Which seems to be missing the point of hijabs, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole.)
“I spread my arms and legs out wide and closed my eyes and told myself to relax. Money means power, I thought. And by capitalizing on my sexuality I have money. The whole damn system is corrupt and anyone who participates is just as guilty as I am. What am I going to do? Go live off the grid? I have to make a living somehow.”
I imagine this may come as a shock to her, but there are beautiful women who don’t live and die by their numbers on Instagram. Sure, Amal Clooney’s beauty helped her marry pretty well. But it doesn’t hurt to note that she’s a barrister in the U.K. with a specialty in international law and human rights.
Nigella Lawson looks the way she does and also cooks for you when you go to her house because she enjoys it, and, by the way, she is possibly the best food writer since M. F. K. Fisher. Nell Rebowe is a neuroscientist working on treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and—O.K., just look her up. She models, too. None of these people are crying into their beer—or yours.
Can the haves who preen on Instagram and Twitter and FB just do the rest of us this one little favor this year? Just for a while, not forever … just take the frustration of being chased around and forced to attend boring galas and having nasty things written about you on the Internet, take all of that and ask yourself: WWIBD? That is, What would Ingrid Bergman do?
Because I will tell you …
A number of years ago I was interviewing her daughter, Isabella Rossellini—herself no stranger to being objectified for her looks—and I asked what her mother had taught her about dealing with beauty. “She taught me matter-of-factness,” Rossellini said. “I remember people saying to my mother, ‘You’re so beautiful.’ She used to worry: ‘What can one say to that?’ But, finally, she came up with the perfect reply:
“Yes. Isn’t it lucky?”
Judith Newman is a New York–based writer and the author of To Siri with Love